New course requirements will give San Francisco public high school students a better shot at being accepted to one of the state’s four-year universities and could boost graduation rates among minorities who are underrepresented in graduating classes.

Students who graduate in 2014 will be the first class to study under the new curriculum, meaning the rules can apply to those who start high school as early as next year.

The new rules increase college preparatory-level math and foreign language courses for The City’s public high school students, in addition to the math, science and English requirements already in place. They are dubbed “A-G requirements,” after the group of core high school courses that must be completed by all students applying to the University of California system.

Until the Board of Education approved the changes at a meeting Tuesday evening, an A-G course load was not mandatory in the San Francisco Unified School District.

Even if students enrolled in the classes do not seek higher education, the college-level courses they take will steer them down the right path, according to Pecolia Manigo, director of youth services for Coleman Advocates, a local nonprofit that focuses on youth and children’s issues.

“This isn’t just about leveling the playing field for minority students,” she said. “It’s about preparing them for the 21st century and a future in San Francisco. We have a knowledge-based economy here, and our students need to be ready for that.”

The San Jose Unified School District employed the A-G curriculum seven years ago, and it currently boasts a 62 percent graduation rate among black and Hispanic students, compared with an average rate of 33 percent at other California public high schools. In San Francisco, only 9 percent of black students and 18 percent of Hispanics are enrolled in A-G, according to school district statistics.

“We’ve looked at San Jose as the model to give us a lot of guidance, and their current system has certainly worked for them,” district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.

She said the new course requirements will make it necessary for the school district to hire a few more language arts and math teachers, but the financial impact of the changes should not be significant.

The next level

San Francisco public schools are implementing new requirements for students to graduate.

  • • Additional year of math (three years total)
  • • Additional year of a language other than English (two years of the same foreign language)
  • • Fewer elective-class credits are required
  • • English, arts, foreign language and social sciences classes count toward elective choices in addition to math and science

Source: SFUSD