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CUSD lowers CVA grad requirements

CARLSBAD — Different graduation requirements for the school district’s Carlsbad Village Academy (CVA) continuation high school was deliberated at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

As a continuation high school, CVA provides alternative course structures and a learning environment for students who were not successful at CUSD’s comprehensive high schools.

The 110 students that attend CVA take part in a trimester system that enables those in grades 10 through 12 to finish courses faster and earn more class credits within a year to catch up from failing courses at another high school.

In 2007, the Board prioritized having all CUSD students fulfill the course requirements of California State University and University of California admission, known as A-G requirements.

Beginning with the graduating class of 2017, students will need to pass all A-G required courses along with other state requirements to receive a diploma.

“The goal would be that your students would leave your high school able to get into a four-year school in California,” explained CUSD Superintendent Dr. Suzette Lovely.

With a class of students being held to A-G standards for graduation for the first time, CUSD staff and the Board questioned if the new standards were appropriate for CVA students.

“The A-G requirements are so rigorous and restrictive, and these are students that are already being unsuccessful in many of those classes,” said Lovely.

The A-G course requirements entail two years of social science, four years of English, three years of math, two years of laboratory science, two years of a foreign language, one year of visual and performing arts, and one year of a college-preparatory elective.

Comparatively, the state’s minimum high school graduation requirements mandate three years of social sciences, three years of English, two years of math, two years of science, two years of physical education, and one year of foreign language or visual and performing arts.

Just over 60 percent of this year’s senior class at CUSD’s high schools currently meets the A-G requirements, according to Lovely.

CVA does not offer all of the courses required by A-G standards, including foreign languages and certain sciences classes. This would force students to take those classes at Carlsbad High School in a more traditional setting.

The additional classes would also obligate students to stay at school for longer during the day, which could hinder students who work or take care of their families.

The ultimate concern of staff and the Board was that if all CVA students were required to meet the full A-G requirements, fewer of them would graduate and more of them would drop out.

No other continuation high school in San Diego County requires completion of A-G classes for graduation, according to CUSD staff.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to remove some of the A-G class and credit requirements needed for graduation from CVA per CUSD staff’s recommendation.

The decision will allow CVA students to graduate once they have completed three years of math up through Geometry rather than up to Algebra II, one college prep and one non-college prep science classes, and a foreign language or an elective class.

CVA students will also only need 210 credits to graduate rather than 230 credits.

Trustee Elisa Williamson expressed that she felt comfortable with the different graduation standards for CVA knowing that the classes offered at the school were rigorous and not “watered down.”

She said she would much prefer that CVA students receive strong instruction through Geometry rather than dropping out in the face of Algebra II.

“Career and college ready for every student means something different,” said Trustee Veronica Williams. “There is a cost for students who are not graduating.”

But Tanner raised the issue of CVA’s reputation and academic rigor with lower course standards.

“I don’t want to see CVA as a dumping ground. It has been a dumping ground and it has been an embarrassment,” she said.

Tanner requested that staff work on a way to develop stronger curriculum and raise graduation rates at he school.

Rio Dobbs, who graduated from CVA a couple of weeks ago, said that before attending the school, she was failing almost every single class.

“I let myself down, but CVA lifted me up,” she added. “I am no number at CVA. At CHS (Carlsbad High School), I was on the roll call, but they didn’t know who I was.”

Williamson questioned Tanner’s comments, saying that CVA has changed in the past few years for the better.

She acknowledged that the school still needs improvement but said, “Our staff has done wonderful things for those kids.”