The San Diego Unified board voted Tuesday night to start exploring ways to make sure that more students take the series of classes required to get into the University of California system.

The classes, known to students as A-G, have been adopted as graduation requirements in other California school districts, including San Jose, where graduation rates actually rose after the changes were made. Only a fraction of San Diego Unified students currently graduate having met that bar, which includes two years of a foreign language and a year of the arts. Students, parents and activists pushed the school district to move towards using A-G as a minimum standard, arguing that teens were being steered to easier courses in schools with higher levels of poverty, effectively tracked out of successful careers and college pathways.

“It makes us feel that we cannot take the same courses as (students) from La Jolla, as if we are less intelligent,” said Lulu Berhe, a Mission Bay High student who spoke in favor of the move.

School board member John Lee Evans agreed. “The default is that we have high expectations — as opposed to the default is that we have high expectations for certain students,” he said.

Not everyone was convinced. School board member John de Beck complained that making A-G the standard would “force kids into a curriculum.” Another trustee, Katherine Nakamura, noted that counselors were getting bigger caseloads due to budget cuts and questioned how they would handle a potentially steeper bar to graduate. San Diego Unified graduation requirements differ slightly from A-G.

“This isn’t Star Trek,” Nakamura said. “You can’t just say, ‘Make it so.’” She ultimately voted for the move after Superintendent Terry Grier assured her that it would be possible even with the cuts.

A committee of parents, employees and community members will start weighing the issue, with an eye towards changing the graduation rules for the 2010-2011 school year. The proposal passed 4 to 1 with de Beck in opposition.


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