Vocational 'taint' limits role of California junior colleges

California's community (junior) colleges, originally set up to help bridge the gap between high school and university, may not be doing the job, especially in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. That's the implication contained in a recent report by UCLA's assistant director of planning for the California State Board of Regents.

There has been a drop of 33 percent since 1975 in the number of Californiz community college students who transfer to University of California campuses; and one-third of those who have transferred have left after one year -- the majority because of academic problems. Community college students must have a grade-point average of 2.25 (c) in university-required courses to transfer to one of California's higher-learning institutions.

The Board of Regents report points a finger at California's community college curriculum. Investigations have shown that courses offered in these transitional schools tend to be of a vocational nature -- job related rather academically oriented. Also it indicated that there may be a declining level of basic skills taught in the state's high schools.

This is backed up to some extent by a range of declining test scores. Today, California high school students are close to the national average. Previously, their scores averaged above that figure. Part of the curriculum deviation, the report went on, may be attributed to schools broadening their broad offerings of electives and to the granting of credit for certain work experience.

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