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Last night I blogged about a long-awaited report on why San Diego Unified students often fail to complete the classes needed to apply to the University of California or California State University systems. Here are some more interesting findings from that report by the nonprofit Education Trust West:

• Few San Diego Unified students do well on an exam given by the colleges to high school juniors to see if they are ready for college English and math. Only 9 percent of students are prepared in math, with only 1 percent of African American students and 2 percent of Latinos meeting the same mark.

• The study identified “chokepoints” — any obstacle a student runs into when trying to complete the classes needed to apply to college. Math, English and world languages were the most common chokepoints.

Math seemed particularly problematic. Education Trust West also questioned whether middle school math courses are tough enough, since many students who passed their math classes had to retake them in high school. Some students retook Algebra 1 after taking Algebra 2, a sign that they weren’t really prepared for Algebra 2.

• Some schools offer electives that help students on their college applications, and some offer “filler.” This has been a big complaint for parent activist Sally Smith, who has argued that some of the classes are just ways to get students to do office work that employees should do.

The report said either eliminating the classes or ramping up their difficulty so they meet college requirements would help fix the problem.

• Finally, some of the most interesting parts of the report came from focus groups with students, parents and educators. Students at some schools, such as Morse High, said they rarely get homework, while students at others spent two to three hours a night on homework.

Students also said they were worried about whether classmates with disabilities got a quality education. The report found some schools socially isolate students with disabilities. And students also questioned whether schools should give special education students “menial tasks” like picking up trash.

Teachers at San Diego High School of International Studies raised another interesting issue. Their school-within-a-school has the most advanced students, while other schools at San Diego High are tracked for lower performing students.

To fix that, the teachers tried to allow students from other San Diego High schools to enroll in their classes. But some of the students needed more help before they could flourish in harder classes. They couldn’t meet the tougher requirements and either failed or dropped out.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter:

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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