How should we measure our schools if not by API?

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Ever since California and the federal government placed the weight of a school’s success on standardized test scores with the Public Schools Accountability Act and No Child Left Behind, there’s been a backlash against overreliance on high-stakes testing.

The question of what else should be considered in rating schools is the topic of this week’s forum, “Yes, but….”

Our opinion and policy makers are Darrell Steinberg, President pro Tempore of the State Senate; David B. Cohen, a National Board-certified high school English teacher; education lobbyist and legal counsel Fred Jones; former California Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig; and Jeff Camp, chair of the Education Circle of the Full Circle Fund philanthropy organization.

We hope you’ll keep the conversation going with other readers, and use the comment section to ask questions of this week’s contributors.

Darrell Steinberg: Reflect a well-rounded education

Darrell Steinberg

Darrell Steinberg

The Academic Performance Index has served a worthy purpose over the past 11 years, but let’s face it: It is, at best, an incomplete indicator of student achievement and school performance.

Gov. Brown’s veto of Senate Bill 547 left in place a measurement tool that sends one signal, and one signal only, to our schools: Get your standardized test scores up. At the elementary level, the API is almost exclusively focused on scores in just two subjects, English language arts and mathematics. At the middle and high school levels, no credit is given for keeping students on track to graduation.

Striving for the perception of steady improvement under this narrow accountability regime, many of our schools have responded with a laser focus on bubble tests. Such focus comes at the expense of a whole range of offerings that parents, the business community, and students themselves value: college and career preparation at the high school level; science, history, arts, and music across the grades; physical education; and opportunities for leadership and community engagement.

We need an accountability system that reflects the elements of a well-rounded education, and that connects public education to the needs of the 21st Century economy. I sought to begin that work by replacing the API with a new Education Quality Index, balancing test results with other important measures of school success. I have invited the Govenor to join me in crafting a new approach for next year. At minimum, it should contain the following elements:

  • Rapid implementation of existing law, which already requires that the API include graduation rates. Their inclusion is critical to underscoring the importance of student engagement and support in both middle and high school;
  • Greater emphasis on student achievement in science and history, to temper the overemphasis on English language arts and math;
  • A shift away from the existing API decile system (ranking schools relative to one another from 1 to 10) in favor of a scoring system pegged to an absolute standard, which creates a more accurate representation of performance.

I have worked on few issues in my legislative career that garnered more support than this attempt to ensure the state sends more appropriate signals about what it wants schools to accomplish. Republicans and Democrats, business and labor, educators and parents, law enforcement and civil rights organizations have coalesced around the need for change. We need the Governor to work with us to connect our schools to the needs of the economy we hope to rebuild in California.

Darrell Steinberg has been President pro Tempore of the California State Senate since 2008, chosen by his colleagues to that leadership post two years after he was first elected as Senator for the Sixth District representing the Sacramento area. He earlier served three terms in the State Assembly. He’s a strong advocate for education reform, children and mental health issues, and received the “John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage” national award in 2010 for his leadership in resolving the state’s 2009 budget crisis.

David B. Cohen: Why rank schools?

David Cohen

David Cohen

Imagine for a moment that California used letter grades rather than the Academic Performance Index to rate schools. If I were a parent whose child attended a high school with a “D” on its state report card, I would be gravely concerned that this school would fail to provide my student with the skills to succeed in college, and a college education is vital to my child’s future. If I had a choice, I would certainly want to move my child to an “A” school. I know these report cards aren’t perfect, but there must be a world of difference between the “D” and the “A” rankings, right? And if the “A” school was also listed among Newsweek’s Best High Schools, so much the better, I’m sure.

Wrong. The “D” school is better.

Or to be more precise, the “D” school is better if the measure of quality is college preparation. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this study – “College- and Career-Ready: Using Outcomes Data to Hold High Schools Accountable for Student Success” – from Florida. Writer Chad Aldeman sums it up this way: “While [the “D” school] got dismal marks from state and federal accountability schemes, it was actually quite successful in a number of important ways. It graduated a higher percentage of its students than [the “A” school] and sent almost the same percentage of its graduates off to college. Once they arrived on college campuses, [the “D” school] graduates earned higher grades and fewer of them failed remedial, not-for-credit math and English courses than their [“A” school] peers.

In other words, D-rated [High School] was arguably doing a better job at achieving the ultimate goal of high school: preparing students to succeed in college and careers. But because Florida’s accountability systems didn’t measure college and career success in 2006, nobody knew.

The study concludes, as you might anticipate, with a call for more data going into accountability systems, and it’s hard to argue with that. But the catch is that any rating or ranking is going to miss something, and is going to create simplistic lists of winners and losers out of what should be a more complex view of school quality.

It is time to distinguish between having data and claiming to know what it means. If we were conducting chemical experiments, it might be different. With schools, we are “measuring” extended periods of highly complex interactions among hundreds or thousands of people (different combinations of people every year), operating under different combinations of influences, and we have yet to agree as a state or society about the outcomes that matter most in that complex setting.

Ultimately, I would argue that the state should be in the business of providing resources and guidelines, and leaving the final assessments of quality and success to professional and local agencies. These agencies must ensure transparency and protect the interests of all stakeholders. They should be comfortable examining widely varying types of data and appreciating the value of each. Their judgments and conclusions would be informed by data and observations, but expressed in words – reports that don’t hide behind the false certainty or pseudo-objectivity of final scores, points, grades, or gold stars.

California high schools already engage in an accreditation process similar to that description, carried out by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Why not make it more meaningful, but less intensive, and expand the approach to other levels?

If our citizenry can’t handle that shift, then we have a goal for our educational system, not to produce citizens, media, and political leaders who would prefer to have a meaningless “A” or “D” slapped on a school, rather than understand and express the complex realities of school quality.

David B. Cohen is a National Board-certified teacher in Palo Alto, where he teaches high school English. He helps to direct Accomplished California Teachers and writes for the group’s blog, InterACT.

Fred Jones: Hold schools accountable for reality

Fred Jones

Fred Jones

For good or ill, California’s K-12 public education system is driven by what Sacramento – and to a growing extent D.C. – requires, funds, and measures. The “measure” driver has led to the axiom: If it isn’t tested, it isn’t taught.

But the current fixation on a narrow bandwidth of ELA and Math via fill-in-the-bubble standardized tests has not proven to be a meaningful gauge of a school’s overall performance. Moreover, it has led to the narrowing of curriculum that so many have railed against.

We should be expecting much more from schools as they strive to prepare their students for successful lives.

