“I am tremendously excited to begin a new school year,” said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King.
On August 16, LAUSD’s first day of school, King visited over 700 schools and made stops in each board district.
“Today sets the tone for the work we do throughout the year to guide all students on the road to graduating ready for college, career and life.”
That’s the goal, she and other school officials said, for the 2016-2017 school year. The year got underway last Tuesday and as it gains momentum parents, students and school officials are doing what they can to make sure students are being prepared for the world that awaits them once they graduate, though some say they are facing challenges.
“Things like school supplies and clothing are always a big challenge, especially when you have multiple kids,” said one mother of elementary and middle school kids in Carson, who did not want to be named.
“There are always things that you need to buy, for projects, for P.E. and it’s difficult because there’s also feeding them and making sure they have a place to live.”
But worse, she said, is the curriculum in some of the district’s predominately Black and Latino schools.
“What standards are they setting and what are they teaching the kids,” she said.
“I feel like I have to go above and beyond for them to get a good education. For example, my second grader and my third grader brought home the same homework…”
She puts in extra reading time and tries to find educational opportunities outside of the schools.
Like the anonymous mom, Francesca Montgomery, whose daughter Linsey began high school this year, doesn’t totally rely on the school system here to ensure her kids will get a good education.
She faced many administrative challenges when it came to enrollment, she said, but she’s confident that her daughter will be successful academically.
“Education should be about learning to associate and deal with everything in the world around you,” Montgomery said.
“I’ve taught my kids [things like] self-discipline from an early age, so they always do well in school. It doesn’t matter what school or who the teacher is, their success depends on them… A lot of kids get to college and flop because they don’t have that…”
Linsey’s educational goals include attending University of Southern California and going into pediatrics. To be exact, she wants to be a pediatric surgeon.
“I’ve been teaching her to stay on that course,” Montgomery said. “But I feel that we will have to navigate the [educational] system ourselves. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of [administrative] help.”
In 2012, The Education Trust — West, a “non-profit advocacy organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels, particularly for students of color and low-income students,” according to their website, published findings of a two-year long study examining LAUSD, and found that effective teachers are not equally distributed in the district. Teachers in the top 25 percent are less likely to instruct lower-income students and students who are Latino or African-American, they said. These teachers are also more likely to leave the district’s highest need schools.
In the 2013-2014 school year, LAUSD released a report revealing that 71 percent of Black and 76 percent of Latino students graduated.
And, administrators like District 1 board member George McKenna, who oversees a significant number of predominately Black and Latino schools are pushing to ensure that more success is forthcoming.
“A quality education is the most important thing that we can give our young people,” he said.
“ Whether it is at the Pre-School level or at the college level each student and parent should start the school year off excited about the possibilities and potential that this new school year will bring. As an LAUSD Board Member and as a lifelong educator I know the excitement that the new year brings. I am looking forward to working with my district’s administrators, teachers, support staff and students to do whatever is possible to make this one of the best and most productive school years we have seen in years.”