L.A. Unified paves the way for 15,000 students to take community college classes — during their high school day

It  will be easier from now on for L.A. students to take community college classes for free — while sitting in their high school classrooms.

The Los Angeles Unified School District board approved an agreement Tuesday with the Los Angeles Community College District that will let high schools enter partnerships with their local community colleges to offer classes on campus, during the regular school day. The schools hope to serve 15,000 L.A. Unified students a year.

“This is truly a partnership,” said Board President Steve Zimmer. “We’re going to elevate both the amazing work that is already done on our high school and adult campuses, while at the same time creating new opportunities for our students.”

About 4,000 students last year had concurrent enrollment, which means they took some community college classes either on the community college campuses or at their high schools, said Jesus Angulo, director of the L.A. Unified’s academic and counseling services. Some high schools, he said, already have agreements in which community colleges offer classes before or after school.

The agreement the board endorsed Tuesday has its origins in AB 288, a law approved last year, that allows community colleges to offer classes on high school campuses, open only to high school students. Previously, any community college class had to be open to all students at the college, regardless of location — a problem for the many high schools that maintain closed campuses.

Under the new agreement, each school and community college that entered into a partnership would have to decide how to pay for such costs as textbooks and instructional materials.

Students in L.A. Unified probably will be able to start taking these classes in the spring, though community colleges in other cities already have classes going. Pasadena Community College, for example, has agreements with three surrounding districts.

Existing high school teachers often teach the community college classes, said Ofelia Arellano, Pasadena City College’s dean of student services. To do so, they have to meet the qualifications to become community college teachers, which include professional experience for technical classes and master’s degrees in the subject for many courses, Arellano said. For the courses they teach, they become community college employees.

L.A.’s community colleges plan to rely mostly on their own employees to teach courses at the high schools, said Ryan Cornner, vice chancellor for educational programs and institutional effectiveness at the community college district.

The community college classes are different from Advanced Placement classes, which are college-level classes taught by high school teachers in which college credit can be earned on the basis of results from a single test.

Though AP classes often are more difficult classes in a subject already offered at a high school, such as English literature, calculus or European history, the community college classes are meant to introduce new subjects to all students, not just the ones already on advanced tracks. Students who take them are considered to have dual enrollment — so they earn college credits, and their grades are based on coursework. 

“These may not be the honors students that you see,” Cornner said, “and they’re still going to get an opportunity to see what it’s like to be a college student.”

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.

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