I’m continuing to look at San Diego Unified’s leaked draft of 12 indicators for quality schools, and Indicator 4 represents a shift in expectations for future San Diego graduates: All graduates will be eligible for entry into the University of California or California State University systems.

Oscar Ramos on Schools

Something Superintendent designate Cindy Marten said at the Ken Theater last week stuck in my mind.

Scott Lewis and Cindy Marten got into a line of conversation about whether Marten thinks San Diego Unified has enough money. She said something at the 5:55 mark that I think is absolutely right.

This is about having clarity around what a quality school is and when you have clarity, then you know what you’re building. And when there is singularity of purpose and mission, and you know what you’re building, you use your dollars for that, and for only that.

Indicator 4 seems to represent that singular purpose. It formally acknowledges that to be a graduate of San Diego Unified means a student has had open access to a rigorous liberal arts education and is eligible for entry into California’s higher education systems.

As a singular goal, this is great. But in order to meet that goal, San Diegans are also going to have to invest in stronger supports for our students, many of whom may struggle to meet our more rigorous graduation requirements.

I teach at The Preuss School, which has UC eligibility as its central goal, and part of our success (95 percent of our seniors this year have been accepted to a four-year college) is that we align our resources toward supporting our high graduation requirements as soon as kids enter our school, as Marten indicates she wants to want to do throughout the district.

Preuss, however, is a grade 6-12 school, while San Diego Unified enrolls kids starting in pre-kindergarten. The district has a great opportunity to take advantage of its access to the youngest students and begin supporting them as early as possible.

Universal preschool should be the first support for our new graduation requirements.

I have no idea how much it would cost to provide universal access to high-quality preschool starting at the age of 3. I do know that studies have concluded that the benefits of preschool, particularly for kids from poor families, can be far-reaching (for a longer take on pre-school,this  “This American Life” story on Oklahoma’s preschool system and its early benefits is worth a listen).

I hope Marten leads this conversation on singular purpose and alignment in the direction of the earliest supports.

If our ultimate is to prepare students for college entry, we need to accompany these higher requirements with stronger supports. It just makes sense to begin supporting our kids as early as possible.

Oscar Ramos is a contributor to Voice of San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @OscarRamosSD or email oscar.ramos.blog@gmail.com.

Oscar Ramos is a contributor to Voice of San Diego. Follow him on Twitter@OscarRamosSD or email oscar.ramos.blog@gmail.com.

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