District will accept Hillside credits

To the relief of parents who packed a board meeting Tuesday, La Cañada Unified students who take summer school courses at Hillside School and Learning Center will continue to have those credits count toward graduation — at least for now.

Board members decided Tuesday night to leave the process for accepting credits from outside summer school courses unchanged, but said they may revisit the issue in the future.

Joseph Doherty, director of the Empirical Research Group at the UCLA School of Law, analyzed the data between Hillside and La Cañada for the district. He said there was no difference between students who took history courses at either campus, but students who studied math at the Oak Grove Drive school fared far worse.

“Sixteen percent end up getting a ‘proficient’ score after taking summer school math at Hillside versus 60% at La Cañada,” he said. “It does suggest that there’s something that needs to be looked at.”

Still, the data varied by each course, Doherty said, making it hard to come to a solid conclusion.

“This is the kind of data that tells you coffee is bad for you one week, and the next that it isn’t,” he said.

The district has accepted credits from Hillside for more than 15 years, but former district Supt. Jim Stratton proposed a policy in January that would require summer school classes to have a minimum total length of 6,960 minutes. Courses at Hillside are 3,480 minutes long.

The district has spent months researching whether the shorter classes at other schools are educationally equal to those in the La Cañada High School summer school program. The program is operated by the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation because, officials say, LCUSD no longer can afford to offer it.

About 60 residents showed up in support of the outside summer school courses, with many emphatically expressing the importance of Hillside and other schools as a resource to students.

Bob Miller, a counselor at Hillside and a former counselor at La Cañada High School, said the issue is less about educational quality and more about the district’s bottom line.

“It has nothing to do with what is educationally sound or transcript integrity,” Miller said to thunderous applause. “It is all about money and the competition for that money.”

Supt. Wendy Sinnette presented a 56-page report comparing academic performance at the two schools, but acknowledged the analysis provided no clear answer.

“We did the research and we care about our issue, but our homework failed us in being inconclusive,” she told the audience.

“With us not offering summer school at your school district, we feel there is some measure that needs to be taken to maintain the integrity of that transcript, because it represents your sons and daughters,” she added.

The board voted 3-2 to not change the district policy for counting credits toward graduation, and to not vote on the recommendation to discredit summer school course work at other schools.

Board member Joel Peterson, who was in support of accepting credits from outside schools, said that the district “should not fix what is not broken.”

“I have a special needs child and he does not fit in every bucket that is available in our school district,” he said. “I would be very concerned if my choices were limited.”

Board members Cindy Wilcox and Jeanne Broberg backed Peterson’s views, but President Susan Boyd and Vice President Scott Tracy voted against keeping the policy as is, citing unclear data and the shortened classes at Hillside.

“I am not a slave to instructional minutes, but when we’re talking about a 50% differential,” said Tracy. “We would be derelict if we didn’t investigate this.”

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