Four of California's largest school districts are implementing a change in high schools that will put their students to the test. In order to graduate, students will have to complete what is known as A-G requirements.
A-G requirements are already in place but exist as college readiness courses for high schools students wishing to apply to a UC or CSU campus. High school graduates are not eligible for UC or CSU admittance without a C or above in A-G courses. This course track has not been mandatory for high school graduation.
A 'D' would be acceptable as passing for graduation purposes in the new policy.
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) examined the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) to discuss how the heightened standard would have affected past graduating classes:
"In San Diego’s class of 2011, 61.1 percent of graduates would have met the lower D or higher standard, whereas only 41.8 percent would have met the C or higher standard. The share declines if we include students who dropped out or were still in school but did not graduate in 2011."
Including this requirement for graduation has both positive and negative aspects. A higher number of high school graduates will have what it takes, on paper, to reach UC and CSU admittance. This can be a way to increase the relevance of a high school diploma. Students who may not have been exposed to college readiness courses may find an interest within A-G.
However, higher standards present new challenges. More guidance and intervention to make sure all students follow the track is a tall task for shrinking administrations. Districts should also address the potential of grade-inflation where teachers and administration could be more lax on grading scales to ensure students meet standards on paper.
Another nuance to consider is that 12 percent of high school graduates that did not earn a C or higher in A-G courses still enrolled in a form of higher education. Binding students to a UC and CSU guideline for high school graduation can hinder the fact that some students seek further education elsewhere.
The PPIC discusses a potential problem with increasing the graduation requirements for all students:
"Students who enter high school with low grades and test scores are likely to struggle to meet the new graduation standard, and the challenge will be particularly daunting for English Learners."
Only 35.2 percent of graduates who were English learners in San Diego Unified completed A-G requirements. If such a policy was in place, a majority of English learning students would not have graduated.
Unified school districts of San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco will be moving to the heightened standard in the near future. San Jose Unified has had the A-G requirement for graduation since 2002.
PPIC outlined the subject area requirements in the A-G sequence:Credit: PPIC
(Download the full PPIC Report here)