For the seventh straight year, California is making gains on the number of students who graduate from high school, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reported Tuesday.
The number of seniors graduating in 2016 reached a record high for the state, Torlakson said in a written statement.
The highest gains were made among English learners and African American and Latino students, according to the data just released by the state Department of Education.
“This is great news for our students and families,” Torlakson said, crediting “increased investments in our schools that have helped reduce class sizes; bring back classes in music, theater, art, dance, and science; and expand career technical education programs that engage our students with hands-on, minds-on learning” for the progress made.
“The increasing rates show that the positive changes in California schools are taking us in the right direction.”
Statewide, the data, which tracks students who entered high school in 2012-13 and graduated in 2016, shows an increase of 0.9 percent from 2015, for a record high of 83.2 percent, which translates to 4,917 more students receiving their high school diploma in 2016 than in 2015.
In Los Angeles County, the graduation rate was 81.3 percent, compared to 78.7 percent for the class of 2015. The dropout rate for students who started high school in 2012-13 was 10.6 percent, down from 12.5 percent for the class of 2014-15.
The Los Angeles Unified School District saw similar trends, with the 2015-16 dropout rate at 13.7, down from 16.7 the previous year. The graduation rate was 77 percent, up from the previous year’s 72.2 percent.
“I am proud of the heroic efforts by our teachers, counselors, parents, administrators and classified staff who rally around our students every day,” LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King said. “We also thank our education leaders and partners who work with us to understand our challenges and
celebrate our gains year after year.
“This data shows we are closing opportunity gaps and preparing more L.A. Unified students for college and careers, but we still have work to do,” King said. “I expect these numbers to keep rising until we reach our goal of 100 percent graduation.”
In the Montebello Unified School District, which has one high school in Bell Gardens, the graduation rate rose to 87.7 percent, 0.07 percent higher than the previous year.
The report also showed a statewide lowering of the dropout rate. Of the students who started high school in 2012-13, 9.8 percent dropped out, down from 10.7 percent the previous year.
While there is room to be optimistic, Torlakson said there is still much work to be done that will require effort from everyone “—teachers, parents, administrators, and community members—to keep our momentum alive so we can keep improving.”
He singled out as critical the work of narrowing “the achievement gap between Asian and white students and Latino and African American students.”
“The latest statistics show the gap has narrowed. For African American students, the graduation rate reached a record high of 72.6 percent, up 1.8 percentage points from the year before and up 12.1 percentage points from 2010. For Hispanic or Latino students, the graduation rate climbed to a record high of 80 percent, up 1.5 percentage points from the year before and up 11.9 percentage points from 2010.”
For the second year in a row, the graduation rate among English learners went up, increasing 2.7 percent to 72.1 percent, 15.7 percentage points higher than the class of 2010, according to the data from the department of education.
Torlakson said changes in education funding and to curriculum, which he calls “the California Way,” are making a difference.
The California Way, he said, includes “teaching more rigorous and relevant academic standards, which provides more local control over spending and more resources to those with the greatest needs.”
Classes will begin one week later in the Los Angeles Unified School District next year, then begin another week later the following year under a plan approved Tuesday night by the Board of Education.
Three board members — Richard Vladovic, George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson — initially introduced a resolution asking that the district begin future school years after Labor Day.
Superintendent Michelle King, however, suggested a compromise to begin classes next year on Aug.22, one week later than this year’s Aug. 16 start date.
She said in subsequent years, classes could begin the week before Labor Day, with the 2018-19 school year beginning on Aug. 28.
King said the compromise schedule allows the district to still finish the fall semester before the winter break, which will be reduced from three weeks to two weeks. She said the compromise will also require students to attend classes on two days during the week of Thanksgiving instead of having the entire week off.
The board approved the compromise on a 5-2 vote, with Monica Garcia and Monica Ratliff dissenting.
Garcia said she opposed the idea because the district’s move to an earlier start date was designed to improve scores on midterm exams and Advanced Placement tests, ultimately boosting graduation rates. She said the move has worked, and the district shouldn’t change it.
“I feel that we have made improved effort in this district because we have been focused on achieving academic gains,” she said.
McKenna countered, however, that he does not believe changing the calendar will have a negative impact on students’ education.
“I think the quality of instruction does not change based upon the calendar,” he said.
