Lower standards, higher graduation rates — who knew?

To the editor: The standards for high school graduation have been steadily lowered in districts nationwide in a desperate effort to improve graduation rates, especially in lower income minority communities. (“L.A. Unified projects a record 75% graduation rate for Class of 2016,” Aug. 9)

Only fools could believe that students who have demonstrated dismal academic performance over a period of years can achieve competence with a few weeks of make-up work. My school boasts a graduation rate of over 85% while producing less than 40% who are college ready.

Even this teacher, who is no fan of standardized testing, would like to see a common exam that reflects basic high school coursework competence. The recently retired CAHSEE was a pathetic effort to do that. That exam was basically an 8th grade level test instead of a reasonably rigorous high school content assessment.

Congratulations to districts everywhere. You've rendered high school diplomas meaningless by replacing even the slightest attempts at academic rigor with academic garbage.

Lee O'Connor, Huntington Beach

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To the editor: This Times article notes that there has been a shift from student and parent responsibility to “the responsibility of all district employees.” Students don't fail anymore, teachers and districts do.

What follows is predictable: students who aren't performing — oftentimes due to their own lack of interest, motivation and self discipline — must be given new avenues to the finish line. And those roads must be easier, not harder to travel.

What rules and procedures are in place considering these new roads to achievement? The Times is wise to ask questions, especially when there is a sudden turnabout in student performance.

Stan Brown, Victorville

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To the editor: It seems that many thousands of Los Angeles high school seniors who have trouble computing with common fractions, decimals and percents wind up failing algebra, register for remediation, are given a “Gift D,” are now eligible for diplomas, graduate, enter college, and must take one or more no-credit remedial mathematics classes.

And the LAUSD then boasts about its high graduation rate.

Michael Wiener, Encino

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To the editor: Thanks for your article on STEM. Mathematics and science contain challenging ideas; many of which take years of dedicated study to develop and fully understand. (“Summer programs help prepare minority students for college STEM,” Aug. 7)

The young man highlighted in your article illustrates the difficulty this generation of students are having with STEM. He stated that he worked the “hardest he has ever worked” in his introductory physics class and “just” earned a B-. I see nothing wrong with working as hard as you possibly can and earning a B.

The beauty of mathematics and science is in the journey toward a solution. It is the hidden gift of STEM, in which you learn how to think critically and problem solve.

Jason Y. Calizar, Torrance

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