Months of culled, inconclusive data and nearly three hours of empassioned discussion Tuesday led to the school board's decision to leave outside summer school credits as is.
The Governing Board opted against implementing changes to the current system of accepting and other out-of-district summer credits, voting 3-2 to allow the classes to continue to count toward graduation.
The issue was supposed to come back before the board for a decision next meeting, but unless new information comes to light, the current policy will stand--a decision that elicited thunderous applause from community members who turned out in droves to protest changes to how outside agencys' summer school credits, most notably Hillside's, should be qualified.
Perhaps reflective of how disquieted she knew the audience before her to be over potentially losing the outside credits, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette left the dais, turned the podium toward the community packed into the Round Building, and addressed them in a congenial tone.
"This is a factory town and the product is our schools; education and home values are tied to that, and it is something we take very seriously. The [high school] transcript needs to be reflective of [students'] hard work and achievement,'' she said.
District officials were looking to see whether summer coursework taken at places like Hillside, and were equally as challenging as a year-long class taken at . Summer programs had been accused of giving "easy A's'' and thereby lessening the integrity of the high school transcript.
But while LCUSD officials questioned a shortened seat time - a year of work condensed into weeks of work--parents questioned whether the move to discredit outside programs was motivated by greed. If more students attended the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation's summer school, more dollars would flow back into the school system.
Holding a stack of papers as thick as a phonebook, Sinnette told the crowd that LCHS Principal Jackie Luzak and her staff crunched data for months--looking at all the variables that could show whether a student's learning outcome at Hillside--the best group to sample because it is the largest group--is sub par to that at the high school.
"I know this is a heartfelt issue. I did want to make a concerted effort to say we did the research; we care about this issue. We did our homework, but our homework failed us in terms of being inconclusive,'' she said.
Ultimately, Sinnette proposed establishing a standard, such as an end-of-course standardized test, that would decide whether the credit counted toward graduation. Parent after parent opposed this notion, noting the last thing high school kids need is one more pressurized test.
Bob Miller, a high school counselor at Hillside, pointed out his school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and when schools like Yale and Princeton accept Hillside coursework, shouldn't LCHS?
"In my opinon, this has nothing to do what is educationally sound or transcript integrity. It is all about competition for money, to stifle the competition and get thousands of dollars going elsewhere,'' he said, to a boisterous round of applause.
Previous Foundation member and former board member Jinny Dalbeck described the Foundation's program as "rigorous'' and said it is designed so students can remediate or move ahead, offering more flexibility in the school year. She said it is designed to mirror the LCHS curriculum.
The Board's Decision
Board member Joel Peterson said he was uncomfortable taking a paternalistic role in students' education, and telling parents what's best for their kid.
"Unless there's deep, compelling evidence that what we have is not working, then we should not fix what’s not broken,'' he said.
Jeanne Broberg offered that another standardized test would be cumbersome for the faculty and the students, and Cindy Wilcox said the problem is more a disparity between teachers than between schools. Both board members voted to keep credits as they are.
Scott Tracy ticked off myriad statistics that he culled, comparing seat times at LCHS and Hillside, and noted that other surrounding districts that grant year-long course credit to a summer school class number some 6,900 minutes. Hillside's instructional time is about half that. Board member Susan Boyd also questioned the quality of the abbreviated class.
With the 3-2 vote, the board signaled to the community that they do not have to return en masse for the Dec. 6 board meeting, as the issue of whether to discredit summer courses will not be on the agenda for vote.