According to the board members who introduced the resolution, the district has received complaints about the hot weather at the beginning of the school year forcing students to remain indoors — limiting their physical activity — and about the cost of running air conditioners to keep classrooms cool.
“Maintenance on AC units is an ongoing and increasingly costly issue, including rising electrical costs; additionally, some activities must be conducted in rooms or facilities built without climate control,” according to the resolution.
The 2016-17 school year is scheduled to end June 9.
Education, prevention and intervention are three of the most important components to improving schools with high needs in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), said Superintendent Michelle King last week.
King, who in recent weeks has been on a “Listen and Learn” tour of LAUSD schools, was speaking June 6 at a forum at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights hosted by a coalition of community organizations.
A veteran LAUSD administrator and former teacher, King is relatively new in her superintendent position, appointed by the school board back in January. She is the first African-American woman to lead the second largest district of the nation.
King takes charge following the departures of two former superintendents — John Deasy and Ramon Cortines — in less than three years.
While the “Community Unity Forum” on the School Climate Bill of Rights and Comprehensive Wellness Strategy was not technically part of King’s Listen and Learn tour, it was another opportunity for the superintendent to hear from east and southeast area education advocates what they believe is needed to improve schools, from added funding to changes in discipline policies. It was also a chance for King to share her views on the topic.
According to King, education is the first step. People need to know what a healthy school climate looks like and educated about the components to achieve it, she told the audience of about 200 people.
Prevention is the second component, said King. “What is the root of the problems? What is it that harms the community?” she asked. “We have to identify what those are and think about how we go about preventing.”
Third, and equally important is intervention, King said.
“Expulsion is not the way…It’s not just ‘here’s the punishment’ and the problem hasn’t been addressed. Counselors should be available not only for academic purposes but to help guide and heal,” she said.
The forum included a resource fair where King got a close-up look at local efforts to put the three tools into action. Students and staff provided information on health and wellness, LGBTQ rights, parent involvement and how to advocate for funding directed at “restorative justice,” an effort to use counseling and dialogue to resolve issues that affect students and their families or friends, in hopes of preventing problems from escalating.
Many in the restorative justice movement complain that too much money is spent on school police and would be better spent on restorative coordinators trained to do more than just give out punishment. According to an informational graphic in one booth, LAUSD has over 476 sworn and unsworn police officers but only 52 restorative coordinators.
“Sup. King needs to step up with more after-school programs and continuation schools instead of giving more money to police,” Roosevelt 10th grader Nancy Ruelas told EGP.
Local activists say they want King to prioritize school climate programs in LAUSD’s 2016-2017 Fiscal Year budget by increasing funding for such programs from $7 million to $60 million to at least match the budget for school police.
“Trying to solve the problems only with police is not fair; we need counselors,” said Ruelas.
The School Climate Bill of Rights resolution approved by board members in May 2013 called for creating more prevention and intervention programs aimed at increasing graduation rates and decreasing incarceration time, according to LAUSD.
District data show that restorative justice programs created under the measure have had positive results, decreasing out-of-school suspension rates nearly in half, from 12,353 in 2012-2013 to 6,184 in 2013-2014.
During the resource fair, students explained to parents that under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), more money is given to poor-performing schools with large numbers of low-income students, foster youth and English learners, but added that more money is still needed.
“Our intent is to get parents involved with local organizations to fight for more money for their schools,” Lucia Ortiz, a senior at Roosevelt, told EGP.
Sophomore Laura Gutierrez added that they are encouraging voters to extend Proposition 30 tax increases on the wealthy set to expire at the end of 2018. Approved in 2012 as temporary, advocates back extending the tax increase for an additional 12 years.
Gutierrez said passage would help stop future cuts to schools, put more police on the street—not in schools—and help balance the budget.
Ultimately, the goal is to have healthier and safer schools with less police intervention and fewer school suspensions, according to the hosting coalition, which includes Building Healthy Communities—Boyle Heights Initiative, the Brothers, Sons Selves Coalition and the Dignity Schools campaign.
The group provided King with a list of recommendations to work on:
—Develop racial justice reforms to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline for the youth.
—Ensure dollars allocated for Restorative Practices.
—End in-school suspensions and report discipline data as required by the School Climate Bill of Rights in a format accessible to the community.
—Add intervention and prevention programs for the LGBTQ community in wellness centers.
The superintendent has yet to respond to the group’s list of priorities.
