Two apparently unrelated events that could have significant impact on the education of children in Los Angeles occurred within one week of each other. The first was the news that all Los Angeles Unified School District high schools may have to convert to year-round enrollments due to increasing student populations. The other event was the state Senate Education Committee approval of SB 1504, a bill authored by Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier), which would provide funding for increasing the number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high schools.
One of the little-known facts about year-round schools is the way in which they administer academic enrichment courses. Advanced placement courses give students the opportunity to improve their grade point averages and their chances for college admission. However, there is great disparity in AP offerings throughout the state. More than 100 high schools offer no AP courses at all. In addition, studies by both the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute and the Public Policy Institute of California show that high minority enrollment schools offer fewer AP courses.
This disparity in access has received a great deal of attention due to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the state of California for not providing equal access to AP courses. Action this year becomes even more imperative because of LAUSD's proposed switch to year-round schools. A transition to year-round enrollment would create even more obstacles for equal access to AP courses. Consider the following: On average, a student in a traditional two-semester LAUSD school has 10 AP courses available during the academic year. A student in a year-round school, with three different tracks, has access to fewer course offerings because the 10 courses must be divided between the three tracks. If a school has only one teacher qualified to teach AP physics, and it is offered in Track A, students in Tracks B and C do not have access to this course. Some year-round schools cluster their AP courses in a way that prevents access to students in one particular track.