Almost half of The City’s public high school juniors are in danger of not graduating next year if they do not successfully complete the coursework under new San Francisco Unified School District requirements.
If students don’t comply with the standards by graduation time, they will have to return for a fifth year, move to a continuation high school or obtain a General Educational Development diploma through San Francisco City College or another institution.
In 2008, San Francisco’s Board of Education approved new graduation standards, known as “A-G requirements,” for math and second languages, among other subjects. The requirements were implemented in 2010, when today’s juniors entered high school. The new requirements were meant to meet the entrance criteria of the California State University and University of California systems — the A-G refers to the labeling used by the University of California to identify seven core subject areas.
But as many as 45 percent of high school juniors are currently missing one or more requirements, according to data discussed publicly last month. Consequently, only 2,216 of 4,024 current juniors are on track to graduate, that data showed. The remaining students were missing a variety of credits and course requirements, with at least 100 students missing most course requirements.
“These students have met the credits but not the graduation requirement, so that means they are not on track to graduate,” school board commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer said at last week’s meeting of the City and School Districts Select Committee. “And it means that every one of those students will need an opportunity to make up those credits or take those courses, or else they will not graduate.”
In particular, large proportions of Latino and black students, as well as English-language learners, are not on track.
According to the data, only 84 of the 332 black juniors and 265 of 821 Latino juniors were on a path toward graduation. On the other hand, some 1,237 of 1,725 Chinese students were on track.
In response to this looming crisis, the district is looking at several ways to get students back on track, said Janet Schulze, assistant superintendent of high schools at the SFUSD. Options include night school this spring, summer school and in-school support to ensure as many students as possible meet the new standards and graduate on time. The support might involve partnerships with community-based organizations, Schulze said. In the meantime, at-risk students are working with counselors to create credit-recovery plans tailored to them.
Schulze noted that some students may not have had the opportunity to take some of their required courses. For example, missing any requirement such as physical education or a certain level of English could put a student off course. Budget and program cuts, including cuts to summer and after-school programs, also have hindered some students’ ability to make up courses they may have failed or not had an opportunity to take.
“We have to make sure we are expanding credit-recovery options,” Schulze told committee members. “When we increased graduation requirements, we had to cut centralized evening and summer school.”
To help the district provide such options, The City is considering giving it $2.7 million to pay for credit recovery during the spring semester. The City provided $3 million to help pay for summer school in 2012 and 2013. As many as 1,000 juniors signed up for summer courses as a result.
Yet Neva Walker, executive director of Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth, believes summer school is not the only answer.
“Some students have asked for a seventh period,” she said. “We’d prefer a teacher in the classroom, but we are also realizing time is against us; we need multiple strategies to get them graduated.”
Time is of the essence, Walker stressed.
“After this semester, then there are three semesters to get our students ready,” she said. “It’s not that we want the district to do poorly, it’s more that we want our young people to have academic success. But they have to have access.”
Although today’s focus is students who will graduate in 2014, officials say they are focused on making sure that future classes also have an opportunity to graduate. Data were not available for the classes of 2015 and 2016.
“We want to be sure students have info on the status and where they are with credit recovery,” Schulze said.