As the first class that completed San Francisco's new college-ready graduation requirements received diplomas this week, district officials are touting the policy's success despite a few admitted challenges.
The A-G course requirements, a sequence of college-preparatory courses covering a variety of subjects, were adopted by the San Francisco Board of Education in 2008 and implemented for the class of 2014. They ensure all graduating students complete the minimum required courses to be eligible to apply for the California State University and University of California systems.
That means requiring a second year of foreign language and a third year of college-preparatory math for most students at the district's 16 comprehensive high schools, SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.
Students who attended the district's two continuation high schools or five county high schools were exempt from meeting the A-G requirements this year.
As of last month, more than 90 percent of the district's 3,500 seniors were on track to meet the graduation requirements, with 70 percent having already met the requirements and 21 percent missing at least one course but likely to graduate by the end of the summer, according to Blythe.
Christina Cañaveral, director of parent organizing and education policy for San Francisco-based Coleman Advocates, monitors the evolution of the A-G requirements in schools and said that while the policy "opened up access to all students" to take college-preparatory courses, the implementation has room to improve.
"I think that when students don't graduate in this district, it's not because they didn't want to graduate," Cañaveral said. "The help that they needed wasn't there for them."Additional support is needed for students who are falling behind, including early interventions, consistent data to identify students that are falling behind, increased tutoring, and a wider variety of credit recovery options, according to Carnaval.
"For me all along this has been not just a high school issue, but a K-12 issue," said Tony Talarico, a parent who served on a task force last year to help implement the new graduation requirements. "If we wait until high school to try to address the issues of a rigorous curriculum for all students, it's too late."
SFUSD officials agree there is more work to be done to help students who fall behind, and they said this year the district made A-G classes available online for the first time. Also this year, the district began transitioning to a new student database to replace its more than 20-year-old system that measures how many students are on track to graduate.
"Right on the heels of passing this new requirement we hit some really hard financial times," Blythe said. "The board had to make difficult decisions about cutting services that would have created safety nets for students."
The district is also working to ensure high schools have the faculty needed to offer students all of the A-G course requirements, which has been "particularly challenging at some of our smaller high schools," Blythe said.Graduation data for the class of 2014 will not be available until the next school year. The district's graduation rate has remained steady at about 82 percent for the past three years, higher than the state graduation rate.