School district reviews graduation requirements, ponders changes

The Graduation Committee—which includes teachers, staff, parents and students from Claremont High School, El Roble Intermediate School and elementary schools throughout the Claremont Unified School District—has been meeting throughout the year to assess the district’s graduation requirements.

A few weeks ago, these district stakeholders came up with some recommendations, which were shared, for informational purposes only, at the Thursday, May 2 meeting of the Claremont school board.

 The Graduation Committee has been mulling over 4 key questions. The first is whether CUSD should change its graduation requirements to reflect the so-called “A-G” requirements.  These are the minimum academic course requirements high school students must satisfy to be eligible to apply for freshman admission to UC/CSU.

They include 15 yearlong courses in 7 subject areas, which students are required to pass with a grade of a C or better. These requirements include 4 years of college preparatory English; 3 years of math, covering algebra, geometry and intermediate algebra; 2 years of laboratory science; 2 years of history/social science; 2 years of a foreign language; a year of visual and performing arts, plus an additional year in any of the above areas or an approved elective.

The Graduation Committee looked at pros and cons attached to adopting A-G requirements for all graduating CUSD students, a move that some school districts in the state have already undertaken. Chief among these is the district would like to see as many students as possible ready and prepared for a 4-year school upon graduation.

Ultimately, however, the committee’s consensus is that adopting A-G requirements would be a bad idea, because it would lessen the graduation rate considerably. Not every student is in the same space academically and developmentally, and not every student has the ability or the opportunity to go onto a 4-year school. The matter is closed and will likely not be brought before the school board again, according to Bonnie Bell, assistant superintendent of educational services.

The Graduation Committee also discussed whether or not to add another option for students with regards to the current requirement that they take one year of either a year of visual/performing arts or foreign language. Under the recently-passed Assembly Bill 1330, the state’s Ed Code specifies that, beginning in fall of 2012, districts may choose to adopt a career technical education (CTE) course as an optional high school graduation requirement.

A number of CTE courses are currently offered at Claremont High School, including Automotive, Stage Technology, Virtual Enterprise and Work Experience; Sports Medicine; Engineering Drawing and Architectural Drawing II. Dozens of other CTE options—floral design, airport careers, criminal justice and medical assistance, etc.—are offered through Baldy View ROP, a technical education consortium serving the Claremont, Upland, Chino Valley and Chaffey Joint Union High School districts.

The committee’s recommendation that a CTE option be introduced will likely be brought before the board at their next meeting on May 16. Should they approve the recommendation, it would be introduced for the graduating class of 2015. Students who wish to go on to CSU or UC schools, it should be noted, will still need to fulfill the more stringent A-G requirements, taking 2 years of a foreign language and 1 year of art. 

A number of high-achieving students made a particular case for eliminating the technology and health requirements because it can be difficult for a student with a rigorous schedule of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses to fit these semester-long classes into their schedules. They also noted they are reluctant to take courses that are not classified as IP or IB because such courses do not have a weighted GPA, asserting that these requirements cause their GPA to go down.

Because there was not a clear consensus with regards to the removal of these requirements, discussion with regards to the health and technology requirements will likely continue, starting with study sessions in the summer and fall, Ms. Bell said. The soonest these matters would be brought before the school board would be midway through the 2013-2014 school year.

—Sarah Torribio


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