Board mandates more general education classes to address CP failure rates

Alex Bussey, Opinion Editor

At a Lodi Unified School District Board of Education meeting this past spring, high school principals were directed by the Board to provide their students with a wider range of course options — especially classes that do not meet A-G requirements — in an effort to reduce expulsion and failure rates and increase graduation rates.

Currently, options for classes outside of the A-G requirements are limited district-wide, if they are offered at all.

Board member George Neely says that providing more General Education options will help combat high failure rates.

“​One thing I’ve learned in my time in public education is that one size definitely does not fit all,” Neely said.  “Our students are unique individuals.  They have different experiences, and they also have different interests that need to be respected.”

Shortly after the subject of Gen Ed courses was brought up at the meeting, Bear Creek administrators and teachers created a team to plan a new course for the school: English 10 Gen Ed, a course designed to help students who have struggled in English in the past.  Camille Klinker, who is teaching the class, expressed her understanding of the course’s purpose.

“If you’re already not on track [to graduate], taking Gen Ed and building that groundwork up [to take] more time on the basics is the best option,” Klinker said.

Klinker says that while the class will still follow the StudySync guidelines that all CP English classes use, the curriculum itself will focus more on basic skills, such as grammar and mechanics and how to write essays.  She hopes that students who take this class will be able to go on to take English 10 CP over the summer and eventually English 11 CP, allowing them to meet the A-G requirement of four years of English.

Although this class has been offered on Bear Creek’s course selection sheets in past years, it has not been taught, largely due to a lack of students signing up for the course.  According to Bear Creek Principal Hillary Harrell, approximately 30 freshmen failed both semesters of CP English last school year, and even more failed a single semester.

Klinker says that the failure rate is partially due to the lack of options for English classes.

“[Students] only have two options for classes: you have AP, which is super intense… and CP, which is everyone else,” Klinker said.

With large class sizes, English teachers admit it is hard to reach every student.  Classes with as many as 34 students allow some students to fall through the cracks, increasing the risk that students are credit deficient and at risk of not graduating.  Currently, the new Gen Ed class has only 12 students.

Klinker says that when her students wrote down a goal for the year, almost all of them wrote that they wanted to pass the class. According to Neely, this motivation counts for a lot.

“If [students] are not engaged and motivated, they may not succeed regardless of their academic ability,” Neely said.

That lack of motivation was the problem for sophomore Kaedin Evans, who said that his freshman English class last year was boring.  He wasn’t engaged in his work, causing him to struggle in class.  This year, Evans is in the Gen Ed class.

“I think [this year] the class will be better [than last year],” Evans said about his current English class. “[After high school, I want to] get a job [and] maybe go to college if I can.”

The district hopes that by expanding course offerings, all students will be supported, regardless of what their goals are after high school.