District to change summer school credit policy

La Cañada schools are setting a new policy for accepting summer school credits from non-district programs, ending more than a year of discussion and controversy.

La Cañada Unified School District officials this month unveiled a proposal to allow students to apply credits from programs approved by the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges. WASC is one of six commissions around the nation that sets standards for schools, junior colleges and universities.

La Cañada school officials have spent more than a year trying to establish minimum standards for accepting academic credit from agencies outside the district, arguing that they need to preserve the integrity of the La Cañada High School transcript.

“We’ve always said we didn’t want to limit the options of the community, nor did we want to police an outside agency,” La Cañada Unified Supt. Wendy Sinnette told members of the school board on June 19. “With this proposal, we are simply asking that the outside agency have an accredited summer program.”

That can happen in one of two ways, she said. If the institution in question has a WASC accreditation for its school-year program and its summer offerings are similar, then it would qualify. A secondary accreditation, known as the supplementary educational program accreditation, would also be acceptable, she said.

“It doesn’t really limit our students’ options, it just means that they have to make sure that the outside agency is accredited by WASC,” Sinnette said.

Board members questioned how the district would verify whether an outside program is accredited, and asked Sinnette to rework language to clarify.

“I think that the only thing that is missing...is if we as a district are concerned about whether or not their WASC accreditation does in fact cover their [summer] program, then it is our responsibility to ask WASC,” board member Susan Boyd said.

The proposed policy does not require board approval, but will be brought back for further review at the July board meeting.

In January 2011 then-Supt. Jim Stratton proposed establishing a new district policy requiring a minimum of 6,960 instructional minutes — four hours a day, five days a week for six weeks — per summer school class. That is the length of summer courses at many local high schools.

Many La Cañada families spoke out against the proposal. Hillside School and Learning Center, one popular alternative for La Cañada Unified families, offers summer school classes that are 3,480 minutes long — or two hours a day, five days a week for six weeks.

In November 2011, school officials put the debate on ice before taking it up again earlier this month.

La Cañada Unified has accepted transfer credits from Hillside for more than 15 years, according to Hillside Executive Director Bob Frank. It is licensed by California’s Department of Education, accredited by WASC and offers classes preapproved by the University of California and NCAA schools.

Twitter: @megankoneil

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