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Superintendent John Deasy addresses Black education group

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 5/18/2011, 5 p.m.

An estimated 50 people turned out for a town hall meeting hosted by the Coalition for Student Equity at Southside Bethel Baptist Church Saturday, and among the experts they heard from was newly installed Los Angeles Unified School Superintendent (LAUSD) John Deasy.

Deasy told the assembled group that he knows there are opposing forces within the district that do not want to move forward with an agenda that is going to focus on improving the educational outcomes for Black students.

"I don't feel those opposing forces on this issue is finance, but more how to spend what we have," said Deasy, who took over as superintendent of the second largest public school district in the nation April 15.

The former Prince George's County education superintendent (Maryland) urged those attending to stop hoping, wishing and dreaming for improvement and just demand it.

"Every time there is a board meeting there should be five people there demanding that your agenda move forward . . . you have to drown people in your issues.

"We don't have strong examples or large examples of where education (in LAUSD schools) works for Black students [but] we have classrooms where students achieve 90 percent advanced or proficient."

And that is a districtwide problem--uneven educational results even within a single school or even within a grade level.

Deasy also spoke to a number of other issues unique to Black students, including cultural relevance; bias; who is teaching pupils; teacher and principal evaluations; the disproportionately high numbers of African Americans students who are pushed into special education; the high rate of disciplinary actions against Black youngsters; bilingualism; improving the rigor of the curriculum including the addition of A-G courses, advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses.

The key philosophies the superintendent plans to push center around cultural relevance. Instead of viewing the language, culture and knowledge Black students come to school with as a deficit, he believes teachers and principals should consider it a foundation upon which to build.

In terms of undercutting the racism that some see in the LAUSD, Deasy said he personally intends to interview all the candidates interested in becoming principals in the district to gain deep understanding of their belief systems about students and how they would make sure the right attitudes are incorporated at all levels of the school.

Deasy also said one of his other intentions is take a look at the quality of instruction. "Who has the right to be in front of what students? That's why I've pushed hard for an appraisal system, and part of that has to be how students perform over time.

"There is no other industry, where you do not measure performance," pointed out Deasy, who intends to push relentlessly on this issue and then will use the track records to put the most successful teachers in front of students who need the best teachers most.

Adding rigor to the curriculum is going to be uncomfortable for some, but Deasy said parents and students must politely but aggressively demand it, accept nothing less and understand that there are going to be some failures along the way. But instead of seeking easier courses, parents must demand the resources to help their offspring pass the tougher classes.