Many have chosen to jump on the “college for all” bandwagon, feeling this is a higher means of holding schools accountable. We have seen many districts require the UC ‘s A-G coursework of all of their secondary students.

But college should not be considered an end unto itself. In this era of dwindling public resources and exploding student debt, college should more appropriately be considered merely a means to an end: one that provides students – and the taxpayers who subsidies them – the disposition, skills, and knowledge to provide a return on the private and public investment.

There is a growing chorus of intellectuals, industry leaders, and loan-conscious parents who have begun to question the financial returns of college. Regardless of the merits of those arguments, the economy clearly does not demand that all workers have 4-year degrees.

So what shall we hold schools accountable for delivering to every K-12 student? And how do we measure that?

In his veto of SB 547, Gov. Brown acknowledged the difference between quantitative data streams and qualitative considerations, and the difficulties in measuring the latter, often more meaningful outcomes.  Paradoxically, his veto actually undermined the effort to get a more relevant accountability system.

SB 547 was a good-faith effort to broaden the accountability matrix. It sought to include more than just standardized test scores, while attempting to keep the additional criteria objectively quantifiable.

Such additional criteria would have included a school’s performance in adequately preparing students for postsecondary education opportunities, access to career planning and training coursework, dropout rates, and other substantive and serious considerations. Einstein’s quip that “not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts” certainly applies. Schools must begin to report what needs to be counted to adequately measure true success.

Fred Jones has nearly 20 years of policy experience in the State Capitol as both a legislative staffer and, since 2000, as a registered lobbyist and legal counsel to several education-related clients. His primary CTE-related client is the California Business Education Association, which is also a founding member of Get REAL California, a coalition of employers, labor groups, educators, and others concerned about CTE in California schools.

Bill Honig: Provide information for school improvement

Bill Honig

Bill Honig

The first crucial question to be answered is what is the purpose and context of the measurement. Is the emphasis primarily on using test-based results for state accountability and intervention for low performance? Or is measurement primarily used as part of a broader strategy to provide useful information to schools and districts to help continuously improve teaching and learning while still supplying information to the public about school success? This second strategy requires a shift in emphasis from penalties and interventions to building a sophisticated local and state infrastructure to support school-site team building, coaching, and professional development.

The former “test with consequences” strategy rests on the assumption that setting standards, testing results, and penalizing low-performing schools, by itself, will cause major improvements. This approach does produce some beneficial results, but by neglecting the investment in building the capacity for growth, the overall effect has been found to be limited.[1] This strategy also engenders significant negative side effects such as narrowing the curriculum, lowering morale, and encouraging staffs to game the system. All the international world-class performers, as well as U.S. states such as Massachusetts and highly successful California districts such as Long Beach, Sanger, and the charter school network Aspire, have pursued the latter, more powerful, capacity building strategy.

Gov. Brown has warned of the danger of over-relying on narrow high-stakes testing in his quest to broaden measurement and the way it is used. We should explore his suggestion that the state develop local peer review as one method of feeding back useful information to guide continuous improvement.[2]

The second key question is what kind of measurements help drive the system in the right direction? Relying too heavily on reading and math or low-level multiple-choice tests has been problematical. It has motivated legislative leaders such as Sen. Steinberg to pursue legislation to broaden California’s Academic Performance Index both for accountability and instructional feedback. The API is a useful measure, but I agree that it should be broadened and deepened:

  • API does test a broad array of subjects at the high school level and some at middle grades, but needs to cover history, science, civics, and art in a more profound way, especially at the elementary and middle-grade level. This can be done in several ways. The weighting given to these subjects should be examined. Currently at the elementary level reading and math are weighted at 94%, science at 6%, and history at 0%. At middle grades it’s not much better – 85% reading and math, 7% history, and 7% science. These weights directly contribute to a narrow curriculum.
  • The state needs to add history, art, and more science to the elementary level tests, or at least embed those subjects in the language arts and math sections of existing tests, and add civic understanding assessments to the high school level.
  • While the new tests for California being developed by the SMARTER Balanced group will move away from over-relying on multiple choice for reading and math, I would also add matrix sampling of those and other subjects to the individual tests so that a broader curriculum and deeper learning, such as the ability to write essays or develop a science project, can be assessed more efficiently.
  • At the high school level, one major change would be to explore how to hold schools accountable not only for the number of students meeting A-G requirements but also for how many students at least qualify for entering a tech-prep program at community colleges. The  API would apply to a broad range of students: dropout rates, 4-year college prep rates, tech-prep rates, and course performance. I would also add some measure for the advanced students such as the number of AP courses passed.

Bill Honig began his career in education as an elementary school teacher before becoming a California State Board of Education member and district superintendent. He was elected in 1982 to serve the first of three terms as California Superintendent of Public Instruction. He subsequently published “Teaching Our Children to Read” (Corwin Press) and founded the Consortium on Reading Excellence (www.corelearn.com), which helps  schools, districts, and states implement best practices in reading and math. He is a Bay Area native, father of four, and grandfather of five.

Jeff Camp: Schools must produce an economic return (broadly)

Jeff Camp

Jeff Camp

[NOTE: An article posted here earlier today was a draft and not intended for publication.  This is the correct article.  We apologize for error]. The success of schools must not be our primary concern. Schools, after all, are only a means to an end. The center of the proverbial target is simpler, but even more difficult: prepare EACH child for adulthood.

The effort to provide opportunity for each student is a costly undertaking, and public education is its biggest component. Spending on universal K-12 education in California adds up to about $65 billion annually when all the sources (state, local and federal) are counted. To put this number in human context, taxpayers in California invest on the order of $140,000 in each student’s thirteen years of K-12 education – roughly equivalent to paying about two dollars above minimum wage for every hour a student spends in class.

As with any big investment, success must be measured in terms of Return on Investment (ROI). Measuring success on these terms requires long-term data about each student’s long-term success, viewed broadly and over a time frame spanning decades, not just school years.

What is the long-term economic payback on that $140,000 investment for each student? Today, we don’t really know. Evaluating the return requires estimating both value produced and costs avoided. Education produces value by helping each student find his or her place in the world, including work that earns enough to pay taxes. Education avoids costs by helping students grow into self-supporting, resilient and law-abiding adults. Our system is set up to track neither.

For the last decade, the Academic Performance Index (API) has been the dominant tool for summarizing a school’s performance in California. This score, distilled annually from a changing assortment of annual tests, serves as a shorthand metric of academic achievement at the school and district levels by grade level. Unfortunately, the API only measures the academic success of those who show up. If every struggling student in a school were to drop out, the API score for that school would, perversely, rise.

