SFUSD needs aid to ensure that teens graduate high school 

Thousands of San Francisco students do not have the courses they need to graduate from high school, and city officials should help ensure that there are opportunities for pupils to take the needed classes and earn diplomas.

More than 2,000 juniors in the San Francisco Unified School District lack the credits they need to graduate under the latest academic standards.

The district adopted these so-called A-G requirements to bring its standards into conformance with the minimums needed to gain admission into the California State and University of California systems. The class of 2014 is the first set of students to whom these standards apply.

The district’s goal of graduating students who are prepared for college is laudable, but it is currently falling short, especially for minority students and English-language learners. Statistics from the district show that out of 4,024 juniors, 1,808 are missing at least one or more requirements. Only 25 percent of black juniors and about 32 percent of Latino juniors are on track to graduate, according to the data.

The district needs to give these students the opportunities to make up credits or take additional courses, but money is an issue. Some students need only a class or two to graduate next year, but others need more. To provide the extra classes, the district, which is facing a structural deficit at the end of this year, needs financial help.

San Francisco should step in and provide funds to ensure the district can provide the classes students need. Supervisor Jane Kim has introduced legislation that would give the district $2.7 million for this purpose.

This notion is not unheard of. Proposition H, approved by voters in 2011, steers funds to arts education in the district. The City gave the district money for summer school in 2012 and 2013. And a rainy-day fund set up in 2003 captures city funds when there is a surplus and makes that money available to the district in times of need.

This is one such time.

District budget cuts have reduced the opportunities students have to make up the credits they lack, and it was district officials who put these new requirements into place. But that does not mean city leaders should stand by while students are brushed aside or made to repeat a year of high school to graduate.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors delayed consideration of this matter to give itself time to figure out where the money could come from. Kim’s original resolution aimed to take funds from The City’s state reserve funding, but an alternate plan calls for using rainy-day funds.

Once the district clears the hurdle of adding these classes this spring, it will need to begin considering the larger problem of how to fund such credit-recovery classes in the future. The board should help the district resolve this crisis. It would truly be a shame if the adoption of new academic standards designed to get more students into college instead had the unforeseen impact of putting more of them behind in high school.

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