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Rather than address its longstanding failure to educate students in a timely age-sensitive manner, the Los Angeles Unified School District has now voted to further degrade the value of a high school diploma by letting students pass an A-G college requirement course with a "D".

LAUSD itself has created this regrettable situation by continuing for what is now generations to socially promotion students, whether or not they have objectively met a course's standards, so that now when they take these higher skills A-G college prep courses, too many do not have the underlying basic language and math skills necessary to do passing work.

Serious remediation at an early enough age would have made habitual social promotion and predictable failure unnecessary. But now the LAUSD board has taken the counterintuitive step of further degrading the value of a high school diploma by no longer requiring at least a "C" average in the A-G requirements courses that are necessary to be considered for admission to colleges and universities in California and elsewhere. One might say that rather than once and for all fixing this longstanding and purposefully failed public education system, they have decided to "fix" the public education system by eliminating any objective standard of what is acceptable work.

If anybody had bothered to look, student predictable failure would have been easy to identify and deal with in a timely manner. With 75% of new students to junior colleges in California taking remedial and not college-level classes, it should have been obvious—to anybody who bothered to look—that the high school diplomas and California High School Exit Exams (CAHSEE) these students supposedly passed were achieved were not worth the paper they were written on. But it seems that the American press has lost the ability to report the truth to hold powerful people accountable, if it ruffles the feathers of corporate interests—especially those interests seeking the privatization of public education for profit- that is if they want to keep their jobs.

Rather than once and for all fixing this longstanding and purposefully failed public education system, they have decided to "fix" the public education system by eliminating any objective standard of what is acceptable work.

LAUSD administrators are part of a culture that for generations has shown that it knows everything about gaming the system, while at the same time showing that they really don't have a clue as to how they might finally and pragmatically address what is wrong and fix it. In fact, what they are adept at is going after teachers and administrators that might actually fix public education, if given the ability to do so.

This gaming of the system rather than actually changing it for the better happens because real change to a public education system that actual educates students is seen as a threat to the privileged and overcompensated status of administrators and vendors of over-priced goods and services whose interest in making money must clearly remain above the interests of students and teachers getting and giving an education. Clearly this is the morally challenged culture that must be rooted out if all students are to be educated to their highest potential.

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So now, the latest indication of these misguided priorities that puts LAUSD business as usual bureaucratic privilege above student subjective needs is to throw out passing grades in A-G college requirements as a prerequisite for high school graduation by saying it unjustly penalizes students and keeps them from graduating. What are completely ignored in the further degrading and taking any value out of a high school diploma are some of the following legally and morally questionable behavior sanction by the LAUSD Board:

  • Students arriving in kindergarten are already behind their peer group and no timely attempt is made to get them caught up to their peer group as soon as possible. Every study of this situation that is endemic to predominantly de facto segregated public school districts of minorities and poor shows that the longer intervention is delayed, the less there is a chance of getting these normal children caught up to their peers. Not only is LAUSD not doing this, they just cut the budget for the pre-kindergarten program to save money. One might note that money they saved will be dwarfed by the lifetime societal cost of paying for young people pushed through this system of public non-education without basic skills. In this context, it is perfectly understandable that students systematically socially promoted, whether or not they have mastered prior grade-level standards, predictably will see these students failing to pass A-G requirements in high school. And yet social promotion remains in place with the LAUSD's board now only seeking to address the effect- a grade of "D" or lower and not the cause, which they have allowed to fester for generations without timely intervention, which is the undisputed cause.
  • Rather than address the truth, LAUSD and districts like it around the country continue unabated to game the system. The latest high school graduation figures now claim an 81% graduation rate nationwide...until you look at what is going on. Student dropouts are purposefully "mislabeled" transfer students, when those reporting the figures know that these students never arrive at another school. But this lessens the total number of students and distorts the graduation percentages by eliminating significant numbers of failed students from the computation. 21 states around the country offer "alternative easier" means of getting class credit. There are also ways to get a high school diploma even if you fail the high school exit exam required by many states. Students- or their friends?- can take much abbreviated courses on line to also make up for below passing work. And "credit recovery courses" that give full credit for something as minimal as a multiple choice exam that is taken in a couple of hours further degrade the value of a high school diploma and the rigorous class work one thought it represented.
  • Clearly, the fixing of grades and tests is not something that only exists in Atlanta Georgia, but is rampant throughout LAUSD and other districts, where teachers know that if they dare to fail a student their job just might be on the line. Isn't this a more rational explanation of how students who supposedly passed their courses continue to fail?
  • With a total capacity of all colleges and universities in the United States at 30% of high school graduates, why has the academic track become the exclusive measure of success in high school? What happened to Industrial Arts classes and other non-academic career paths that should be treated with at least as much respect as going to college. Is there any reason that there could not be more than one type of high school diploma- one academic and the other(s) emphasizing different career tracks? But in any case, fundamental literacy in language and math is necessary and will not be achieved as long as social promotion continues to be allowed to undermine any real accountability.

My grandfather was a bookbinder who had maybe a 6th grade formal education, before he had to go to work and support his family. But even without a high school diploma or a college degree, he was a literate and well- educated man who was capable of being the repository of power that our Founding Fathers had invisioned of all its citizens.

The victory of form over content that the LAUSD Board seem to be masters of not only jeopardizes the students and teachers in their trust, it threatens the very future of this country as anything that even remotely resembles a democracy of, by, and for the people.

leonard isenberg

Leonard Isenberg