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No Plans, No Graduation Rite, Seniors Told

May 9, 2002

"Some seniors don't even know what they want to do after school. They feel like it's none of the district's business."

The following article from the LA Times is another important indicator of the direction of the new restructured education in our land -- schools taking authority over the personal decisions of students and their "life long learning," as it is often called.

Note that LA superintendent is Roy Romer. Romer is the former 3-term Governor of Colorado and former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Romer served on the original Goals Panel set up after the infamous federal Goals 2000 law was passed into law in 1994. As a strong advocate of the comprehensive School-to-Work system, he was asked in 1997 how the federal "standards" were going to be enforced. Romer replied:

"I believe if you were to get all employers of this country saying that we would not hire anybody unless we see a high school graduate certificate that has on it the results of this potential employees record...Then I think this nation will come to the realization that there is no job for them, there is no life for them...There is the motivation."

This LA Times article gives a hint of this transformation to a "seamless system," which involves a total government system of job training, job certification, job placement and continuous retraining of employees. (Cradle to Grave" as stated by Marc Tucker)

The one-stop centers established in every state by mandate of the 1998 federal Workforce Investment Act are set up to be "universal," that is, for all. (America's One Stop System ) The training, certification and placement is all aligned with a federal plan that aligns K-12 training with a planned economic system. (See "U.S. Department of Labor 5-Year Strategic Plan,")

"Facilitate the coordination, integration and performance of workforce, education and economic development..." (Getting To Preeminence," August 15, 2001, p.1.)

"Develop modular curricula... linked to industry skill standards." (p. 3)

No Plans, No Graduation Rite, Seniors Told
Policy: Only students bound for college, a trade or military can take part in ceremony.

By David Peterson, Times Staff Writer

More than 3,700 seniors at eight San Fernando Valley high schools may have taken all the English, history and math classes required for a diploma, but if they want to cross the stage at graduation, they'll first need to take big steps for their future.

Under a new, much-debated policy, those students will be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies only if they have committed to post-secondary education or training--whether university, community college, trade school or the military.

Officials in the Los Angeles school system's local District C, covering the southwest Valley, defend the policy as a way to encourage more students to consider college or at least get them to think about the future. Civil libertarians call the rule elitist, and students complain it violates their right to graduate before parents and friends. Some students said they obtained acceptance letters from community colleges just to qualify for the graduation ceremony but have no intention of enrolling.

"It's nonsense," said Van Nuys High School senior Rafayel Ambartsumyan, who also wrote an editorial against the policy in the Mirror, the school newspaper. "A lot of students are going to lie about [their plans for college]."

While getting ready for the prom, seniors at Taft High scrambled last week to meet a deadline to produce evidence of a post-secondary commitment.

"I don't like [the policy]," said Kassie Finch. She got a letter of acceptance from Pierce College in Woodland Hills so she can participate in the graduation ceremony, but will likely work at her mother's law office after graduation. "I'm not sure if I'm going to college or not."

Administrators acknowledge that the change is difficult for some to accept, though no one will be denied a diploma if they don't comply. But they stress that it has had positive results.

Initial estimates show that 90% to 95% of District C seniors have made a post-secondary commitment this year. Last year, without the policy, 54% took that step. District C also has seen a 10% increase in the number of students accepted into the University of California system for next year, officials said.

"The policy basically says to our community that we hold very high expectations of our graduates," said District C Supt. Robert Collins, who first implemented the policy at Grant High School in 1987 when he was principal there. "We feel all our graduates are ready and recognize that to really be successful, you're going to need some kind of post- secondary [education].... Is the policy harsh? I don't think so at all. A harsh policy is when we ignore youngsters."

Acceptance to a four-year college or university, a two-year college, a trade or vocational program, an internship or apprenticeship, or military service all qualify.

The policy affects 3,764 graduating seniors at eight high schools: Birmingham, Cleveland, Grant, Reseda, Taft, Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies and Valley Alternative. None of the other 10 local districts in Los Angeles Unified has such a rule.

Because some students did not realize they were eligible for the ceremony, administrators are trying to reach and counsel the estimated 185 students who have not complied. Three Birmingham High School seniors who wanted to be chefs recently were persuaded to take culinary courses, and a Cleveland High School student traveling in France was declared eligible because he planned to learn French.

Collins said the policy, announced in March 2001 for this June's graduation, was cleared by the District C legal office.

The rule was approved by Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Roy Romer, who called it an attempt to get kids focused. "And that's a good intention."

Kati Haycock, director of Education Trust, a school reform advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said the policy was "odd" but important.

"It's not unusual for high schools to be exploiting new ways to [get students] thinking about college and preparing for college," she said. "In this economy, if you don't have some post-secondary education, the likelihood that you're going to get a decent job and help support a family is nearly nonexistent."

Teachers have discussed the policy in class and encouraged students to write essays and letters to elected officials. Melody Separzadeh, vice president of Taft's senior class, said she has been inundated with questions about the policy.

"They don't want to do it," she said. "Some seniors don't even know what they want to do after school. They feel like it's none of the district's business."

Still, many students are going to great lengths to comply because they don't want to miss their graduation ceremony, Taft senior Mayra Sanchez said.

"This is the whole reason we go to school," Sanchez said of graduation. "My parents would have been very upset if I didn't walk on stage."

Elia Sheiner, a Taft guidance counselor, was skeptical of the policy's long-term effect. "I don't know if it's going to make a difference. I think the students who were already going to college will, and the students who weren't, won't."

But at the same school, Jeff Santana said he would have started work at his dad's car transmission shop after graduation had he not been made to think about college.

Now he's planning to spend two years at Pierce College before pursuing a degree in business administration at Cal State Northridge.

"I think it's actually pushing students to go to college," Santana said. "Some kids wouldn't even know what they were doing if it wasn't for [the policy]."

Grant High School Principal Joseph Walker said the new rule seeks to instill career ambition in students from impoverished neighborhoods.

"I think people are making a mountain out of a molehill," he said. "What [Collins] did was encourage kids to think about what to do after high school....The culture of going to college is foreign to many here."

District C serves a mixture of middle-class and low-income communities, including Van Nuys, Valley Glen, Reseda, Woodland Hills, Tarzana and Encino.

Because many of the school district's students come from working-class families, Ramona Ripston, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she opposes the policy.

Her group, however, won't sue to block it.

"I approve of the aim, but I think it's unrealistic, because many students probably are in families that are looking forward to their children graduating so that they can get a job and help make ends meet," she said. "It would be great if everybody could go to college, but that's not always possible."


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