As COVID-19 testing, mask mandates and online learning cease during the panndemic, C-19 has not entered the endemic stage yet and such closures did not cease, but instead increased. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students, parents and supporters are eager to see classroom equity in the “new normal.” They wish to focus on a standard of public education centered on racial justice for the highest-need students.
In fact, LAUSD board members voted last May to double the amount of money the district redistributes through its school funding formula — the Student Equity Needs Index, or “SENI” — to at least $700 million in this school year. The index favors schools serving larger numbers of Black & English learning youth, as well as students living in extreme poverty.
New LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s first day on the job was Feb. 14. Ten days later he released a plan for moving the district forward, outlining both immediate and long-term actions the school system will take to address achievement gaps.
Carvalho’s 100-Day Plan outlines how LA Unified will expand high-quality academic opportunities centered around Equity, Empowerment and Excellence, the district’s three core beliefs for education.
As presented in the plan, LAUSD will address the opportunity gaps reflected in Black and Latinx communities while acknowledging those who have a vested interest in the success of the district. It will engage in four key tasks: learn, assess, communicate and act. Each of the tasks will lay the foundation for a forthcoming Strategic Plan, which will outline an approach to meeting the needs of diverse communities over the next four years.
“I am here to accelerate the opportunities for our students to excel, thrive and reach their full academic potential,” Carvalho said. “It is time for us to intensify the focus on what is most important to our students, and those who support them every single day, to inspire a theory of action that turns the impossible into the inevitable for everyone in the Los Angeles Unified family.”
The 100-Day Plan can be viewed online at achieve.lausd.net/100dayplan.
LAUSD Board members agreed that the plan is robust and admitted that it is long overdue.
“We look forward to the release of Superintendent Carvalho’s 100-Day Plan as he lays out the roadmap for his vision to lead our district,” Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III said.
“Superintendent Carvalho’s 100-Day Plan transforms vision into action,” Board Member Jackie Goldberg added. “We can drive quality education by promoting best practices and innovation, fairly matching resources with needs and ensuring equity for our students. This is laid out beautifully in the plan, and I’m most hopeful of its success because of the superintendent’s commitment to demand-driven actions and building broad support for our district.”
Additionally, in February, LAUSD Board members voted to adopt The Black Student Excellence through Educator Diversity, Preparation and Retention Resolution.
The adoption of this resolution mandates a study of hiring practices and hiring gaps at the district and school levels, and directs the new superintendent to present a plan for increasing the number of Black administrators, teachers and student mental health professionals.
According to a 2018 report by the California Department of Education, although 60 percent of students in K-12 public schools are African-American or Latinx, less than one-third of public schools had an African-American or Latinx principal or leader at that time.
The Diversity in Leadership Institute (DLI) emphasizes the importance of this resolution. A key point affirms that educators should reflect, respect, and embrace the racial diversity of the school communities they serve and that recruitment strategies are needed to ensure a pipeline for Black educators working in the district.
The #BlackEducatorsMatter campaign promotes data-based evidence on why recruiting and retaining educators of color in leadership and assisting superintendents, principals and school leaders is necessary to support LA Unified’s Black Student Achievement Plan.
Research shows that Black students who have one Black teacher between Kindergarten and third grade are 7 percent more likely to graduate from high school and 13 percent more likely to enroll in college, and that students of color have better outcomes — academic and behavioral — when they are in schools led by administrators of color.
“Ensuring we have a pipeline of Black educators will support the district’s efforts in improving achievement and school climate outcomes for not only Black students, but all students in LA Unified. We see this resolution as a means to do just that, ” said Dr. Laura McGowan-Robinson, founder/CEO of Diversity in Leadership.
In a separate report, the Campaign for College Opportunity also noted the current inequalities, especially during the pandemic.
“Los Angeles’ ability to thrive socially and economically is directly tied to Latinx and Black educational attainment but COVID-19 devastated many of the positive gains in college opportunity for these students,” said Michele Siqueiros, campaign president. “It is unacceptable that racial equity gaps are growing in Los Angeles and that too many Latinx and Black students are being left behind. There is urgency in ensuring that a new LAUSD Superintendent, racial equity minded leaders at our colleges and universities, and a Governor who has proposed a 70 percent degree attainment goal coupled with a multi-year investment in higher education to create more seats and close racial equity gaps in higher education, act upon the opportunity to do right by Los Angeles students. Preparing Los Angeles students for college and the workforce will not only strengthen the future of our city, but that of our entire state.”
The report (https://collegecampaign.org/portfolio/state-higher-ed-los-angeles/), finds some examples of progress in Los Angeles, especially when it comes to Black and Latinx students meeting the requirements to be college-eligible, yet reveals too many Black and Latinx students in Los Angeles do not receive the support or opportunity needed to ensure they enroll in college and earn bachelor’s degrees at the same rates as their White peers.