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Los Angeles

Centennial High School in Compton Loses Its Accreditation

Report cites educational and maintenance flaws. Principal says he needs more time to fix things.

August 20, 2003|Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

Centennial High School in Compton has lost its academic accreditation, a basic seal of approval that is granted to the vast majority of public schools in California and is weighed in college admissions.

The Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges, which accredits public high schools in California, did not renew Centennial's certification because it failed to meet the association's educational standards, said association Executive Director David Brown.

A commission report found that the 1,387 students at Centennial lack high-quality instruction and academic counseling.

Also, it said that the tardy policy is inconsistently enforced, good textbooks are hard to come by and staff guidance is insufficient.

In addition, the report found that the campus has been neglected due to budget cuts in custodial and maintenance staff and that the facilities are deteriorating.

The report said that the "school has a long way to go to be able to provide consistent, standards-based instruction for all students. The major inhibitors have been lack of consistent leadership and ineffective instruction."

The accrediting commission reviews curricula, teacher qualifications, facilities, finances, performance data and school programs.

More than 98% of California public high schools are accredited, Brown said. He added that it is rare for a school's accreditation not to be renewed.

Centennial Principal Richard J. Chavez said he is confident that the campus will have its accreditation restored after the association returns in the fall.

"This was upsetting, yes," he said. "I do take this as a personal blow. We did do a lot of work on our site.... I had a lot of heart-to-heart conversations about what needed to change."

Chavez, who became principal a year ago, said that he was not given enough time to improve the campus and that problems have spilled over from past administrations.

He said he has started making changes with the district's support.

They include staff reassignments, educational program improvements, increased academic counseling and campus modernization.

This is a serious issue for parents and students because "they don't want to leave," Chavez said. "But they also want to make sure they can go to a university."

Brown said most colleges take accreditation issues seriously when reviewing college applications. "If you don't graduate from an accredited institution, that doesn't help your chances of being accepted," he said.

Last year, the University of California approved a policy requiring that coursework from college applicants come from high schools that are accredited, or are candidates for accreditation by the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges.

But UC Systemwide Director of Admissions Susan Wilbur said Centennial probably will reestablish its accreditation.

"In the meantime, UC admissions offices on all campuses will continue to treat applications from Centennial High School students as coming from an approved high school. These students have worked hard to prepare themselves for college and we will honor their efforts," she said.

Officials at the California State University system said they also take into consideration whether a high school is accredited.

However, they weigh high school graduation requirements, SAT scores and student grades more heavily, and would not reject a student because his or her school is not accredited, said Colleen Bentley-Adler, a Cal State spokeswoman.

The accreditation commission's report is another blow to the Compton Unified School District, which has been struggling to overcome its tattered reputation. In 1993, the board was stripped of all power because of widespread corruption, $20 million in deficits and low test scores.

The state ran the district until December, when local control was restored.

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