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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

L.A. Considers Tougher Standards for Middle School

October 19, 2000|DUKE HELFAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles school officials are recommending tougher requirements for completing middle school and extra assistance for those who fail along the way.

District officials, borrowing a page from high school, want to require middle school students to earn credits in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Students who fail a class would get a chance to make it up in summer school. Those who fail again would have to repeat the class the following school year, even though the students advance with classmates in other subjects.

The matriculation plan is meant to head off failing students before they reach eighth grade and face the prospect of being held back a year under the district's new drive to end social promotion.

The plan, if approved by the Board of Education in December, would begin with this year's sixth-graders. They would have to earn 50 credits by the end of the school year, 40 of them in core academic subjects.

Over the three years of middle school, students would have to earn a total of 150 credits, 120 of them in the core subjects. Officials said a student could fail a core subject, such as social studies, all three years and still graduate to high school if he accumulated enough other credits.

District officials also plan to identify fifth-graders who are struggling in reading at the end of this school year. Those students would get extra help next year as sixth-graders in middle school.

Sue Shannon, administrator of instructional support services, said the new system is not an expansion of the district's policy on social promotion. Currently, second- and eighth-graders who fail English have to repeat the year if they don't improve enough during summer school. District officials said they have no plans to add other grades this year.

Last month, district officials were amazed that 80% of 3,800 failing eighth-graders made enough progress during summer school to advance to ninth grade. Officials said they believe that some students cracked the books because they didn't want to be left behind. But officials also said lax grading played a role in the large numbers of advancing students. Teachers graded summer school students on written assignments.

Because of inconsistencies in the grading, the district retrained teachers this year so they can better judge the quality of the work, Shannon said.

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