Projected grad rate continues to rise for LAUSD, even with thousands failing at midterm

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 5.48.05 PMWhile LA Unified’s projected graduation rate continues to tick up this spring as seniors complete extra credit recovery courses to make up those they previously failed, 30 percent of those the district considers “on track” for graduation currently aren’t because they are failing at least one A through G class.

To be labeled “on track” a student need only be enrolled in the required A-G courses, and if these failing grades do not improve to at least a D by the end of the semester, these roughly 6,400 seniors would not be eligible to graduate on time — which would drop the current projected graduation rate from 68 percent to 48 percent.

Frances Gipson, LA Unified’s chief academic officer, said a number of actions have been taken to get extra help and resources to the students who are failing a course, and the district is still hopeful that last year’s record graduation rate of 77 percent will be surpassed.

“We are seeking to exceed last year’s expectations, that is our goal,” Gipson told LA School Report. 

Due in part to a $15 million credit recovery program that has been aggressively implemented this school year, the projected A-G completion rate has risen steadily, up from 54 percent in January and 63 percent in February to now stand at 68 percent. District officials in February predicted LA Unified may graduate 80 percent of its seniors, which would be an all-time record.

Gipson said the extra help being given to seniors failing an A-G course include having counselors meet with the students and letters sent to the student’s parent or guardian. School counselors “have met with all students in the class of 2016 that are currently on-track but received a fail at the 10-week mark to discuss intervention and supports needed to pass and stay on track,” according to an April 18 memo to Superintendent Michelle King from Gipson and Carol Alexander, director of A-G Intervention and Support.

As far as if the 20 percent failing an A-G course was cause for concern, Cynthia Lim, executive director of LA Unified’s Office of Data and Accountability, said that it was hard to determine what the number meant because “this is new. We’ve never had A-G as a graduation requirement before, so this is all new.”

Gipson added that the 20 percent number “is relatively consistent with past patterns we have seen with students in terms of, as you think about your own child or your friend’s children, there are always those who may be getting a D or an F and we need find out why they may be getting a D or an F. Is it because of attendance? Is it because they need extra tutorial support? Are they not turning in assignments? Do they need extra assignments? I think there are multiple pathways we can explore.”

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12th-graders’ federal tests scores dip in math and reading while more manage to graduate

testThe nation’s 12th-grade students did slightly worse on national math and reading tests in 2015 than high school seniors did in 2013, according to National Assessment of Educational Progress results released today, even as high school graduation rates got better.

The overall score decreases were quite small — roughly two points in math and a single point in reading — but continued a trend of lackluster 12th-grade performance on the national test. The change in the 2015 results registered as statistically different in math compared to two years ago, but not in reading.

Researchers cautioned against reading too much into such minor shifts.

“A one point move … is not significant in the real world,” Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Monday.

Still the latest results paint a sobering picture of educational progress. Just 37 percent of students were prepared for college-level coursework in each subject, according to the test. Only 3 percent of students in reading and 6 percent in math were deemed “advanced,” a rigorous bar.

Results dropped the most for students who were already struggling. Those at the 10th percentile fell six points in reading and four points in math. Students in the top 90th percentile saw their scores go up two points in reading but drop one point in math.

“The 12th-grade NAEP results confirm the need to move swiftly to ensure that all students have access to high-quality programs that prepare them for success in higher education and the workforce,” said Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester in a statement. “Too many 12th-graders are unprepared for the world after high school.”

Breaking out the 12th-grade scores by race since 2005 show some small differences in trends among groups, as well as yawning and largely stagnant achievement gaps. A bright spot: Hispanic students made the biggest gains during that time, going up six points in math and four points in reading.

The NAEP is a long-running, low-stakes exam administered by the federal government to a nationally representative sample of students in grades 4, 8, and 12 to gauge educational progress over time.

