A new report released Wednesday examined whether high schools have a tough enough curriculum to prepare students for college and the workforce.
The 14-page report released by the National School Boards Association's Center for Public Education found that access to advanced programs remains uneven, while the long-term benefits of such programs, particularly for minority students, show substantially positive results.
The findings provide a framework for discussion on whether high schools are providing a rigourous curriculum, which was partially defined as offering Advanced Placement (AP) courses, high-level math courses, dual enrollment programs, in which high school students attend nearby colleges for classes, and early college high schools that focus on college prep and can lead to an associate's degree while still in high school.
At Venice High School, data provided by the Los Angeles Unified School District showed that 20 percent of its 2,633 students took at least one AP in the 2010-11 school year. Eighty-nine percent of the students taking an AP class at Venice that year passed at least one AP course.
“In today’s education landscape, many are beginning to re-think the high school experience,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education in a statement. “From Advanced Placement courses to dual enrollment, early college high schools, and even high-level math; the aim is to expose students to concepts, curricula, and ideas that will help them succeed in college or lead to a productive career.
The Center for Public Education report came out the same week the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released new data from a national survey of more than 72,000 high schools serving 85 percent of the nation's students. The Civil Rights Data Collection of 2009-10 found that only 29 percent of high-minority high schools offered math at the calculus level, compared to 55 percent at high schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollments. It also found that teachers at high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their counterparts in low-minority schools in the same district.
The Department of Education's data for Venice High School showed an average teacher salary of $54,528.50 at the school in 2009, which was about $2,000 less than the district average. In 2009, Hispanics made up 69 percent of the student population of 2,645. Hispanics made up 51 percent of the students enrolled in the gifted and talented educational program and 33 percent of the students enrolled in calculus were Hispanic.
Venice High School offers six AP courses with the federal data showing 190 students taking AP math in 2009. Though white students accounted for 13 percent of the total school population, they made up 24 percent of the AP math class. Similarly, Asian/Pacific Islander students made up 8 percent of the student population, yet they accounted for 43 percent of the AP math class.
A telephone call to Venice High School Principal Elsa Mendoza on Wednesday morning was not immediately returned.
The Center for Public Education report found a strong correlation between taking AP courses and later success in college. A 2006 study that followed more than 67,000 8th graders in Texas found that students who took AP courses were at least twice as likely to graduate from college in five years than their counterparts who did not. The same study found that only 8 percent of Hispanics who did not take an AP test graduated from college in five years, compared to a 37 percent graduation rate for students who took an AP course but did not pass and 53 percent graduation rate for those Hispanic students who passed an AP course and exam.
LAUSD data shows that Venice High School had a 2009-10 graduation rate of 73 percent and a four-year dropout rate of 22 percent. The district's School Performance Framework for Venice High School in 2010-11 has the campus designated in the second-lowest "Watch" category along with 31 other high schools. There are six campuses in the "Excelling" category; five in "Achieving" schools; 11 "Service & Support" and 37 in the lowest category, "Focus."