The Los Angeles Unified School District voted Tuesday to expand the number of seats in its popular magnet program by 5,000 in 2017-18.
The school board also unanimously approved a plan to open a new magnet campus in Maywood, for grades 6-12, the District announced this week. The new magnet school will be located at South Region High School No. 8, scheduled to open in fall 2017 as a Center for Enriched Studies Magnet School.
The new campus is expected to alleviate overcrowding at Bell Senior High School, allowing it to transition from a year-round to two-semester calendar, and create more seats for the Bell Zone of Choice.
South Region High will be the third Center for Enriched Studies in the District. The two others are in West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.
‘The Southeast community has long advocated for more high-quality instructional programs in their neighborhoods,” said Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez. “I am thrilled that the LAUSD Board and District has listened, and has taken another step forward in closing the opportunity gap by creating a Center for Enriched Studies to be located in the City of Maywood. This new magnet school highlights the Board’s commitment to increasing the number of magnet programs throughout the District, and adds to the portfolio of magnet programs available to middle school and high school students in the Southeast Cities.”
There are currently approximately 67,000 students enrolled in the school district’s 198 magnet programs, with an additional 44,000 students on waiting lists. The campuses offer themed programs in subjects ranging from architecture and filmmaking to science and technology.
“We embrace multiple strategies for student success on our path to 100 percent graduation,” said Board Member Mónica García. “We continue to expand the portfolio of options for our students, families and school communities.”
Individual schools apply to create or expand a themed magnet, and must meet specific criteria designed to ensure the program will be successful and will meet the needs of its community. Of the 12 magnets set to open in Fall 2017, nine will focus on STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Grief counselors were on hand Monday at Sotomayor Learning Academies, where students returned to class following the weekend deaths of two classmates whose bodies were recovered from the Los Angeles River near Cypress Park.
The coroner’s office identified the boys as Carlos Jovel, 16, and Gustavo Ramirez, 15. Autopsies were pending.
The teenagers went missing Friday, prompting a search of the area of Division Street and San Fernando Road. The two teens were in a group of four people who went to the river after school. One fell into the water and another is believed to have jumped in after him, witnesses said.
At about 12:40 p.m. Sunday, firefighters and police responded to the river in the 1900 block of San Fernando Road, and police announced at 8:20 p.m. that divers had recovered two bodies.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King said district officials are “deeply saddened by the drowning of two student” from Sotomayor, 2050 N. San Fernando Road.
“On behalf of the district, I express my deepest condolences to the boys’ families and friends and to the Sotomayor Learning Academies community,” King said. “District crisis counselors and school counselors are available at the campus to provide support to students and staff affected by this tragedy.”
A small high school in Boyle Heights was forced to close its door on short notice June 26 leaving 40 or so students scrambling to figure out where they will go to school in the fall.
For eight years, the Boyle Heights Technology Academy has enrolled youth offenders and other students who do not perform well in a regular public school. Enrollment over the years has averaged around 75 students, but dropped last year to fewer than 45 students, according to Ramiro Palomo, a teacher at the school.
Lea este artículo en Español: Condado Cierra Escuela Preparatoria de Boyle Heights
The problem was LAUSD said they would not send us any more students, Palomo told EGP.
According to the L.A. County Office of Education (LACOE), parents were informed that the county could no longer afford to keep the school open “due to a decrease in student enrollment,”
Students and parents, however, say the school closed after county education officials and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) failed to reach an agreement about who should pay for the students’ education and LAUSD wanted students to return to their home school rather than continue paying the county to educate them.
Students, parents and teachers question the soundness of that plan, noting that many of the students were expelled from their local school and might not be allowed to return.
The Academy, one of 11 community schools operated by the county, primarily served students from the area surrounding the Pico-Aliso Housing projects. Many of the students are on probation or parole, homeless or face other issues that put them at high risk of dropping out. In some cases, parents requested placement at the school for a child needing a different learning environment to succeed.
Adam del Real of Boyle Heights is one of those students.
On June 25, he took part in the school’s last graduation ceremony even though he still needs to complete 20 more units before he gets a high school diploma. Adam said he’s not happy with the options presented to him for completing school: Mujeres y Hombres Nobles County Community School in Monterey Park near the East Los Angeles border, or Roosevelt High, his home school.
“I don’t really want to go to another school, I’m better at independent studies,” he told EGP.