The state’s system of measurement for education should be built online, in a manner that allows students to show what they know regardless of their nominal grade level. If this seems like whimsy, take a look at the coaching module of Khan Academy for an early example of what the future of measurement may look like, at least in math.

The public has grown accustomed to the idea that products and services should be evaluated, rather frequently, and that evaluation should lead to action. In order to sustain public support for investing in education, California needs to make a set of serious investments to systematically provide everyone involved with better, more personally useful information over a more meaningful arc of time. We rely too much on summary numbers partly because that is all we have at present. California should do better.

For starters, California should invest in modern data systems to track and support investments in human development including education. In the age of Facebook, it is no longer OK for California’s education system to operate with outmoded data systems.

California needs a platform that usefully connects parents, students and teachers, including accurate data to inform the work they do together. This is not an investment that each district can or should pursue on its own; it is far too difficult, much too important, and frankly its implications extend beyond education.

Jeff Camp chairs the Education Circle of Full Circle Fund, an engaged philanthropy organization cultivating the next generation of community leaders and driving lasting social change in the Bay Area and beyond. He is the primary author of Ed100.org, a primer on education reform options in California. Since leaving a career at Microsoft to work for education change, Jeff has served on multiple education reform committees including the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence.
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36 Comments

  1. Do we really need 5 white males debating this issue? Since I’m a white male as well, I won’t share my thoughts – except – how about a greater diversity of perspectives?

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  2. Cohen, Camp, and Jones have it mostly right. They want to measure what should really count. Not just what the kids have learned, but how it translates at the next stage of their educational careers (and longer, according to Camp).
    In the world where there is an assessment of student knowledge, as advocated by Honig and Steinberg, there needs to be some mechanism to hold the students accountable. We can’t continue destroying (or building) careers and reputations and closing schools and turning them over to private enterprises based on tests that have little impact on the students and their parents aside from housing values.
    Make the tests have an impact on their grade, a high school graduation requirement, or a requirement to enter the UCs, CSUs and maybe the community colleges.
    Too many high-performing students know these tests have no impact on their college entrance, so why bother? Students at the other end of the range know these tests don’t matter to them either. So how can we use these tests when the students and their parents have little to no stake in the result?
    While I agree with Jones about expanding accountability measures, he is absolutely wrong about making college readiness a central component of high school. This idea that not all kids will go to college is right, but to say that we have no responsibility to give them the tools they need is wrong. Too many high school kids reach 30 and realize they need to have a different set of skills to provide for their families in this economy.
    We keep lamenting the undereducation of this country, yet we want to limit the number of students who have the skills necessary to succeed in college? Doesn’t make sense at any level. So what if some of the students choose not to attend college? By the time they are 30, they tend to think much differently.
    It makes no sense to have students leave high school without the qualifications to attend college. That’s called social promotion and that is a bad thing. Even if the kid wants to flip burgers or dig ditches. A burger flipper with Algebra II or a ditch digger with some knowledge of physics is better positioned than some kid who took Algebra as a senior. Are there exceptions who succeed despite not being college-ready out of high school? Yes, but definitely not a rule.
    Please, keep up the debate. One day we will get it right.

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  3. good points marcus. I would go one further and point out that even if one does not go to college, if one plans on ever having children, that child’s likelihood of success will hinge on whether one happened to have gotten some kind of reasonably complete education themselves. so if you dont want to do it for yourself or you dont want to do it for the value of having an educated society, how about thinking about your future children and doing it for them. trust me, if you dont and you end up with that most important of responsibilities, you will wish you had.

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  4. Mr. Cohen’s assessment of our assessment systems is, I think, the most persuasive, and is in line with a report I saw from the OECD, “Assessment and Innovation in Education” (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/41/30/43414899.pdf). That report, which I think summarizes the state of the art of educational accountability, provides an overview of the various assessment and reporting systems throughout OECD economies. The one I like best and advocate is that of Scotland, which can be inspected at Scottish Schools Online (http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/scottishschoolsonline/index.asp). Enter the name of a particular Scottish school you are interested in, or browse through all of the schools (public as well as private) in one’s local area, and you can find the most recent inspection report (our equivalent would be an accreditation report) for the school or schools written in real English, rather than the truncated discourse of a simple decile number or letter grade, as well as compare the scores of its students on high quality end-of-course assessments, at least during the high school years. This could provide a model for California.

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  5. I don’t even understand the similar schools ranking. Knowing some schools well, with their test scores, and demographics, I have seen (a) the decile move dramatically over time with no real dramatic change in score or demographics let alone actual school culture and (b) rankings that just seem out of whack unless schools in California are all scoring a lot differently than I have been led to believe.
     
    The whole idea of a decile ranking is problematic anyway, since – shockingly – 50% of our schools will, alas, always be below average no matter how you change the inputs.

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  6. el wrote: The whole idea of a decile ranking is problematic anyway, since – shockingly – 50% of our schools will, alas, always be below average no matter how you change the inputs.



    And therein hangs the tale: if the tests are designed to always give you 50% below average (another way of saying they are “standardized tests”), how can we, as a society, demand with a straight face that there be “growth” in scores year after year? And what is “proficient” in that scheme, anyway?
     
    This is simply insane. It is a comedy that will end in tragedy because if you think we have “funny” results with the tests normed to California, wait until they are normed to the nation as a whole. I truly fear for our future as a viable and educated society.

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  7. Parts of this discussion remind me of the differences between the behavioral (our focus shold be on developing the right stimuli, SB 547) and cognitive (understand and express the complex realities of a quality education) views of learning.  My recollection is that the bahvioral model works better when the stimuli are few and consistent.  But the cognitive model works best otherwise.  Given the necessary political nature of public education I don’t see the behaviorist approach working in the large, which is the scale being discussed.

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  8. Personally, I like the *concept* of a similar schools ranking, because it is the only part of the API-related metric that tries to admit that sometimes there are factors outside of school that impact test results. Whether it ever can accurately represent those factors is very questionable. The thing that has always bothered me about similar schools ranking is that it only uses 100 schools against which one is compared. If there really are 1000 schools with almost identical ‘components’, then its questionable how representative the 100 could be (which might imply the eventual ranking is very arbitrary). Similarly, if there were much fewer than 100 that were very similar, the difference between them would be much greater (implying that it would be much more similar to the overall state ranking, and thus not really meaningful in the ‘similar schools’ sense).