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Morning Read: Kids in LA County live in more economically segregated neighborhoods

Kids in LA County grow up more segregated by income
Children in Los Angeles County are growing up in more economically segregated neighborhoods than their parents did, as affluent families move to where the best-performing schools are, according to a new USC study. By Josie Huang, KPCC

Stark differences for LAUSD elementary schools in the CORE accountability index

As it was with middle schools, demographics contrast starkly at the top and bottom LA Unified elementary schools on the California Office to Reform Education’s (CORE) accountability index.

The schools with the lowest five scores are located in economically challenged neighborhoods and have higher levels of disabled students, English learners and non-white students. Like with middle schools, but not high schools, a majority of the top schools were located on the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. Seven schools accounted for the bottom five CORE scores due to ties, which also caused nine schools to have the top five scores.  

Latinos, who make up 74 percent of the entire district, made up 21 percent of the top schools, while there were 57 percent Latinos at the bottom schools. African-Americans, who make up 8 percent of the district, had 3 percent of top schools’ enrollment and 40 percent at the bottom schools.

White students, who make up 10 percent of the district, made up 47 percent of the top schools and 2 percent of the bottom schools. Asians, who make up 6 percent of all LA Unified students, were at 23 percent at the top schools and 0.14 percent at the bottom schools. 

Other subgroups saw wide disparities between the top and bottom schools. Students who qualified for free and reduced-price lunch made up 92 percent of the bottom schools and 25 percent of the top schools, while English learners made up 30 percent of the bottom schools and 9 percent of the top schools. Students with disabilities was a closer category, with 12 percent of the bottom schools and 8 percent of the top schools.

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Dissecting success: Middle school teacher who sets science to rap music is honored

Middle school science teacher Tunji Adebayo was honored by Teach For America at Monday night's benefit.

Middle school science teacher Tunji Adebayo was honored by Teach For America at Monday night’s benefit.

Science lessons set to rap music. Aspirations in envelopes pinned to the ceiling. And a commitment to live alongside students.

Tunji Adebayo, who teaches 7th and 8th grade science at Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter Middle School, was honored Monday night for his innovation and dedication at Teach For America’s “Celebrating Changemakers in Education.”

“Tunji’s dedication to his students is limitless, especially to young black males,” Lida Jennings, executive director of TFA LA, told the 350 guests at the Petersen Automotive Museum gathered for the group’s third annual benefit dinner.

Adebayo, 25, who was born in Nigeria one month before TFA was launched, is in his third year of a profession he hadn’t planned on. A TFA representative reached out to him while he was studying dietetics and nutrition science at the University of Georgia, and he’s never looked back.

“I’m staying in education no matter what,” he told LA School Report before receiving his award Monday night.

After his first year teaching and commuting into South LA from Long Beach, Adebayo moved to the neighborhood, around 51st and Vermont. For him, “It’s essential to live in the community,” he said.

He often sees his students in the area, particularly on weekends when he is at the farmers market, which is near a mall with a movie theater.

“It’s a blessing to live and understand some of their struggles on a daily basis. It makes it more real, to become a part of the community.”

The middle school, one of 12 operated by the Inner City Education Foundation, serves 264 students in grades 6-8, and 74 percent are African Americans, compared to 8.4 percent in LA Unified. The school’s student population identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged stands at 77 percent, the same percentage as LA Unified students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. And 13 percent have disabilities.

His commitment to helping other African Americans started in college, where he noticed that other “young black males didn’t accomplish what I did because the expectations and support weren’t there.”

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Morning Read: Dance program thrives at LAUSD school

Dance program teaches LAUSD students life lessons
Dancing can make a difference in a child’s education as a program in the Los Angeles Unified School District has shown. “It’s about using dance and music to bring life and learning skills, the discipline, the focus, the energy that you can then take into anything that you do in life.” ABC7

LAUSD high schools in the CORE accountability index: Plenty of schools beating the odds

When it comes to the performance of some minority groups and high-needs students, LA Unified high schools showed more ability than their middle school counterparts in beating the odds on the California Office to Reform Education’s (CORE) new school accountability index.

