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It is safe to say that certain steps need to be taken to prioritize the academic success of Black students in Los Angeles, especially when considering all that has happened during the pandemic and all that is currently being done to reopen schools.

“The eight hours in school are important but it’s the other 16 hours a day,” said LA Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (Eighth District).

“We all have a role to play… issues that may seem mundane (like zoning and funding), contribute to the overall quality of life.”

With education equity in mind, Councilmembers Mark Ridley-Thomas, Curren D. Price, Jr. and Marqueece Harris-Dawson invited the public to attend a recent Zoom briefing on the matter. The discussion centered on UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools new report entitled, “Beyond the Schoolhouse: Digging Deeper | COVID-19 and Reopening Schools for Black Students in Los Angeles.”

“We’ve got to work to disrupt the narrative,” said Dr. Tyrone Howard, faculty director, UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools.

Researchers said the new study builds upon previous 2019 analysis by considering the profound, and possibly lingering effect that COVID-19 will have on Black communities in Los Angeles County.

“Black students have experienced disproportionate hardships,” said Dr. Stanley Johnson, center project director.

“Black students are twice as likely to experience homelessness, compared to other groups,” added Ridley-Thomas (10th District). “A lot of my work is to push for a ‘Right to Housing’.”

The study examines education, health and neighborhood patterns across 14 districts in LA County that currently serve 800 or more Black students. For example, researchers said in 12 of the 14 focus districts, almost 50 percent of Black eighth- grade students are not meeting grade level standards in mathematics.

“We cannot expect schools to do this alone,” Howard said.

UCLA researchers presented key findings and recommendations aimed at informing policies and practices to ultimately address the patterns that are currently hindering the academic success of Black students in LA County.

When it comes to beyond the schoolhouse issues in LA Unified, Long Beach Unified and Antelope Valley Unified, health and neighborhood conditions are striking. Key findings concluded that groundwater pollution, air pollution, respiratory illnesses and low birth weights are disproportionately affecting Black students in certain zip codes.

Dr. Angela James, senior researcher at the UCLA center said the report also suggests that further research and discussion is needed around the fact that LAUSD has one of the largest on-campus police forces in the nation. Researchers said for many Black students, having police on school grounds does not make them feel safer.

“If anyone understands the importance of this report, it’s the people of South LA,” said Price, who represents the city’s Ninth District. “In my district, one in three people are under the age of 18.”

Researchers believe targeted resources like virtual support, mental health/well-being, social and emotional services for Black students are a necessity, if districts are going to provide true educational equity for Black students. Other ideas include community-based internships and work-based learning opportunities to put Black students on the path to success.

“We have to strengthen the pipeline for Black teachers,” Howard added before explaining how just one year’s instruction from a Black teacher can have a lifelong impact on Black students.

Harris-Dawson said he would like to keep the alternative learning centers that were created during the COVID pandemic open for at least a year to continue providing support to Black students and their families.

“This requires all hands on deck… everyday people who are playing an active role to make this a reality,” Howard concluded.

The full report can be seen at transformschools.ucla.edu.