    I dont think decile rankings in and of themselves make the measure useless, rather its the responsibility of the people using the numbers to put them into context (just like all statistics). If every school were above 900, not many people would be too concerned about being in the lower 50% (ive heard parents express as much, even using 800). This is why its sometimes good to get the ‘sanity check’ of simple proficiency rates. In addition, the state (and many districts) have set an ‘acceptable’ target of 800, after which there are much fewer punitive measures applied as a result of variation. The thing I would change (if API is maintained) is the assumption that 800 is appropriate. I think its possible to have an 800 API while having a majority of your students below proficient, which seems odd to be considered ‘acceptable’.

    In the end, we love control and numbers (not sure if this is a human nature thing or an American thing), but that wont go away. The thing that needs to happen is whatever you use for measure, that you can accurately state its meaning (and drawbacks). This is related to David Cohen’s comment, “It is time to distinguish between having data and claiming to know what it means. ”

    People will always use something to measure.

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  9. I like the concept of the similar schools rank, I admit, it’s just that when I’ve watched it change for schools that I know, I can’t make sense of the number.  I’ve been told that having a score decline, even if it’s only 5 points, is a big demerit in the similar schools rank, and that it gives a premium for growth. If that’s so, that is probably what is going on here, because there have been multiple years of  tiny declines at some of the schools in question.

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  10. @el, it really depends on how the similar schools are distributed. since there are always outliers, its common that the lowest and highest decile have the greatest variations in scores. I just checked for one elem in our area and the highest decile’s APIs differ by 56 points, the lowest by 34. None of the deciles had a range lower than 8 points so the worse a 5 point variation in your API could get you would be a 1 decile change in similar schools ranking (if even that). (this is a 75% F&R school with primarily minority and a mid 800′s API score).   The difference between the highest scoring and lowest scoring schools in that group was 175 points.
    I did the same thing for a very high scoring elementary and the distribution was the same, though the differences were smaller. Still there was no decile that differed by less than 4. The difference between highest and lowest school was only 75 points.
    Similarly, a very low scoring school had the most variation of all, with the highest and lowest school differing by 241 points and the closest a decile getting to another being around 10 points, but generally much higher.
    I guess the other thing to remember is a school can have identical scores and demographics and still have a change in similar schools rankings if other schools made significant progress (or decline), though a significant change seems unlikely in that case. Similarly, a change in the number of schools could have some impact.

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  11. As a Community College Trustee, I am most concerned that the high school classes of 2015, 2020 and 2025 are ready for college work the day after they pick up their high school diplomas.

    To earn a Community College Associates’ Degree means one has earned sufficient general education units to lateral into a UC campus or a CSU campus ready to begin junior (third) year of college.  The whole system is set up so the first two years at any UC or CSU campus and two years of Community College cover similar general education coursework.  A student who transfers in from Community College gets the same Bachelor’s diploma from UC at the end of four credit years as does a student who lived for four years at Berkeley.

    I’d like to read comments from Darryl, David, Fred, Bill or Jeff speak directly to the value of a high school diploma vis-a-vis college coursework.  Too often our public college leaders face debate from K-12 leaders over whether students should be ready for college upon high school graduation – as opposed to being normally expected to take a year or two of extra catch up at community college before they can accrue the two years of UC/CSU transferable credits they need to earn an AA.

    If we want students to head to college, we have to embrace one of three paths:

    1) expect high school grads are ready for college when they leave high school with a diploma;
    2) expect a high school diploma does not equal “college-ready” and community colleges should plan three or four years of coursework for students to earn their two-years of transfer credit (if so, please fund us);
    3) expect a high school diploma does not equal “college-ready” and some other institution besides community colleges must figure out how to fill in the gap between a high school diploma and the first transferable college courses.

    - Chris Stampolis
    Trustee, West Valley-Mission Community College District
    Member, State Board of California Community College Trustees (CCCT)
    408-390-4748  *  stampolis@aol.com

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    • Chris, I would say it a little differently. Some students should be qualified for 4yr colleges after high school, some should be qualified to take two year in the CC to be able to finish an AA degree and spend the final two years getting a 4yr diploma, and some should be qualified after high-school to enter a tech-prep strand which after two years in the CC would then be employable in that area or if they wish to go on to 4yr institution. This latter qualification–ready to enter a tech prep strand at the CC–should be the minimum for all students who graduate high school.  Bill

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      • Bill,

        Thank you for writing.

        As you know, Community College Associates’ Degrees in California require the same General Education coursework as the first two years of General Education coursework at UC or CSU.  While UC was designed to admit cohorts of the state’s top high school students and CSU was designed to admit the next tier of higher achievers, freshman college English or Chemistry or Physics or Calculus at any California Community College is expected to provide at least the same rigor and content one would expect at a UC or CSU campus.

        You write: “Some students should be qualified for 4yr colleges after high school, some should be qualified to take two year in the CC to be able to finish an AA degree and spend the final two years getting a 4yr diploma, and some should be qualified after high-school to enter a tech-prep strand which after two years in the CC would then be employable in that area or if they wish to go on to 4yr institution.  This latter qualification–ready to enter a tech prep strand at the CC–should be the minimum for all students who graduate high school.”

        There is hardly a single student in California who is “qualified to take two year in the CC to be able to finish an AA degree and spend the final two years getting a 4yr diploma” and yet is not admissible – if desired and financially practical for the student - to a four-year institution.  A student who does not need remediation out-of-high school defacto is admissible to some 4-year school.

        We need more discussion about the “tech-prep strand” and “if they wish to go on to 4 yr institution.”  To lateral into year three of a four-year institution’s courses of study, the transferring CC student must have the equivalent of an AA - especially with the new Transfer AA degrees having launched.

        One cannot earn an Associate’s Degree in California without having completed a UC/CSU comparable general education course of study.  One can earn a certificate without being aligned for transfer.  And the CC system offers many quality certificates that heighten employability without requiring a general education course of study.  Some certificates require only several courses and some certificates require more work than an AA degree.

        But there is a big gap between the coursework required to earn a certificate and the coursework required to prep a student for transfer to year three of a four-year institution.

        The testy discussion point is how to serve the many thousands of high school graduates who are not ready for transferable general education coursework at a community college level.  At current funding trends, the CC system will break if it must continue to be responsible for remediation coursework to bridge large gaps between a high school diploma and college readiness.  And as UC/CSU price points change, the CC system will be asked more frequently to provide 4-year-college-qualified students with general education.  The burdens will grow on the two-year system.

        You propose there are three groups of students: 1) those who leave high school ready for four-year college; 2) those who leave high school ready for general education coursework at a community college with aim to earn an AA degree and possibly transfer to a four-year institution; 3) those who leave high school not ready for transferable college coursework, but prepared sufficiently to enter a tech-prep strand not focused towards an AA-degree or 4-year institutional transfer.