While the performance of the district’s middle schools tended to break along familiar lines — with the top schools filled with high levels of white students in less impoverished areas — the CORE data for high schools reveal a different story in several key categories. (LA School Report will be publishing a CORE demographic analysis of elementary schools soon.)

For one, nearly all of the top schools were clustered in the downtown or South Los Angeles areas, while a majority of the top middle schools were located in more affluent areas of the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. Four of the top five schools were also magnets, demonstrating again why district leaders and the school board have been touting magnets as a way to increase enrollment at LA Unified. 

Ninety percent of the students at the district’s top five schools qualify for free and reduced price lunch, compared to 70 percent at the bottom five schools. The district average is 77 percent. At middle schools, the story was much different, with 37 percent of students at the top five schools qualifying, compared to 90 percent at the bottom schools.

The performance of Latinos, who make up 74 percent of the student body, also differed significantly, with enrollment at the top five schools totaling 70 percent, compared to a 34 percent enrollment at the top middle schools. White students, who made up 41 percent of the students at the top middle schools, comprised only 3 percent of the students at the top high schools. White students make up roughly 10 percent of the LA Unified student body.

• Read LA School Report’s analysis of CORE data for LAUSD schools.
• Why the CORE system was developed and why it is only temporary.
• Why charter schools aren’t included in the CORE data. 
• The top and bottom LAUSD elementary schools in the CORE data. 
· The top and bottom LAUSD middle schools in the CORE data. 

African American students, who make up roughly 8 percent of the student body, fared almost evenly at high schools, with 12 percent enrolled at the top schools versus 11 percent in the bottom schools. Asian students, who make up 6 percent of the student body, comprised 16 percent of the students at the top schools and zero percent at the bottom schools.

Other decades-old demographic challenges still remain at high schools, the CORE data show. All of the bottom schools were traditional high schools located in economically challenged neighborhoods clustered downtown or in South Los Angeles. They all had higher rates of English learners and special education students than the top schools, and only 1 percent white students.

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Apology for involvement in police weapons program not enough for protesters

Protest1033student-union-meme The Fight for the Soul of the Cities, which has disrupted school meetings with calls to end the militarization of school police and reduce their forces, said they are not satisfied with the response from the LA Unified school board.

After students and activists protested Friday afternoon outside LA Unified’s Beaudry headquarters, school board members Steve Zimmer, George McKenna and Monica Garcia issued statements about the 1033 program that allowed school police to get excess military weapons from the federal government.

Only one response, from Garcia, seemed to come close to the apology the group had demanded. She wrote: “I regret that LAUSD’s participation in the 1033 program may have caused a lapse in the trust LAUSD was building with many community partners including the Dignity in Schools Campaign. I apologize for any misunderstanding caused by this participation and the perception among some that LAUSD seeks to perpetuate policies of division instead of creating communities that are safe, supportive and successful.”

Eric Mann, executive director of the protest group, said Garcia’s statement “is a start, but it’s not enough.” He added, “We want the school police to be cut by half, it will save the district money. And the statements from Zimmer and McKenna were just insulting.” At the demonstration, Mann thanked Garcia and said, “I believe her letter is a true first step of good faith and is in sharp contrast to the misleading and hostile letter that Steve Zimmer and George McKenna wrote.”

On Friday in anticipation of the protest, school board president Zimmer and McKenna issued a statement reading: “The district has publicly stated numerous times that the Los Angeles School Police Department is no longer in possession of any weapons or equipment acquired through the Military Excess Property Program, commonly referred to as the 1033 program. We respect the many different views surrounding this important issue. We also understand that there has been confusion about this issue and so it is important to reiterate: LA Unified has ended participation in this program.”

