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Close, But No Cigar for LAUSD's College Prep

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What's more shocking: Kids in LAUSD high schools are apathetic towards their education, or LAUSD high schools aren't providing students with enough assistance in moving them towards post-secondary education?

According to a report released Monday, a multitude of LAUSD high school students are coming up close--but not close enough--to qualify for admission to schools in the UC and CSU systems. The LA Times explains that the "report is a snapshot of 20 high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District during the 2005-06 school year. Among graduates, 28% were no more than two courses short of UC/Cal State requirements. Among the schools' total enrollment of 90,000 students in ninth through 12th grade, more than 35,000 were close." Some of the schools in the report include "Banning, Bell, Dorsey, Garfield, Jefferson, Monroe and Roosevelt," says the Times--not exactly your scholastic powerhouses, mind you. (This might explain why a student in one of my English classes at CSULA yesterday told a classmate and former Bell student that her school was "not exactly known for its academics.")

Instead, many LAUSD high schools, and their students, are known for passing the buck and pointing the finger of blame in attempts to justify why tens of thousands of students at graduation were not adequately advised on what courses to take to ready them for college. What else is to blame? Try software that's supposed to be in use district-wide that would allow counselors to turn "a student's transcript into a college progress report, showing where they've met requirements and where they're lacking. The program also calculates grade-point averages in college prep courses and compares them to what's needed for UC, CSU and a state financial aid program." But they aren't using it...because they haven't had training, claim district officials. If "reports for every student in a school can be prepared in a few keystrokes," as claimed, why aren't those counselors given a brief tutorial on how to press the right buttons?

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While many students in grades 9-12 fret about passing basic Algebra or other required courses like English and social studies, many colleges require arts courses for their incoming students, which schools are struggling or unable to provide. The Times adds that " a more recent analysis at Crenshaw High School, by the same researchers, concluded that more than half its graduates were short in Visual and Performing Arts. Less than a third had taken this course -- meaning that nearly 70% of graduates were automatically ineligible to apply to a UC or Cal State school."

Of course, prep is just one step in an increasingly overwhelming battle to get our youth educated and into colleges that will lead them to rewarding careers. First they have to have good teachers, classroom materials, and pass a seemingly endless battery of standardized tests which seem to measure little more than the ability to use a number two pencil to bubble in a scantron (a skill which, granted, was a vital one to have in yesterday's Super Tuesday "double bubble" melee).

Oh, and, incidentally, once you get in to a UC or CSU...good luck affording it.

Photo by dcJohn via Flickr