Cutting art, music, foreign language from high school graduation requirements will have big impact

By Sharon Noguchi
snoguchi@mercurynews.com
Updated: 10/14/2011 09:45:52 AM PDT

It’s hailed by some as a way to cut California’s 18 percent dropout rate, and condemned by others as the beginning of a two-tier education system that will limit poor students’ futures and decimate art, music and foreign-language studies.

A new law that enacts a seemingly small change, allowing students to count one vocational class as credit toward graduation, has both supporters and detractors predicting a major shift in high school education.

Backers depict AB 1330 as a start toward teaching students job-market skills, through courses such as keyboarding, medical assisting and metal shop. The law goes into effect for the 2012-13 school year.

“This really starts moving us away from the one-size-fits-all approach,” said supporter Paul Hay, superintendent of the Metropolitan Education District, which offers career training and adult education in San Jose. “I think it’s going to help more students to graduate.”

State schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson supports the law as a move toward “restoring relevancy,” said Erin Gabel, of the state Department of Education.

But opponents call those predictions speculative and say the bill, signed Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown, marks the first significant retreat from California’s crusade to prepare all students for college.

“This really starts moving us away from the one-size-fits-all approach,” said supporter Paul Hay, superintendent of the Metropolitan Education District, which offers career training and adult education in San Jose. “I think it’s going to help more students to graduate.”

State schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson supports the law as a move toward “restoring relevancy,” said Erin Gabel, of the state Department of Education.

But opponents call those predictions speculative and say the bill, signed Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown, marks the first significant retreat from California’s crusade to prepare all students for college.

Instead of requiring students to take another class to graduate, the bill written by Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Long Beach, allows students to substitute one class in career or technical education for one of the current requirements for art, music and foreign language.

The either-or proposition was a practical strategy, because adding a graduation requirement would have cost money and doomed the bill’s passage.

Because arts and foreign-language courses are twice as likely as vocational classes to be certified as college-prep courses, students choosing career classes likely will finish high school ineligible for the University of California and California State University systems.

Read more of story here.

As more and more school districts are impacted by budget pressures, do you feel cutting these programs marginalizes students or gives more students an opportunity to enter college?

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