When the freshman class members of San Francisco high schools walk through the doors on their first day of school Monday, they will already be on the path to a college education.
Incoming freshmen will be the first class in the San Francisco Unified School District to be required to complete a “rigorous sequence” of coursework necessary for admission to a public university in California.
The requirements, known as “A-G,” are courses in seven subject areas that are needed for students to be eligible to attend the University of California system, the district said. The dictated coursework has been available to students as an option, but starting this year it will become mandatory for all incoming ninth-graders, the district said.
Last year, half of the district’s graduates completed the A-G coursework.
Students can’t just pass the courses to remain eligible for the UC system. They must earn a “C” or better in each class to be qualified. However, a student will still be able to graduate if he or she doesn’t achieve that mark, the district said.
The changes from what is currently required of high school graduates are slight, officials said. The mandatory system will require two years of a foreign language rather than one, and three years of college preparatory mathematics rather than two, the district said.
The significance of the mandate is that it puts students, their parents and counselors districtwide on the same page when it comes to ensuring students are prepared for college by senior year, said Maria Martinez, the college and career counselor at Lincoln High School.
Counselors no longer have to spend time wrestling with a student’s schedule to ensure the courses they’ve signed up for are adequate. Now that certain courses are required, more time can be spent preparing for which colleges and careers students are interested in, Martinez said.
Some college-bound students say they are glad to have taken the course requirements.
“It actually prepares us for the real world,” said Kevin Arriola, 16, a senior at Lincoln High School looking to attend UC San Diego. “The school is giving me a path to follow. After that, you get a view of what [careers] to choose from.”
The more rigorous coursework may appear to add more pressure to incoming freshman adjusting both academically and socially to the high school level. But seniors like Samantha Sherman, 18, of Potrero Hill, are taking part in programs to ensure freshmen are prepared.
Sherman and Arriola took part Friday in an orientation of Lincoln High freshmen that bunched hundreds of ninth graders into the gym for a bonding session packed with fun, games and plenty of information.
“It’s high school — don’t take it too seriously,” Sherman said. “Always be yourself, you can be anything you want to if you set your mind to it, and have fun.”
Climbing toward college
55,000+: San Francisco Unified School District elementary, middle and high school enrollment
18,742: High school student enrollment
954: Classroom teachers
15: High schools
* Most recent figures include 2008-9 school year