As Los Angeles Unified released new data showing widespread achievement gaps and rising rates of chronic absenteeism, parent leaders serving on LAUSD’s central committees ripped into the district for its budget and accountability plan to help needy students.
“You spend millions and millions on professional development that are not yielding results,” parent Diana Guillen from MacArthur Park told the board in Spanish Tuesday. “We see this reflected in Measure EE that was not approved. Parents are not trustful of the district and how they manage the money. You have already received $800 million for students that have needs. We truly are not seeing academic progress on behalf of the students. There are programs, there are plans, but there are no real results…No one is accountable.”
Guillen was one of several parents from LAUSD’s Parent Advisory Committee and District English Learner Advisory Committee who aired complaints during the public hearing on the Local Control Accountability Plan, which is required by state law to measure outcomes for its most vulnerable kids in exchange for more flexibility on how to spend the money.
LAUSD released an equity scorecard with new data from 2017-18 showing that chronic absenteeism rose from 11% to 15%. The rate of students missing 16 days or more was highest among African American students (25%), students with disabilities (22%) and foster youth (21%), all groups that continue to suffer from large achievement gaps.
English learners and students with disabilities also lag far behind their peers in meeting early literacy benchmarks.
And while more students are graduating, too few of them are ready for college once they leave. Only 10% of LAUSD students are receiving a score of 3 or higher on at least two Advanced Placement classes. And just 7% of 11th grade students exceeded college readiness standards in math, with fewer than 1% of English Learners and students with disabilities among them. A shocking 0% of foster youth met those standards.
“There is a disconnect between school sites and parents,” PAC Chair Paul Robak said. “There is no consistent teacher accountability. In addition, parents are being informed about their children struggling in school often too late for them to make informed decisions.”
The PAC recommended that the district create a uniform policy of informing parents when a child’s grade drops from a B to a C, rather than waiting until a child is failing. Robak also decried the fact that parents are frequently discouraged from observing teachers in class and given an arbitrary time limit for classroom visits, which he said is actually against the law.
“The district has to, even more, involve their No. 1 partners, the parents,” Guillen said. “The administrators and teachers and the unions are not supporting the parents who are truly bringing the money to the district…The unions also have a responsibility to the community. Sometimes the teachers cannot stay even five minutes more because they say their contract does not allow it, and because then they’re reprimanded by the union.”
After the meeting, Superintendent Austin Beutner said that he thought the process for engaging parents on the LCAP needs to be completely revamped by starting at the school site level and working its way up to the central office, rather than the other way around.
“Let’s have a conversation at that school about how we’re going to make it better. That’s where the most authentic engagement can occur,” Beutner said. “By the time it gets distilled and condensed into this very large system of 1,300 schools, something gets lost in the translation. Or the immediacy and urgency to act at a school can get lost…We want to see change happen in schools.”
Despite the parent outcry, not all data was negative. The percentage of English Learner students that became fluent in English rose to an all-time high of 23% this year, up from 21% during the 2017-18 school year. (This was the only data from the current school year that was shared.) With more than 181 dual language programs, more than 4000 kids have received a seal of bi-literacy.
And once English Learners become fluent in English, they outperform nearly all other students. In fact, an impressive 97% of the English Learners who became fluent by second grade met early literacy benchmarks, outperforming the district average (71%).
The scorecard also showed that:
· 100 % of district facilities were labeled “in good repair,” which Robak said “does not reflect reality.” He encouraged assistant principals to accompany inspectors on future visits.
· 46% of parents responded to the school experience survey, and of those, 68% said they feel like they’re a part of their school.
· 76% of staff had excellent attendance at 96% or above.
· 66% of LAUSD kids with disabilities are participating in general education classes for more than 80% of their instructional time.