LOS ANGELES– The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education approved a resolution to help boost the academic achievement of African-American students. In Los Angeles Unified, black students as a subgroup and despite individual standouts, perform at the lowest levels when compared to their white, Asian-American and Latino classmates.
“Without urgent actions, black students, in general, will continue to languish at the bottom of the academic rankings in Los Angeles Unified,” said veteran African-American educator and school board member Dr. George J. McKenna III, who sponsored the resolution. “Los Angeles Unified has committed for years to close this achievement and opportunity gap. At issue is how to close it quickly and permanently.”
“We need to make sure every child in Los Angeles Unified has the opportunity to succeed in school and life,” said Superintendent Austin Beutner. “For too long, this opportunity gap has existed, and it’s time we redouble our efforts to address all of the issues.”
Board Member Kelly Gonez, a co-sponsor of the resolution said, “The equitable education of our African-American students is a civil rights issue. Unfortunately, we know our African-American students are one of our lowest-performing student groups on a number of measures, and that it is not a reflection of their potential. It is a reflection of systemic inequities, economic and racial injustice and a lack of resource equity. We can and must do better for our African-American students and families. Today is a critical first step.”
“We are well when all of us are well,” said Board President Mónica García. “Today I am proud to support Dr. McKenna’s resolution to close the opportunity gap for our African-American students because it is our responsibility to serve all kids well. We are constantly learning, and this will be yet another opportunity to learn and change to meet the demands of our community.”
Black students make up just over eight percent of Los Angeles Unified’s enrollment. In addition to posting the lowest test scores, the resolution points out they are least likely to be identified as gifted and talented. They are also disproportionately referred to special education classes and out-of-classroom suspensions.
To address these inequities, the resolution calls for a five-year plan that includes an extensive range of academic and social emotional supports, new strategies and expected outcomes. The plan would be developed within six months. It would include consistent funding, and provide quarterly updates to the superintendent and community.
Other goals include increasing enrollment in honors, advanced placement courses and early childhood education programs; expanding opportunities in testing for gifted and talented programs; designating dedicated investments for Standard English learners; providing greater access to dual language and linked-learning programs; and expanding mentorship opportunities and other services that promote a positive campus environment.
School Board Vice President Nick Melvoin said, “It’s long past time to end decades of systemic opportunity and achievement gaps for our African-American students — I look forward to this District undertaking the work set forth to disrupt the status quo and improve academic outcomes for African-American students.”
Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said, “Currently, the Los Angeles Unified Access, Equity and Acceleration Unit ‘strives to ensure equitable access and learning opportunities to close achievement disparities for historically underserved students.’ I believe that Dr. McKenna’s resolution will focus additional attention and provide additional resources toward eliminating the achievement gap, once and for all, and demonstrate our District’s commitment to the success of our African-American students and families.”
Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic said, “Children learn when they have the opportunity to learn. They thrive when we give them the tools to thrive. Race, socioeconomic or ethnic background should not be a determinant of a child’s accessibility to a quality education. It is not enough for us to be complacent with what we offer our young African-American students; in fact, we should not be complacent in regards to any of our students. We should be loud and boisterous advocates demanding change in our schools and our communities. In the past, the Board has approved resolutions and projects but the job has been left unfinished and our African-American students have been left underserved. We cannot allow that to keep happening. We have to fight for all our students and their futures.”