LOS ANGELES - Many California middle- and high-school students drop out of school or fail to meet their career or college goals because they missed out on required courses or career-technical classes while in school. A bill signed into law Sunday will provide a missing ingredient in career and college success: one-on-one attention from a qualified counselor.

SB 405 reforms middle- and high-school counseling programs to ensure that students receive individualized review of their career goals, and are informed not only about high school graduation requirements, but also of college eligibility requirements and career technical opportunities in their schools. The law requires that:

' Middle and high school counselors meet individually with students and - if practicable - their parents or guardians to discuss with them eligibility requirements for four-year universities and the availability of career technical education in high school,

' students and parents be informed about the availability of financial aid for college and about the course eligibility prerequisites for four-year universities,

' middle and high schools distribute to parents lists of coursework required for admission eligibility at four-year universities.

The bill was authored by state Sen. Darrell Steinberg and sponsored by the ACLU of Southern California.

'Many of these students have no idea they are a few classes away from being college-eligible, or from starting a great career,' said ACLU/SC Racial Justice Director Catherine Lhamon. 'Getting good advice at the right time can be the difference between dropping out and going to college or beginning on a solid career path.'

These changes to the Middle and High School Supplemental Counseling Program address the state's dropout crisis by providing meaningful support to students in identifying and reaching their goals. Fewer than 70% of ninth-graders statewide graduate from high school, and in some districts the percentage is much lower. Along with SB 219, another Steinberg-authored bill that establishes tough accountability standards for schools to reduce their dropout rates, the new program will combat the conditions that lead students to lose hope and leave school early.

It will also increase access to college opportunity by ensuring students satisfy University of California and California State University admission standards. California sent a smaller percentage (23%) of students to four-year colleges in 2004 than any state other than Mississippi.

'In signing SB 405, Governor Schwarzenegger makes good on his commitment to California youth to provide a more level playing field and to support each public school student,' said Lhamon.