There's a lot more to improving education than just raising the bar and expecting everyone to reach it, as the Los Angeles Unified School District is discovering about its ill-conceived, 7-year-old policy to require students to pass a college-prep curriculum in order to graduate.
The district's intentions were good. Not only were too few students attempting the so-called A through G curriculum -- a required series of high school English, math, social studies and other courses required for entry to California's public four-year colleges and universities -- but the numbers attempting it were much lower among disadvantaged black and Latino students. Before the policy was adopted, many school administrators assumed these students were incapable of or uninterested in a future in college and steered them toward a less rigorous course of study.
What the district should have done is to undertake a thoughtful overhaul of the curriculum, preparing students before they entered high school for the more challenging academic course load and continuing with tutoring and support as they moved from ninth to 12th grades. Instead, under political pressure from justifiably frustrated community groups, the school board merely passed a resolution calling for all students to be required to pass the full college-prep series of courses, starting with the freshman class of 2012.