        I suggest groups 1 and 2 have substantially similar students because they all are ready for transferable college-level work at entrance.  Almost all students in either category could be admitted to a four-year institution.  How to respond to students who enroll at CC yet need several levels of study to catch up to the transferable-course readiness of students in groups 1 and 2?  Do we steer those post-high-school/pre-college-readiness students to career-prep certificates and reduce focus on general education remediation?  Or do CCs continue to provide doggone near all things to all people – and beg for appropriate funding to perform the tasks?

        The Student Success Task Force recommendations move towards some solutions.  But all of us must engage in the dialogue.

        Best regards,
        - Chris Stampolis
        Trustee, West Valley-Mission Community College District
        State Board Member, California Community College Trustees (CCCT)

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  12. Bill,
     
    Will you consider your definition of HS graduation requirement — ready to enter a tech prep strand at the CC — equivalent to being “college ready”?
     
    Ze’ev

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  13. Chris

    For starters, the UC/CSU “A-G” coursework has not proven a sufficient standard for determining “college ready.”  Nearly half of CSU incoming freshmen and a good percentage of UC starters need remediation in either/both ELA/Math, and those are students have successfully completed (with high marks, incidently) the A-G curriculum.

    Second, if A-G becomes the default high school curriculum, what unintended consequences can we expect (in our quest to make sure everyone has an equal shot at UC admissions)?  Are all secondary students prepared for (or desirous) to take three years of theoritical mathematics (and all of the other courses necessary to complete A-G)?  What kind of message will we be sending to those students who don’t excel in such coursework?  And are such courses a necessary prerequisite for success after high school?

    For me, taxpayer-funded, compelled K-12 education should at bare minimum adequately prepare ALL students to become self-sufficient, responsible citizens; we cannot afford to send mixed messages, encourage dropouts, or fail to provide life-long direction to secondary students.  The debate about 4-year college-for-all misses the underlying purpose of public education, which is to help prepare students to live successful lives AFTER they leave their formal education (whether their departure is immediately after high school or some time thereafter).

    All reform initiatives need to focus on that primary goal … not the needs of higher education admission officers or the expectations of our dominant culture — all of whom are pushing the high-cost myth that college is the only means to success.

    If a student — after having been exposed to a broad offering of careers during their K-8 education — chooses a pathway requiring higher education, then of course that student needs to enroll in A-G, take the SATs, etc., etc.  And all students should have equal access to such college-required coursework.  But we are putting the cart before the horse if we decide to mandate such courses on every high schooler.

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    • Fred,

      Thanks for your comments.  As I wrote in a lengthy reply to Bill, the current duty to fill-in-the-gaps falls on the Community Colleges.  Students who leave high school without readiness for college transferable courses fill thousands of community college seats.

      “Society” wants community colleges to offer UC/CSU comparable general education, leading to AA degrees and transfer to 4-year institutions;
      “Society” wants community colleges to offer technical preparation leading to certificates of completion (and sometimes to AA degrees);
      “Society” wants community colleges to offer enrichment courses for lifelong learning;
      “Society” wants community colleges to offer basic skills courses to bridge the gaps between high school completion and readiness for college transferable courses.

      And, folks expect all these levels of performance with decreasing funding.

      Some people write that it’s bad policy to expect everyone to go to college.  Of course not “everyone” will go.  But, over the next 20 to 40 years, a growing percentage of US adults will enroll in post-high-school study – leading to an expectation that a large majority of high school students will study beyond 12th grade at some point in their adult lives.

      Some students leave 12th grade prepared to enroll in college degree-credit courses.  Some students leave high school having passed the CAHSEE and earned a diploma, but not prepared for college credit coursework.

      Perhaps we need a new hybrid system between K-12 and CCs where students return to fill in some gaps between minimum-standards for a high school diploma and high school provided preparation for college-degree-credit courses.  Whether the courses are offered at municipal, K-12 or CC run facilities, the CC system can’t reasonably take exclusive financial responsibility to fill in these gaps and also respond to growing demand for degree-applicable coursework.

      - Chris Stampolis
      Trustee, West Valley-Mission Community College District
      408-390-4748

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  14. Chris

    Your continued reference to the lofty expetations of “society” reminded me of a recent debate that you can watch online at the link, below … our dominant culture has all-too often mindlessly pushed the idea that a college (4-year) degree is the only ticket to success … I think this debate helps question that unrealistic and harmful proposition, so I encourage you to watch it and then provide the readers of this excellent blog your feedback:

    http://intelligencesquaredus.org/index.php/past-debates/too-many-kids-go-to-college/

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  15. I attended a forum where  Sen. Steinberg’s proposed new “API” model was rolled out.. I had a number of concerns about the forum, as it had no panel members who were, or represented, classroom teachers. That, however, is now water under the bridge.
     
    On one panel an interesting discussion ensued between UC/CSU people about getting more STEM oriented course into the 9-12 curriculum. This led to a discussion about restrictions created in HS course offerings because of the increasing adoption of A-G as HS graduation requirements. Then followed a (brief) discussion of what process was involved in getting a STEM course “certified” as A-G. This process is controlled by the UC system.
     
     
    It was at this point that some of the UC folks began to reflect on the old adage: As you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you. In this case the abyss was, respectively, the A-G and the 9-12 curriculum. It was my impression that the UC people understood that aligning 9-12 STEM to A-G would not only create changes to 9-12 STEM but also, inevitably, to the definition of A-G.
     
     
    All of this appeared to cause some discomfort. The “conventional wisdom” holds that all qualifications are made at the UC level unilaterally and then cascade down through the 9-12/K-8  systems, but then there was a realization that some academic blowback would be part of the process.
     
     
    An interesting discussion. Most will understand my reservations about having 20 or more panelists discussing what should or should not happen to curriculum and program in the K-12 system without actually having K-12 representatives there to participate in the panels. This is an all too frequent occurrence in Sacramento (and DC for that matter) and explains a lot of how “education reform” so often gets off into the weeds.

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  16. Of course it’s bad policy to expect everyone to go to college — it’s fantasyland — delusion. “A growing number of adults will enroll in post-high-school study” is an entirely different thing.
     
    The problem is that much of the policy discussion today is based on the notion that everyone must go to college or they and their K-12 schools are damned as failures. And now it’s all about how 2-year colleges can only exist if they’re going to transition students to complete their education at 4-year colleges, which is also crazy.
     
    It seems like we need to get our heads on straight — and set straight the silly folks who have no contact with real-life schools and human students and thus think it’s rational to insist that everyone must go to college — before deciding what we’re going to fund.

