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Community demands better education for Black youth

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 10/20/2010, 5 p.m.

Black students in Los Angeles are struggling to improve their academic achievement, and there are a number of efforts under way to provide the resources needed to help them succeed.
One such effort is being pushed by Los Angeles Unified School Director Board of Education member Marguerite LaMotte and the others comes from the Coalition for Black Student Equity and the African American Education Alliance.

Board member LaMotte recently held an event in her district office entitled "Reconnecting the Academic Village." This day-long conference is held each year and is open to all parents and other stakeholders in her district.

The whole purpose of the event according to Carole Cobb, Ph.D., coordinator for the LAUSD English Mastery Program, was to help attendees identify the roles of each stakeholder and then help them figure out how to carry out these responsibilities.

"Board member LaMotte has a gathering of District One schools every year and the idea is to give (parents, teachers, administrators, students and other stakeholders) a charge and a challenge," added Cobb, who noted that one of the quests of the meeting is to help people think about what they can do outside of their comfort zone and/or their paid assignment to impact student achievement, and then to actually take the steps needed to move forward.

While this event focuses on all students in District One, a number of efforts are specifically working to make sure that the needs of Black are met. One of these is being advocated by the Coalition for Black Student Equity (CBSE), which is an umbrella organization that includes groups such as the Southern Christian Leaders Conference, the Los Angeles NAACP, the Urban League, the National Action Network as well as parents, students, teachers, administrators and other community stakeholders.

Over the last few months, CBSE has come together in a series of working town-hall meetings and crafted a set of demands to present to the LAUSD. The five areas addressed are policy and practices, parent and student engagement, curriculum, school site administration and engagement, as well as strategy and goals.

Among the specific requests are establishment of a professional development program that would be created by the school district no later than Jan. 31, 2011 to train teachers and administrative staff specifically on how to educate African American pupils with an emphasis on cultural awareness.

The document also demands that the school district, working with a community advisory board, offer a series of workshops designed to educate Black parents and caregivers on how to best advocate for their students to ensure that the appropriate educational milestones are being met.

In the area of curriculum, CBSE wants the African American Learners Initiative, which has already been approved by the LAUSD, fully funded and implemented.

Additionally the coalition expect the school district to insure that beginning in January, at graduation all African American pupils must be career and college ready.

CSBE has submitted a request to present these demands to the entire board of education.

In addition to these two efforts, the African American Education Alliance chaired by Cobb, is a coalition of educators, parents, and community members dedicated to assuring equitable access to quality educating for African American students.

"Our charge is to hold the LAUSD accountable for a transparent, culturally responsive educational system that strategically and unapologetically focuses on moving African American students at an accelerated pace to proficiency plus," explained Cobb.

The educator says the basic tenet the alliance follows is the one espoused by the National Alliance of Black School Educators--education is a civil right.