San Diego Schools Fail English Learners: They Lack Coursework Needed to Apply for College

On October 28th, 2014, the San Diego Unified School Board was presented a report with the alarming news that about 40% of the class of 2016 will not have the required courses to apply as freshman to the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems.  The requirements are referred to the "a-g" requirements - 15 high school credits of courses in different areas meant to give students "breadth and perspective" for college.  For example, requirement "a" is two years of specific history courses.  The most important finding of the audit identifies who is not on track - students of color, economically disadvantaged students, and English learners (see EL in chart above).  Findings from the report include:
Finding 1: SDUSD graduation requirements are not aligned with the a-g requirements
Finding 2: Significant gaps in a-g success appear by ethnicity
Finding 3: Significant gaps in access to a-g courses appear by ethnicity
Finding 4: Significant gaps exist in access to a-g courses for English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students
The gaps listed in the findings above may not only point to the failure of students to succeed in courses,  but in the failure of the schools to meet the needs of students and provide access to challenging coursework.  Although SDUSD has made some progress in its preparation of students to enter college, when only 9% of English learners are on track to apply to the UC or CSU system, we should be greatly troubled - enough so that we take action.  In the words of Gloria Ladson-Billings, we must not give students "permission to fail" but "demand that they succeed" because we have given them the tools and access that they need.
Ladson-Billings, G. (2002). I ain’t writin’ nuttin’: Permissions to fail and demands to succeed in urban classrooms. In L. Delpit & K. Dowdy (Eds.). The skin that we speak. New York: The New Press.

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen


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