Two decades ago, there was a big fuss made over graduation rates, especially among youth of color. Latino/a and black youth had lower graduation rates, which created an achievement gap. Although there’s been a tremendous effort to close the graduation gap (SBUSD proudly graduates 89.7 percent of all students), there is still a widening gap in accessing college preparatory courses known as the A-G.
The A-G courses are an integral part of a student’s high school coursework and a requirement to four-year public institutions (UC/CSU) applicants. Students who do not take these courses are not eligible to apply to a four-year public university. At Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD), students who graduate are not required to complete A-G requirements. The latest district data shows that while 59.3 percent of all students completed the A-G requirements, only 40.3 percent of socially disadvantaged students and 3.8 percent of English learners completed these courses; in comparison, 74 percent of white students completed A-Gs by the time they graduated.
So why aren’t students taking these courses? Some are barred, while others are told they are not ready for these courses. This systemic exclusion prevents low-income youth from accessing courses necessary for a college application. If students are to succeed in high school, and later years in life, an optimal opportunity would be taking these courses.
To close this gap, other districts have aligned their graduation requirements with the A-Gs so that all youth have an opportunity to succeed. LAUSD did it in 2006, and Oxnard Union High School District will consider adopting a resolution on April 25, 2018.
So if education is an indicator of success in the later years in life (income, wealth, and health), why aren’t we measuring A-G rates as a meaningful indicator of success? High school graduations get you a diploma, but the A-G’s will get you college opportunities.
We propose that SBUSD align the A-G requirements with the high school graduation requirements so that all youth have an opportunity — an opportunity to succeed and realize their full potential.
Eder Gaona-Macedo is executive director of Future Leaders of America.