LAUSD board to weigh easing high school graduation requirements

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Los Angeles Unified School District board members are scheduled to vote Tuesday on two policy changes that would make it easier for students to graduate from high school. 

One proposal allows students to stay in the school system until age 22 starting in 2015-2016. The other would drop a grade requirement to pass college preparation courses — a requirement that's been proposed but not yet implemented  — from "C" to "D". 

Ten years ago, LAUSD moved to require all high school graduates, beginning with the class of 2017, to pass courses for college entry as a condition of graduation. Earlier this month, the district estimated that three-fourths of its 10th graders will likely fall short, leaving thousands of students unable to receive their diplomas.

Board member Steve Zimmer said the panel is considering the changes because "it's really kind of immoral to punish children for the lack of resourcing that the district has provided for this," referring to the requirement to pass the college prep courses know as A to G.

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Zimmer said the recession and district budget cuts created large class sizes and a lack of tutoring and other services to support students toward graduation. The proposals would ensure that enough resources are provided to help students succeed, Zimmer said.

Reducing the proposed passing grade for college prep classes from C to D could be implemented at a later date, he said. Students in the class of 2016 and 2017 would not be required to meet the C requirement, if the changes are approved. 

Zimmer doesn't see the changes as rolling back academic standards.

He said the district has tightened academic requirements and increased access to college prep courses needed to graduate and be eligible for college. 

Some students are currently allowed to remain within school until their 22nd birthdays, including special education students and English learner students who are working on their language skills.

At the moment, the district does not have an age cutoff for traditional students, but handles requests and principal recommendations on a case-by-case basis, according to Judith Fernandez, a district pupil services aide. 

If approved, the LAUSD age limit of 22 would surpass that for New York and Chicago public school districts. In New York, students are allowed to stay in the district until age 21, but only if they turn 21 during the school year. In Chicago, traditional students must graduate before their 21st birthdays.

In documents released by the district on Friday, the LAUSD budget office noted that the proposed changes call for additional financial support for students to help them pass the A to G classes. The district would need to allocate the greater of at least $2.5 million or 5 percent of any new revenues from the state to cover the extra help.

Millions in additional state revenues are expected for K-12 education and community colleges as a result of an improving economy.

The board meets at 1 p.m. on Tuesday to take up the graduation proposals.

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