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RAISING EXPECTATIONS FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: New California Legislation Would Require “College Prep” Courses for All Students

Under legislation introduced in the California State Senate last month, all California high school students would have to take courses currently required only for college-bound students. The bill, introduced by Sen. Richard Alarcon (D) and sponsored by Jack O’Connell, the state schools chief, would require students to take the minimum requirements for admission for a California state university campus. The requirement would be voluntary until 2010 but become mandatory thereafter.

In defending the need for the legislation, O’Connell noted that far too many of the state’s high school students were not prepared to enter the workforce, continue on to college, or even “become effective citizens.” “All of our students need the skills once reserved for our college-bound students,” he said.

According to Betraying the College Dream: How Disconnected K-12 and Postsecondary Education Systems Undermine Student Aspirations, released by Stanford University’s Bridge Project last year, 88 percent of eighth graders expect to participate in some form of postsecondary education, and approximately 70 percent of high school graduates actually do go to college within two years of graduating. However, less than 12 percent of high school students know what curriculum they need to prepare themselves for the rigors of postsecondary education. In addition, the report found that many students are shocked to discover they need remediation at the beginning of their postsecondary education only three months after graduating from high school. In California, 58 percent of the 38,086 freshmen who enrolled in the California state university system in the fall of 2003 did not have basic English and math skills.

The bill would free up approximately $450 million in funds that would otherwise be restricted to specific purposes such as teacher training, textbooks, dropout prevention, and library funds. Under the legislation, schools would use this money to increase access to advanced courses, invest in training to help teachers teach the advanced subject matter, purchase textbooks that are more aligned with state standards, and improve the transitions between middle school, high school, and college.

Read “Bill Raises Expectations for State’s High School Students” at

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