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  17. Hi Caroline.
    Im not sure the belief is that everyone must go to college, rather it is the belief that everyone who graduates high school must at least be ready to go to college. In the past, the impression is that college has assumed a standard high school education as its ‘starting point’. Do you think that expectation has changed? Should it?
    That said, there has been an increased focus on the assumption that our future job market will mostly require a college degree. If thats true, there are two ways to get there:

    expect more kids to go to college
    outsource education, ie let education happen in other countries and foster immigration (we’ve already started this in some sectors), this is the option that our economic forces will push, because short-term, that is the cheaper solution.

    The latter is a bit dangerous because those kinds of jobs will more easily follow the educated kids rather than the other way around.
    Anyway, a valid question should be whether the trade-track and college-track should diverge before or after high school graduation. It sounds like you are saying it should be the former (which would be more inline with how other countries approach this). If so, we need to adjust our whole idea of accountability.

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  18. Caroline writes: “And now it’s all about how 2-year colleges can only exist if they’re going to transition students to complete their education at 4-year colleges, which is also crazy.”

    I’m not hearing serious proposals that all Community College students should aim to transfer to four-year college.  What frequently is discussed is that students should identify why they are at Community College and plan their enrollment accordingly.  If a student attends to earn a vocational educational certificate to strengthen career options, fine.  If a student aims to earn an Associates’ Degree (AA/AS), fine also.  If a student wants to take just a few classes to brush up on skills without expectation of earning a certificate or a degree, that also could be fine, though the declared certificate or degree students probably should receive enrollment priority if they are making reasonable progress towards their goals.

    Many Californians have not really internalized that a two-year Associates’ Degree from a Community College is supposed to be comparable to the general education coursework one would receive at any UC or CSU campus.  That’s why it’s a “degree.”  A “certificate” requires considerably fewer courses than a degree – often not requiring many general education courses.  With further study a student later can build on an earned certificate to earn an Associates’ degree.

    Again, please note that ALL community college credits earned towards an Associates’ Degree (AA/AS) are expected to transfer to any University of California campus or CSU campus in lieu of courses a UC/CSU freshman or sophomore would take.  If you earn the AA/AS, you then have the option to continue on for a four-year degree.

    The big BIG problem is how to respond to students who have a high school diploma yet require significant coursework before they can enroll in transferable general education classes at a Community College.  Many countries say “so sad, too bad” to students who didn’t complete pre-collegiate work while in high school.  California, however, traditionally has offered many, many non-transferable remedial or basic skills courses to students who did not complete college prep work in high school.  The challenge is how to continue to fund transferable courses AND vocational courses AND pre-college-level coursework at the Community College levels.  California caps the amount any Community College receives regardless of number of students enrolled.  So, as funding is cut, Community College leaders have to triage who gets priority for ever-more-limited spaces.  I am not opposed to the concept of giving students a second chance to complete high school level work.  I simply suggest that students ready for college-level work should have priority enrollment so they can earn their Associates’ Degree in two years if desired.  There should be some type of reward for successful learning in high school.

    An AA/AS degree only becomes a “two-year” degree if the student is ready to enroll in transferable general education courses on day one.  When a student needs to complete several levels of coursework just to get ready for their first 4-year-transferable general education course, then the years at a Community College significantly lengthen.  API/AYP matters to the extent that California has to reduce the number of catch-up courses Community Colleges are expected to offer.  If more students finish high school ready for the option of transferable general education coursework at a community college, the better we all can stretch public education resources.

    - Chris Stampolis
    Trustee, West Valley-Mission Community College District
    Member, State Board, California Community College Trustees (CCCT)
    408-390-4748  *  stampolis@aol.com

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  19. An issue not discussed here is the fact that students who attend CC do so of their own free will and bring a level of motivation to the academic work that is not necessarily (!!) in place while the same students are in the K-12 system.

    Another issue is that many CC students (also UC/CSU students) in CA are minorities who may be late comers to CA schools and/or have faced the well documented obstacles (being 2nd language students for example) to school achievement faced by minorities and the poor. Being a minority is all too often an accurate proxy for being poor in the US, and CA in particular. And then there’s motivation.

    The last study on educational needs of the labor force in the US that I am aware of, compiled by the US Dept of Labor, suggested that less than 25% of jobs in the future will require a BA or higher. The US now has something greater than 30% of the population with a BA or higher with pundits, general critics, politicians, and the business community demanding more and more graduates. Meanwhile college, from CC through graduate schools is becoming increasingly too expensive for the poor and even the middle class. And the UC and CSU systems are turning away qualified students because of budget cuts.

     
    Did I mention student motivation?

    Seems to be some loose ends ( and loose thinking) here that need to be reconciled.
     

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  20. To be clear, I dont necessarily personally agree that we can predict the future as to level of education required, but it does seem to be an assumption made by policy makers and politicians. I have heard the number ‘over 60%’ thrown around.
    Here is one study that seems say something along those lines (63% by 2018):
    http://cew.georgetown.edu/jobs2018/
    And although this particular US labor bureau page doesnt show the total rates, it does show that increases in jobs impact degreed positions disproportionately higher, at minimum, more than today.., no?:
    http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco2003.htm#education
     

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  21. Confirming Gary’s data suggestions regarding total college degree holders in the US, the data cited below may be found at:
    http://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/education/data/cps/2010/tables.html

    According to the US Census 2010 figures, 27 percent of the overall US adult population has achieved a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, with an additional 8.6 percent having achieved an Associates’ Degree and 19.3 percent having achieved some college with no degree.  Additionally, the US has 31 percent of the adult population with a high school degree.  The remaining 13.7 percent of the adult population did not complete high school. 

    Young adult women (under 40)  have the highest percentage of at least a Bachelor’s Degree – 38 percent for the mid-30s group.  Same aged men are achieving degrees about five percentage points behind women.

    Non-Hispanic white women achieve at least a Bachelor’s Degree at a rate of 44 percent.  Men achieve at about 40 percent. 

    Among Asian-American women in their early 30s, 67.9 percent (yes, more than 2/3) have at least a Bachelor’s Degree.  More than 27 percent of all Asian-American women in their early 30s have at least a Master’s Degree, with just under 30 percent of all Asian-American men in their early 30s holding at least a Master’s Degree.

    The Latino/Hispanic numbers for at least Bachelor’s Degrees range between 11 and 15 percent, with bouncing gender correlations.  For Master’s Degrees or greater, the numbers range between 3 and 6 percent for both genders.