The school police have returned the automatic weapons, three grenade launchers and small tank they acquired through the program.

McKenna was chairing the Committee of the Whole meeting last month when the group disrupted it for half an hour. In the statement, McKenna said, “The district will always respect the rights of organizations to peaceably assemble and protest, and we look forward to continuing our important work with all community groups on the many issues of civil rights, immigrant rights and education equity that affect the lives of our children and families every day.”

Mann said, “It’s safer for the schools to not have a school police that has military weapons.” He added that their protests are not yet over.

Commentary: The absurd logic behind a Vergara ruling that tells parents they have no recourse

VergaraThis month, a California appeals court restored the state’s teacher tenure laws, which had been ruled unconstitutional by a lower court two years ago. But the ruling was hardly a ringing endorsement of California’s approach to tenure.

Here’s what’s not in dispute in the case, Vergara v. California, even after the appeals court’s decision: Thousands of teachers in schools across California — a small percentage but still a huge number — are not up to the job. These grossly ineffective teachers are derailing their students’ academic futures. Poor and minority students are more likely than others to be assigned to one of these teachers. And all of this is happening because of state laws that make it practically impossible for schools to replace the relatively few teachers who shouldn’t be there.

The nine public school students who brought the case painstakingly proved all these points during a trial. In striking down the state’s tenure laws, the presiding judge wrote that the damage they’ve caused “shocks the conscience.”

The appeals court justices challenged none of these facts. Instead, they overturned the verdict based on the most technical of legal technicalities. They decided that the tens of thousands of “unlucky” students assigned to ineffective teachers aren’t a group that deserves any special legal protection. As for poor and minority students being disproportionately taught by ineffective teachers — the court decided that’s not a violation either, arguing that local school systems could remedy the situation in spite of the law.

• Related commentary: Dmitri Mehlhorn surveys the ruling’s fine print and identifies three key arguments that may sway California’s Supreme Court.

The court doesn’t elaborate on how local officials might do that, though, because there are no plausible explanations. Schools could fire their ineffective teachers, but the court admits this is nearly impossible under the law. Alternatively, schools could spread the harm around by assigning ineffective teachers to classrooms with affluent white students — hardly anyone’s idea of a “solution,” and something that no district has ever actually done.

Still, according to the appeals court, the theoretical possibility that a district might be able to circumvent all evidence and experience is enough to absolve state laws of the actual damage they’re doing to students.

That means we’re left with a situation where the justice system has acknowledged that California’s tenure laws are robbing tens of thousands of students each year of the education they deserve, but claims the state has no obligation to fix the problem.

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Morning Read: LAUSD honored on Earth Day by U.S. Dept. of Education

Manhattan Beach school district, LAUSD honored on Earth Day by U.S. Department of Education
LAUSD’s efforts to incorporate sustainability into students’ education helped earn it the honor. Each school in the district has a Coordinated School Health Wellness Committee, which promotes student health and well-being with representatives from physical, health, counseling and psychological services. By The Daily Breeze staff and wire reports

LAUSD moving more kids from juvenile camps to graduation

Randy Dwayne May Jr student probation

Randy Dwayne May Jr. talks about meeting graduation requirements after being in three juvenile camps.

LA Unified is expanding a Camps to College program that helps students coming out of juvenile detention camps get back into school and graduate.

Since the program launched two years ago in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Mental Health Department and the Los Angeles Probation Office, it has served 1,189 students. Most of them have come from the South District (299); the fewest have come from the Northwest District (73).

The Camps to College program is currently located at the Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center. In August it will open at the Harris Newmark Continuation School just west of downtown LA, and the district hopes to replicate it in more locations.

“We are not opening a new school, but creating a model that is changing the face of youth transitioning from juvenile camp so they can reintegrate to school and get all the services they need to stabilize,” said Jesus Corral, senior director of the Los Angeles County Probation Department who is working closely with LA Unified on the transitional program. “This is a model we have been working on for quite some time. We are transitioning youth into another school or alternative school based on their needs in a very individualized basis.”

