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BHUSD Criticized For Elimination Of Classes

Beverly Hills High School is being criticized for its recent elimination of most developmental courses by the Beverly Hills Education Association (otherwise known as the teacher’s union), who claim it is limiting students’ options.

These are classes that the University of California or California State University system would not accept for admission, otherwise known as “developmental courses.”

Under recommendation by the state of California Depart-ment of Education two years ago, BHHS aligned its curriculum to submerge students almost completely in college prep. classes. BHHS previously eliminated developmental math, and this year found the elimination of developmental world history and U.S. history.

Developmental English was renamed “Readers Writers Workshop” but is only offered as a paired class with a college prep English class. The pairing, a new program, allows students to progress into college prep courses and is offered all four years, if necessary.

Physical science, a non-college prep course, is still being offered but does not meet any of the requirements for the current freshman class.

Developmental courses do not count toward graduation.

According to teachers’ union president Chris Bushee, parents may feel as though students are becoming “trapped” by the lack of developmental programs and are thus unable to segue into the four-year college system.

“Now there is no place to put those children,” said Bushee. “All kids in these (developmental) classes found themselves in college-preparatory classes. We are doing the reverse of what was intended. We are limiting students’ options.”

The only classes students have available to them, should they not be eligible for college- prep courses, are special-education or additional support classes.

“It is either special education or college prepatory. There is no in between,” said Bushee. He believes this is resulting in an increase in students failing courses.

“Although I have seen no data, anecdotally more students are struggling,” said Bushee.

So what do students do if they fail a course?

The School Board has amended their policy (Admin-istrative Regulation 6146.11) to specify the requirements regarding alternative credits toward graduation.

Says Dr. Ilene Straus, assistant superintendent, “Students are encouraged to take make-up classes on the high school campus and are required to take a minimum of six classes per semester as ninth, 10th or 11th grade students and a minimum of five classes per semester as a 12th grader.

“Students have opportunities to make up failed courses in a subsequent semester on the high- school campus and during summer session during our district offered summer school. They can also make up courses through Moreno and through independent study.”

In addition, students can make up courses at community colleges.

This practice has drawn criticism from teachers.  

Bushee explains that the option to re-take courses at area community colleges allows students who fail at Beverly High to enroll in the same course at Santa Monica City College. If students pass there, they can substitute that course for two semesters of high school course work.

“It seems out of sequence, backwards,” said Bushee. “How can you send a kid to a college course when they failed a college- prep course?”

Bushee added that to exercise this option might put additional pressure on the student. “It is a ramification of not having a well thought-out plan,” he said.

Straus argued, “Our general core expectations are for students graduating from high school to be prepared for college entrance.”

She added, “You can’t generalize why students aren’t successful in a given course—we provide classes during the school year, summer school, independent study, ROP—none of which they have to pay for. We offer lots of programs here on campus.”

In a phone conversation with Straus and Dr. Jerry Gross, interim superintendent for BHUSD, they said that high schools in California have been directed to align their core curriculum to four-year college entrance by the state.

“You’ll find that we are among the majority (of school districts) in this arena. Especially ones we would be competitive with,” said Gross.

But although the state has suggested they move toward more college-prep classes, they have not necessarily required that developmental courses be stripped.

“Most schools, if not all schools we know of, eliminated these courses years ago,” said Straus. “Beverly Hills required core curriculum to meet requirements for high-school graduation was not as rigorous in its requirements as the schools that we researched.”

Clarification on the districts researched was not provided.

But Bushee said teachers at the high school are not particularly certain how these course alignments are to be realized.

“There is no clear understanding among the staff on how to meet these students’ needs. There is no unifying strategy among the departments.”

Bushee added, “Anytime the school district wishes to have greater differentiated instruction, that costs money. You either have to run these extra classes or you have to add teachers to classes. If they are intent on this, then they must allocate more financial resources.”

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