    Among African-Americans, about 24 percent of younger women are achieving at least Bachelor’s Degrees, with about 18.5 percent of men achieving at least Bachelor’s Degrees.  For Master’s Degrees or greater, African-American women achieve at between 6 to 10 percent, and African-American men achieve graduate degrees at between 3 to 8 percent.

    - Chris Stampolis
    Trustee, West Valley-Mission Community College District
    Member, State Board of the California Community College Trustees (CCCT)

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  22. I think the belief (or purported* belief) is that everyone must go to college. I’ve been a California public high school parent since 2005, and I think that’s very intensely the message all around us.
    I think that in the past, college has assumed a specifically college-prep high school education as its starting point. That’s why the A-G requirements (the set of requirements for UC admission) weren’t previously synonymous with high school graduation requirements. Now that has changed, as the misguided notion that the A-G requirements must be synonymous with high school graduation requirements takes hold in more places. And that trend is a clear statement that the belief is that everyone must go to college.
    I think it’s complicated to assume that our future job market will require a college degree. It will if we continue to (stupidly) offer no vocational/technical/career education in secondary school.
    Yes, I am saying that “trade-track” (vocational/technical/career) opportunities should exist, amply, in high school. And yes, that is in line with how other countries (ALL other countries) approach this. No other countries are crazy enough to decree that all students must go to college or be shamed as failures (along with their K-12 schools and teachers).
    @Chris says: “I’m not hearing serious proposals that all Community College students should aim to transfer to four-year college.”
    It sure seems like that’s what I’m hearing, constantly. And again, I’m in my seventh year as a California high school parent, so I’m on the receiving end of all the messages.
    @Chris says: “Many countries say “so sad, too bad” to students who didn’t complete pre-collegiate work while in high school.”
    Well, in other countries that’s by design, not because the students simply didn’t get around to completing the pre-collegiate work. And those students have many alternative opportunities, unlike here. Students who weren’t completing pre-collegiate work while in high school have instead been given a solid (and marketable) vocational/technical/career track. So it’s misleading to refer to that as though those students are being discarded. Actually, the opposite is true. Here in the U.S., we say “so sad, too bad” to students who aren’t college-bound by offering them no vocational/technical/career programs in secondary school. We also say “so sad, too bad” to the employers and fields that need trained employees, by failing to offer that type of education.

    That said, I have heard from immigrant friends that if they’re not on the college track in secondary school, they have no chance to go to college at all, and sometimes come to the U.S. just for that purpose. (Though how they can afford it is a big question.) It seems like there must be a sane middle ground.
    I disagree that students ready for college-level work should receive priority over students who need voc-tech-career training in community college – especially when we offer no voc-tech-career options in high school. Talk about saying “so sad, too bad” to a whole lot of people (and likely to the less privileged).
    *I say that it’s the “purported belief” that all students must go to college or be shamed as failures because I think that in some quarters, that’s a fake belief, created to show up public schools as failures. I know that if you haven’t been following the education-reform debates for years as I have, that might sound a little paranoid, but I’ve been following this for years and years, and it is not possible to overestimate the malevolence and conniving deceitfulness of the corporate-education-reform sector.

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  23. Hi. I posted a response to Gary a few days ago but it never showed up. Maybe I’ve overdone my ‘quota’?  ;-) (apologies if it shows up twice)
    Anyway, here is a study that says 63% of jobs will require some college by 2018:
    http://cew.georgetown.edu/jobs2018/
    And here is the labor bureau’s overview, though I dont see a total college education rate, I do see that jobs that would require a degree are slated to increase at a much higher rate than others.
    http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco2003.htm#education
    That said, I agree that it is difficult to predict the future. Maybe there is another way of interpreting those numbers?
    Caroline, I agree with much of what you say, though I think there is a difference between an expectation of going to college, and policy that forces that. Though you’re right that from the parent perspective there is probably little difference. Anyway, I know in some places where A-G is being talked about as a requirement for HS graduation are places where there were more kids who wanted to go to college than there were A-G courses available for them to take. Its one thing to provide alternatives to college, a different thing to make college impossible (sounds like your friends you mention are closer to being in that latter situation). With our current funding dynamics, perhaps the only way to force districts into providing sufficient A-G (and to prohibit them tracking low-income minorities into low skill professions) is to make it policy? I do think the increase in our dropout rates has made more people feel that those who have no interest in going to college are those who are dropping out (of course the converse–that reduced focus on non-college tracks is driving them out–is probably also true).
    I, like you, would also prefer to see more multiple-track options in our k-12 system, but given our budget situation, and the increased focus on academics as the measure of k-12 success, I am not sure we are going to see that happen, especially while our demographics continue to shift. I also think our society has a bigger hurdle in the form of income inequality when it comes to assessing the ‘value’ of alternative track education. In other countries, there is more parity, which doesnt make alternative track professions as much of a stigma as it does here.

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  24. I am very grateful for you, CarolineSF, for your real-world perspective to these often overly-lofty policy-oriented discussions.  Nothing like a little bit of reality to help keep these deliberations grounded in what truly matters: our kids!

    I am tired of the dominant culture’s singular focus on what they think matters in life … it’s time we hold our electeds accountable to the true constituents of K-12 education, i.e., students. 

    They need to be asking the fundamental (and very basic) questions, such as: What is the underlying purpose of taxpayer-funded, compulsory education?  What are the minimum outcomes that we should expect for all high school graduates?  Should there be optional pathways offered to all students, and what standards should those pathways be held accountable for delivering?

    For me, at base minimum, K-12 education should prepare all students to be self-sufficient actors in our free-market and responsible citizens in our fragile Republic.  Beyond that, our education system should provide ample and various pathways to success, some leading to 4-year colleges, others to CC’s and other higher education/training opportunities, while still others straight into the workforce.

    I encourage you-all to watch the “Intelligence Squared” debate that just aired a couple of weeks ago (I provided the link in an earlier comment, above), as it helps frame this very discussion about the harm of a 4-year college fixation.

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  25. Happy New Year!

    Here are the A to G requirements:

    a. History/social science, 2 years
    b. English, 4 years
    c. Mathematics, 3 years
    d. Laboratory science, 2 years
    e. Language other than English, 2 years
    f. Visual and performing arts, 1 year
    g. College-preparatory elective, 1 year

    I believe we all agree at least some of the above classwork would be required for a high school diploma, reqardless of whether one will or will not attend college.  So, we’re only considering the differences between what’s listed above and what should be the gateway to a high school diploma.

    So, where are the disagreements?  Reduce, um, what?  Reduce History or Social Science below two years cumulative?  Reduce English below 4 years?