More than half of the students in juvenile youth detention camps are from LA Unified schools. “It is more important now than ever to work together and divert youth from the juvenile justice system and open doors for youth coming out of the juvenile justice system,” said Corral, who on Tuesday addressed board member Monica Garcia’s Successful School Climate Progressive Discipline & Safety Committee.



“We can replicate this in all the other local districts to help these students be successful,” said Erika F. Torres, director of Pupil Services and Drop-Out Prevention and Recovery in LA Unified’s Student Health Services.

When the program expands to Harris Newmark in August, it will include probation department support, mental health experts and Public Service & Attendance counselors as well as other school support.


Jesus Corral, LA County Probation Department

“I see this like a triage,” Torres said. “We will assess their needs and put in place the supports they need for successful graduation. It’s a pathway for youth to welcome them back.”

One of the recent students helped by the Camps to College program who spoke Tuesday was Randy Dwayne May Jr., a senior at the Dorothy V. Johnson Community Day School. He talked about being sent to multiple camps for multiple parole violations and a burglary charge.

“I remember a time when I saw five different judges and had five different probation officers, it was crazy,” Randy said. “It was the bad influences in my neighborhood that got me making bad choices. People who were supposed to be my friends just weren’t looking out for me.”

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Eli Broad on TIME’s list of 100 most influential people

40aEli-and-Edythe-Broad6By Michael Bloomberg 

Eli Broad is one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs—not only in business but in philanthropy too.

The two Fortune 500 companies he built (KB Home and SunAmerica Inc.) have helped millions of people achieve their aspirations of owning their own homes and retiring with security. As a philanthropist, he seeks out the most promising ideas on a wide variety of issues—and we happen to share a passion for education reform, medical research, gun safety and the arts.

Eli has helped spur an artistic renaissance in Los Angeles, and the Broad Prize for Urban Education (an honor New York City received when I was mayor) has helped drive progress in schools across the country. His support for medical research and commonsense gun laws is helping save lives.

It’s hard to say whether Eli has done more good for the world through his work in business or philanthropy—and that’s saying an awful lot about both.

Click here for the full story.

Villaraigosa parts ways with Brown on education issues in CALmatters interview


Antonio Villaraigosa

By Judy Lin | CALmatters

As he eyes a run for governor, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is spotlighting the lagging academic performance of Latino and African American students and saying the state should do more to hold schools accountable.

The 63-year-old Democrat says parents have a right to know how their schools are doing, and he doesn’t see a contradiction between supporting teachers and holding schools to higher standards.

Villaraigosa, who got into politics as a union organizer for teachers in Los Angeles, did not want to criticize the governor, but his comments differed sharply from Gov. Jerry Brown’s view that the academic performance gap between African Americans and Latinos to other student groups is likely to persist despite government interventions. Brown told CALmatters recently that he doesn’t want his key education policy, the Local Control Funding Formula, to be judged on whether it closes that gap.

“I hear all the time, ‘Well, that’s just the way it is and that’s the way it’s always been,’” said Villaraigosa, who was kicked out of a Catholic high school and credits public schools for a second chance.

Click here for the full CALmatters story.

Read LA School Report‘s interview with Villaraigosa here.

Morning Read: LAUSD magnet schools accepted less than half of applicants this year

Magnet schools seen as a way to keep students in the district
The high interest in magnets shows that those types of schools could be a way to bring students back, school board member Richard Vladovic says. By Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times

LAUSD middle schools in the CORE accountability index: the same old story on race and location applies

Despite for the first time taking into consideration the performance of subgroups like English learners, students with disabilities and those from low-income families, there is still a wide gulf between the top and bottom LA Unified middle schools at LA Unified when it comes to their score on the California Office to Reform Education’s (CORE) new school accountability index. And it breaks down along familiar lines: where you live and the color of your skin. 

