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EDUCATION

L.A. District's Class of 2003 Faces Stricter Graduation Standards

March 31, 1999

It just got tougher for next fall's freshmen to earn a high school diploma in Los Angeles.

Beginning with the class of 2003, students must complete more classes, take tougher math and study the arts to graduate. And they must get better grades.

The Los Angeles Board of Education made the changes last week as part of its program to end social promotion, the practice of advancing students to a new grade even if they haven't mastered the old one's skills.

The new standards require 230 credits for graduation, an increase of 10, or the equivalent of two one-semester classes.

Students probably will need the added course work to achieve satisfactory scores on the Stanford 9 standardized test, which will be one factor used to determine whether a student should be promoted.

The changes also are part of an effort to bring graduation requirements into line with minimum admission standards for some four-year colleges. For instance, the district will require students to take two years of college preparatory math, meaning subjects such as algebra and geometry, rather than the generic math classes now allowed.

A year of visual or performing arts also will be required. Previously students could choose between the arts and computer sciences. Now they must take both.

Robert Collins, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for L.A. Unified, said a C or better will be required in these classes.

"A D would not work," Collins said.

In addition to the increased requirements, students graduating in 2004 will have to take 30 of their units in career-oriented classes in a field of their choice such as health, science or business. Collins said these career pathways are being developed this year.

However, Collins said, the district cannot proceed now with its intention to require a year of foreign language. Collins said the district does not have enough qualified foreign-language teachers to accommodate all its students.

The district's requirements of four years of English and three years of social studies will not change, Collins said. Those already exceed state standards by a year.

The new district requirements still fall slightly short of entrance standards for the University of California and California State University systems. Both require three years of math and two years of foreign language.

In adopting the new rules, L.A. Unified has joined about half the state's 1,000 school districts in upgrading graduation requirements beyond the state standard, said Doug Stone, spokesman for the state Department of Education.

Last year, State Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin sought higher standards in a bill that died in the Legislature, Stone said.

But many districts are pressing ahead in anticipation of exit exams that will go into effect in 2004 under Gov. Gray Davis' education reform program adopted by the Legislature last week.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Getting Tougher

As part of its program to end social promotion, the Los Angeles Board of Education made changes last week that affect the Class of 2003. High school students must complete more classes, take tougher math, study the arts and get better grades to graduate. The new course requirements:

English: 40 credits (10 per year per class)

Social Science: 30

College prep math: 20

College prep laboratory science: 20

Visual or performing arts: 10

Applied technology: 10

Physical education: 20

Health: 5

Educational Career Planning*: 5

Career Pathways*: 30

Electives: 40

* Takes effect in 2004

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