    Perhaps only 2 years of Mathematics, rather than three?

    No laboratory science at all to earn a high school diploma?  Or would it just be biology or earth science or chemistry for one year and no more for the rest of high school?

    No foreign language requirements?  None at all?

    No visual or performing arts coursework to earn a high school diploma?

    No elective?

    I’m perplexed at the heat surrounding “A to G” requirements.  I cannot imagine the differences are so wide between those of us posting on this blog that one argues here to have zero English courses for a high school diploma rather than four years of English courses.

    Currently one needs four years of high school coursework to earn a high school diploma.  If the real underlying discussion on this blog is whether we should reduce four years to three or even to two or one or maybe even zero so every Californian is free to leave formal education forever at age 14 or 15 or 16, then this discussion may be beyond me.

    A serious applicant applying out of high school for a competitive four-year university needs four years of mathematics, four years of history or social science, four years of English, four years of laboratory science, three or four years of foreign language and at least one AP course.  Now that’s “college prep” and it’s way beyond the A to G requirements.

    Just because the University of California sets a minimum standard of a 3.0 GPA and the A to G sequence does not mean those standards guarantee admission.

    Even if one takes all the A to G coursework, there is still plenty of schedule time to take other classes.  Really.  Add it up.

    History/social science, 2 years and Laboratory science, 2 years equals four years cumulative. 
    English, 4 years
    Mathematics, 3 years and Visual and performing arts, 1 year equals four years cumulative.
    Language other than English, 2 years and College-preparatory elective, 1 year equals three years cumulative.

    So, that’s four sections of coursework each day for three years and three sections of coursework each day for the fourth year.  That leaves at least an additional section of coursework each day for four years and an additional section of coursework each day for the final year of school.  And, if the student takes six sections of classwork each day, then it’s an additional section of elective coursework each day for four years.

    Thus, a student could take the entire A to G cycle and still have room for two additional electives every single day of high school for four entire years and three electives each day for the fourth years of high school.  What am I missing?

    - Chris Stampolis
    Trustee, West Valley-Mission Community College District
    408-390-4748  *  stampolis@aol.com

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  26. Sorry to be rude, @Chris, but what you’re missing is contact with real live kids in the real world.
     
    Here in SFUSD, synchronizing the grad requirements with the A-G requirements meant one extra year of math. In other districts it has been foreign language and history, I think. I know that sounds like an eensy-weensy little thing from a great lofty height, but as @Fred points out, it’s different in the real world.  An extra year of math is quite a big deal to some. (Most journalists would run screaming for the hills at the prospect — you all know who you are.)
     
    Also, this doesn’t include P.E., health ed, driver ed and College to Career (I admittedly am unsure which of those are state requirements and which are SFUSD, except that two years of P.E. are state requirements). If a student has a passion for arts and wants to take more than one paltry year, or wants to avidly pursue another passion like the school newspaper or Peer Resources for all or most years … you get the picture.
     
     

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  27. Oh, and I left out the fact that high schools SHOULD be offering a full range of high-quality vocational/technical/career courses. The only reason they’re not is that our educational system is in the grip of temporary insanity.
     
    And, by the way, there has been far too LITTLE heat over the A-G issue. Most voices have passively gone along. That’s because many of the fervent advocates for syncing HS grad requirements with A-G, and many who more-quietly support them, are completely misinformed. Here in SF, I’ve found that those people –who are almost always non-parents, parents of much younger kids or parents of long-since-grown kids — base their opinions on believing that there’s an entire, substandard, sinister track of courses that don’t qualify as A-G, onto which poor, dark-skinned kids are maliciously shunted. When you have to win support by totally misinforming people, you really need to question the validity of your views. (Ditto exaggerating *not supporting making A-G requirements synonymous with HS grad requirements* into calling for requiring “zero English courses.”)

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  28. I am a high school science teacher in SFUSD.  So, when it comes to the new A-G graduation requirements, I am in the thick of it.  It has had profound effects in the District, not only for electives as CarolineSF mentioned, but also for science and math.  Because non-A-G courses no longer are part of the graduation requirements, they are less and less likely to be offered.  That means no more Earth Science for freshman.  No more math classes that will prepare students for Algebra.  Course prerequisites are pretty much a thing of the past because of the need for every student, regardless of skill level, to take A-G classes.  Along with this trend is the increasing tendency to place extremely limited English speakers in these classes with teachers who only speak English.  Add to this the increased mainstreaming of SPED students into these classes.  These changes, as far as I can tell, were implemented with little to no input from the same classroom teachers who now are faced with trying to make this all work.  Despite the best of intentions, I am afraid there may be some profound unintended consequences.

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  29. Caroline,

    I don’t take your comments as rude, though I was serious about asking how many courses you propose for each category for high school graduation.
    A to G requires:
    History/social science, 2 years and Laboratory science, 2 years equals four years cumulative. 
    English, 4 years
    Mathematics, 3 years and Visual and performing arts, 1 year equals four years cumulative.
    Language other than English, 2 years and College-preparatory elective, 1 year equals three years cumulative.
    As I wrote above, that’s four sections of coursework each day for three years and three sections of coursework each day for the fourth year.  That leaves at least an additional section of coursework each day for four years and an additional section of coursework each day for the final year of school.  And, if the student takes six sections of classwork each day, then that provides an additional section of elective coursework each day for four years.

    Thus, a student could take the entire A to G cycle and still have room for two additional electives every single day of high school for four entire years and three electives each day for the fourth years of high school.

    Isn’t that more than enough opportunity to take many extra arts courses?  Or driver’s education?  Or other courses of interest?

    If not, then please share what you suggest should be the minimum standard for a high school diploma.  I’m not brittle about the A to G reqs and I’m not going to criticize your opinion about alternate standards.  I am listening closely to hear what you believe should be statewide minimum requirements to earn a diploma from a California neighborhood public high school, so I can get a sense of how a Community College will respond to such students when they seek enrollment.

    - Chris

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  30. I don’t have enough information to feel confident in laying out a specific plan and don’t have the bandwidth (as a volunteer) to get that information, @Chris. For now I would revert to the previous district requirements. In my perfect world there would be a broad, deep and rich set of vocational/technical/career offerings in high school that would change the picture entirely.
     
    Part of what I object to is the strong message conveyed by the push to make A-G synonymous w/high school grad requirements, which is that the only acceptable path is into college in pursuit of a four-year degree (and the parallel message that those who aren’t on that path are shamed and branded failures, along with their K-12 schools). That’s just wrong.
     
    This whole deception-riddled trend needs a do-over.
     
     

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