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LAUSD summer school enrollment jumps 20 percent as graduate requirements get tougher

Skyy White, a rising junior, listens to music on her phone after the first day of summer school at Dorsey High.
Annie Gilbertson/KPCC
Skyy White, a junior next fall, listens to music on her phone Monday, the first day of summer school at Dorsey High.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is expanding its summer school program to 65,000 students as the district attempts to help them meet higher graduation standards.

Tyrese Davis, a junior this fall at Dorsey High School in Baldwin Hills, would rather be swimming at the beach, she said. But she needs to master chemistry to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.

"I think it’s difficult because of a lot of memorization," Davis said. 

Hundreds of Dorsey students are repeating courses that they failed to pass the first time around or for which they fell short of a grade that would get them into a four-year college.

Districtwide, summer school enrollment is up 20 percent from last year.

In years past, the college-prep course load was an option that L.A. Unified's academically inclined students could elect to take, but now the school board is requiring all students to complete the so-called A-G classes that are necessary for University of California or California State University entry.

LAUSD's tougher graduation standards, which take effect next year, surpass those of public schools in wealthier communities, including Huntington Beach, Santa Monica and Burbank.

As of last spring, about half of LAUSD's sophomores were not on track to graduate, and that has administrators struggling to meet the demand for make-up classes and other supports.

The Los Angeles Unified school board also eased the graduation requirement for the college prep classes last week, dropping the grade to pass the courses from C to D. 

Brandon Rosales, a soon-to-be Dorsey 10th-grader, doesn't blame his school for his poor grades in algebra. 

"I didn’t do the work," Rosales acknowledged. "That’s mostly it. And I didn’t come, either, to school." 

Besides expansion of the summer classes, District Superintendent Ramon Cortines recommended spending $15 million next year on summer school, online credit recovery and other graduation initiatives. The sum works out to about $100 per high school pupil.