Education

San Fernando Valley students more at risk of not graduating, new LAUSD data shows

File photo: New data from Los Angeles Unified shows some suburban students are more at risk of falling short of graduation than those in the urban core.
File photo: New data from Los Angeles Unified shows some suburban students are more at risk of falling short of graduation than those in the urban core.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

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Forty-five percent of sophomores are not on track to graduate under Los Angeles Unified's new college preparation requirements, according to the latest figures from the district's office of data and accountability.

In some cases, students in suburban areas are further behind than their urban peers. For example, 48 percent of San Fernando Valley students are short of the courses needed for a diploma, more than those in central and east Los Angeles.

L.A. Unified walked back its earlier prediction of a 75 percent failure rate, but the numbers are still grim.

The plunging graduation predictions come 10 years after LAUSD moved to require all students, starting with the Class of 2017, to make a C grade or better in courses needed to qualify for entry into the University of California and Cal State University systems.

Proponents of the policy sought to better prepare under-served students for college, but critics argue the tougher standards will cripple otherwise diploma-eligible students in their search for future employment.

LAUSD school board member Monica Ratliff said the additional graduation requirements should be rolled back.

"What about people who want to go into the military? What about people who want into the trades? What about people who want to go to college somewhere other than Cal State? I think it's a problem we are denying them that opportunity," Ratliff said.

The school board is scheduled Tuesday to take up the college preparation requirements. Among the options that have been suggested to avoid a disaster: allow a C average for the required courses or provide intensive help for struggling students.

Farthest behind are the students in so-called "continuation" and "option" schools – programs designed for students at risk of dropping out or struggling with such challenges as teen pregnancies or medical issues. If no one intervenes, more than 80 percent of these sophomores won't be receiving a diploma.

Julie Carson teaches adult students taking a second shot at a high school diploma by studying for the GED, the general education development test that provides students with a high school equivalency certificate.  She sees the new requirements as another barrier for struggling students to climb.

"The whole idea was to have the opportunity to go to college. But in the meantime, they are denying students who are non-academic," Carson said.