Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009 | Counselor Frank Zavala tries to break the news to high schoolers gently, but sometimes it’s just too late. There’s no way they can rack up the classes they need to even apply to the University of California system or the California State schools.
“I found myself having to tell kids that college is an option — but for them, their first step is junior college,” said Zavala, who works at Lincoln High in southeastern San Diego.
It happens more often than he wished. Lincoln High has been dogged by a rumor that it is impossible for students to get the classes they need for the California universities. That’s a myth: Teens can tough out intermediate algebra and other necessary classes at Lincoln. But the reality is still worrisome.
While nearly three out of every four classes at Lincoln pass muster with the public universities, only 16 percent of Lincoln graduates have actually earned the grades and the classes they need to apply to the University of California San Diego or other public universities, according to the most recently available data. That means that they cannot even vie for spots in the schools — let alone win spots at selective colleges. They are left to community colleges, out-of-state universities and private schools if they chose higher education.
Lincoln isn’t solely to blame. Nor is it alone among San Diego Unified schools. Because the high school reopened just two years ago, all Lincoln graduates started at other schools, where they may not have completed the classes they needed for college. Across the school district, state data show that while 83 percent of students graduate, only 43 percent make the University of California grade.
Those rates differ dramatically between different schools, from 84 percent at one of the schools-within-a-school at San Diego High and 12 percent at one of the schools within Crawford. Activists say that it is a problem even for kids who say they don’t want to go to college because they give up their opportunities for good. Uninformed students can end up cutting themselves off from college without realizing it.