The CORE index, which was unveiled in February, is the first school accountability system in California to move beyond just tests scores. The CORE formula that gives a school a score of 1 to 100 includes consideration for the standardized test performance of a school’s lowest performing racial subgroup, English learners, students with disabilities and those qualifying for a free and reduced price lunch. It also accounts for graduation rates, suspension rates and absenteeism, all in an effort to give schools “the ability to take a more complex, comprehensive look at what is going on in their school,” John McDonald, a consultant to CORE, said when the system was unveiled.

• Read LA School Report’s analysis of CORE data for LAUSD schools.

• Why the CORE system was developed and why it is only temporary.

• Why charter schools aren’t included in the CORE data. 

• The top and bottom LAUSD elementary schools in the CORE data. 

A look at the top and bottom performing middle schools at LA Unified on the CORE index shows many of the same disparities found with systems that relied just on test scores: Schools with more white students and in high-income areas significantly outperformed schools with minorities and low incomes.

LA Unified middle schools in the top five were made up of 40.78 percent white students, even though whites total only 9.8 percent of the student body overall. Four of the schools were in white, affluent areas of the city in the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. (See above map.) The bottom five schools, however, were clustered near each other in South Los Angeles, with student bodies that had 75.4 percent Latino students, higher than the district average, which is 74 percent for the 2015-16 school year.

Asians, who make up 6 percent of the district, made up 0.04 percent of the bottom schools and 11.9 percent of the top schools. African Americans, who make up 8.4 percent of the district, made up 8.46 percent of the top schools and 17.96 percent of the bottom schools. 

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The research missing from the LA charter debate? 3 key studies show gains for students

Pupils Sitting At Table As Teacher Stands By Whiteboard

In Los Angeles, a leaked draft of a plan to dramatically expand charter school access in America’s second-largest school district has become a lightning rod development for advocates of traditional public schools.

The war of words intensified last week at the Huffington Post when American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten attacked LA charter expansion as “part of a coordinated national effort to decimate public schooling by rigging the system against neighborhood public schools and the students they serve.” Arguing that charter schools had a mixed track record, Weingarten said “a well-regarded Stanford University study found that charter school students were doing only slightly better in reading than students in traditional public schools, but at the same time doing slightly worse in math.”

A prominent critique of Weingarten’s essay (and her use of data) came from Macke Raymond, co-author of that same well-regarded Stanford study. Raymond took strong exception to Weingarten’s interpretation of her findings.

But for those in LA, these debates involving national figures may ultimately be less helpful than a discussion about research that focuses specifically on the performance of existing charter schools in the city. It’s these numbers that add more light than heat to the debate — at least on the West Coast.

And that research shows LA elementary and middle charter schools, which currently work with a more advantaged population of students, achieving notably higher test score growth than district schools.

So as Los Angeles wrestles with the vision of the Broad Foundation to increase the number of city charter schools, let’s take a closer look at three detailed studies of the Los Angeles charter sector:

1. Stanford: On average, LA charter schools outperform traditional public schools.

Raymond’s Stanford-based organization, CREDO, finds that overall students in Los Angeles charter schools make greater gains on standardized tests in both math and reading than students at district schools.

CREDO, which has produced the most widely cited charter studies, estimates that 48 percent of Los Angeles charters outperform the district average in reading, while 39 percent score about the same and 13 percent do worse. In math, 44 percent of charters outscore the traditional public school average, 34 percent do about the same and 22 percent do worse.

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Morning Read: Poll shows CA voters support school bond and Prop. 30 extension

Poll: Voters support school bond and Prop. 30 extension
Seven months before the November election, substantial majorities of likely California voters said they would support extending Proposition 30, the temporary income tax on the wealthiest state residents, and passing a proposed $9 billion school construction bond, according to a survey. By John Fensterwald, EdSource

Top 10 LA high schools in national poll include 4 charters, 3 magnets; LACES scores best in LAUSD

Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies LACES

Top-ranked Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies

In the extensive U.S. News & World Report ranking of all the public high schools in the country, LA’s top 10 include four independent charters, three magnets and three traditional schools.

The Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies was the top-ranked LA school and the only LA Unified school in California’s top 20. It was 18th in the state and 138th nationally. The school was just honored last month for exceptional merit and innovation by the Magnet Schools of America.

The magazine evaluated nearly 20,000 public high schools throughout the country and ranked them on several factors, including state test scores, the number of students taking Advanced Placement and college-level courses and overall college readiness.

The rankings showed that 47 LA Unified schools, or 19 percent of all local high schools, rank above the California average.

“These results affirm our commitment to prepare our students for college and careers,” said Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson. “LA Unified is proud of our students, teachers and leaders for their scholarly accomplishments, both locally and nationally. This recognition represents the best of the best.”

LACES Principal Harold Boger pointed out that 90 percent of students at LACES take Advanced Placement classes, and minority enrollment is 72 percent.

“Obviously we are thrilled to get recognized for creating a culture where students are not afraid to challenge themselves by taking AP courses,” he said. “We have made a special effort to eliminate middle school courses that have the effect of tracking students at an early stage of either being AP or non-AP students. In fact all of our students know that they will take AP World History in the 10th grade and that all of their prior courses will have been sufficient preparation to succeed in this course.”

But they may be a victim of their success. Boger added, “On the other hand we are a little concerned that we have done such a great job in developing this AP culture among students that maybe it is time to encourage students to consider taking less AP courses. Presently about 40 percent of our juniors and seniors take four or more AP courses. Even though students continue to find ways to ultimately be successful in these courses, we have noticed that the stress level of some students has increased. This has led us to pay more attention to students’ emotional development as we strive to maintain high academic standards.”

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Parent groups ask LAUSD to improve engagement

Rachel Greene

Rachel Greene

Leaders from major parent groups brought school board members their recommendations for improving parent involvement in LA Unified.

Topping their list is a centralized Parent Advocate office and website for their concerns, they told board members of the Early Childhood Education and Parent Engagement Committee on Tuesday. Other  recommendations include involving parents in every principal search committee and providing resources and training.

One simple thing for the district to do is apologize to parents. “Apologizing for mistakes is actually evidence-based and reduces litigation,” said Kathy Kantner, a member of the Community Advisory Committee who spoke Tuesday.

School board member Ref Rodriguez, the committee’s chairman, said, “I’m very excited about this report, this is something we’ve been building up to.”

The biggest problem for parents is trying to figure out how to address grievances because there are so many avenues when dealing with the district’s downtown Beaudry headquarters. The various parent groups formed a study group that spanned all of the Local Districts and came up with suggestions, including:

• Establish an Office of the Parent Advocate with a website and telephone helpline that the parents suggest could be funded by the mayor’s office or LA County Office of Education.

• Hire and train administrators to be service leaders who have positive attitudes toward parental involvement in schools.

• Continue working to engage “everyday parents” but acknowledge and appreciate parent leaders, and perhaps designate them as Parent Ambassadors with different-colored volunteer badges.

• Share power in major decision making, budgets and other committees.

• Provide resources and training to parents when they are on campus at new family orientations, open houses and other events.

• Improve the handling of the use of Disruptive Persons Letters which the district gives to parents who create problems on campus and have their access to the school limited.

“We all know there are people who are struggling with mental issues and substance abuse, but too often these DPLs are given because of a power struggle with parents,” said  Kantner.

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Morning Read: What the loss of thousands of preschool seats will cost LA County

Massive loss of preschool seats looms for LA County
A new report estimates that the economic toll on Los Angeles County from the loss of funding for thousands of preschool seats later this year will be almost $600 million annually. By Deepa Fernandes, KPCC