Kathryn Edwards, LACOE director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (Courtesy Photo)

As educators grapple with learning loss and inequities worsened by the pandemic, a pioneering new work has been released to guide them in meeting the unique circumstances of Black students that school systems have failed to address.

“Supporting the African American Learner: A Guide for Transforming Beliefs, Systems, and Practices for Black Students,” is the result of a collaborative initiated by the Los Angeles County Office of Education with the Riverside County Office of Education, UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools and the Center for Powerful Public Schools.

“California educators have no time to waste in closing longstanding opportunity and achievement gaps,” said LACOE Superintendent Debra Duardo, head of the nation’s largest regional education agency. “Our guide points the way with effective strategies and best practices to benefit our African American students, the teachers who serve them and the communities in which they live.”

Los Angeles County’s 80 K-12 districts serve one-third of California’s more than 324,000 Black students. The county has the nation’s second highest population of Black students after Cook County, Illinois.

In 2019, findings of the “Beyond the Schoolhouse Policy Report” revealed that achievement data for African American students were the lowest among all groups in Los Angeles County.

The guide offers a roadmap to address the specific factors that inhibit and impede equitable educational opportunities and outcomes for Black students, such as low expectations, punitive discipline practices and limited access to college-prep academics.

“Real, sustainable change requires the action of bold leaders who are willing to take a hard look at policies, practices and beliefs that have failed Black students for 150 years,” said project leader Kathryn Edwards, LACOE director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

“Our guide provides a clear pathway for confronting and dismantling systemic issues in education that continue to hinder achievement and opportunity for Black students.”

The guide is founded on four principles:

• Exploring belief systems and shifting deficit-based mindsets that are barriers to effective engagement

• Creating educational systems that facilitate and support learning

• Ensuring and sustaining culturally relevant, high-quality instruction

• Mitigating the accumulation of disadvantage

With the launch of “Supporting the African American Learner,” LACOE will initiate a state- and countywide effort to implement the roadmap through outreach, legislative advocacy and professional development for district administrators and teachers.

To view and download “Supporting the African American Learner: A Guide for Transforming Beliefs, Systems, and Practices for Black Students” visit www.lacoe.edu/AALearner.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education, based in Downey, is the nation’s largest regional education agency, providing a range of services and programs to support the region’s 80 school districts and some 2 million preschool and school-age children.