The 16-year-old says he’ll struggle at Roosevelt and that the travel time to Mujeres y Hombres is too long.
His mother Claudia del Real agrees. “They don’t understand the damage they cause these kids,” she told EGP.
They claim the county failed to evaluate the school on its merit. “Don’t they see the good that the school does,” del Real said.
Making things worse, stakeholders claim they were given very little notice of the impending closure, and little direction as to where they could get help finding a new school.
A two paragraph letter saying the school is closing and directing “enrolled students to report to Mujeres y Hombres Nobles County Community School” is not enough of an explanation or a plan, parents said.
According to a June 18 memo from the school’s then-Interim Principal Diem Johnson and then-Assistant Principal Adriana Hernandez, addressed to Palomo and other staff, “On or about June 5, 2015” [Los Angeles County Office of Education] Central Office sent “students, parents, guardians, paraeducators and teachers” correspondence explaining why the school was closing. The memo went on to say there has “been a lot of inaccurate information” spread, creating “confusion and frustration for families.” It also directs staff to “refrain” from providing information and to instead direct all stakeholders to the Central Office.
EGP has a copy of the two-paragraph letter addressed to parents and guardians dated June 2, also signed by Johnson and Hernandez, informing them of the school’s impeding closure, but according to some parents, they never received the letter.
Rachel Cohen, a former staff member at the site, said she never receive a letter either. “I was notified by Human Resources just before July 1st that I would be moving” to the Hollywood Media Arts Academy, the East LA resident told EGP.
Margo Minecki, a spokesperson for the office of education, said students, parents and other stakeholders were all informed of the school’s closure, but could not verify when or how they were notified. Johnson and Hernandez could not be reached for comment.
“We’d love to run more programs but we can’t afford them anymore, because we are getting fewer and fewer students,” Minecki said. “The districts where they live are responsible” for their education, she told EGP.
Parents and teachers said the decision should not have been just about money.
“We have had students accepted to schools such as UC Irvine and Cal Poly Pomona, it’s like a private school for this area,” Palomo said.
According to the teacher, about 95 percent of the school’s students are Latinos and 5 percent are African-American. He’s worried that LAUSD may not be willing to accept juvenile offenders at a traditional school if they were previously expelled. He’s also concerned that students like Adam — who has never been in trouble with authorities — will not be comfortable at a traditional school.
“Teachers were very attentive in the academy and I got very comfortable,” Adam echoed.
An adult school, 5 Keys Charter School, will take over the school site. Because “They serve students 18 and over and we serve 14 to 18 years old,” most of our students can’t go there, said Palomo.
LAUSD spokesperson Shannon Haber told EGP that they didn’t have a say in the decision to close the Academy, but that LAUSD takes full responsibility for the education of all students living in the school district.
“We are absolutely on board to [help] relocate these students,” Haber said. LAUSD has “so many schools” there’s bound to be “a good fit for each student,” she said. Any student having trouble finding a school should contact the LAUSD East L.A. district office, she said.
Adam said students like him need more support. He just wants to finish high school without any obstacles and to apply to a college where he can study to be an X-ray technician.
“It is not good that people just think about the money and not about the students,” he lamented.
Students needing help finding a new school can contact Jose Huerta, administrator of the LAUSD East L.A. office at (323) 224-3100, or the L.A. County Division of People’s services at (562) 803-8451.
Faced with the possibility that nearly 75% of current sophomores might not graduate high school, the Los Angeles Unified School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to lower graduation requirements scheduled to take effect with the class of 2017.
The school board’s decision will allow students who receive a D grade in college prep classes needed to graduate, lowering the standard set 10 years ago that requires a C or better in so-called A-G classes needed for admission to California colleges and universities.
The controversial Equity on A-G Resolution was co-sponsored by board members Monica Garcia, Steve Zimmer and George McKenna. The board members said the change is intended to “improve a 10-year old policy aimed at closing the achievement gap, and preparing students for college and careers,” but has resulted in some unintended consequences that could lead to more students dropping out of school.
Easing of the requirement would boost the high school graduation rate, said backers of the change in LAUSD policy.
It also puts the District’s graduation requirement in line with those in neighboring school districts and state standards.
But at a rally in front of LAUSD headquarters Tuesday, parents and students said lowering the requirement is shortsighted. They said the decision would allow students to think they are ready for college when in reality their LAUSD education will leave them unprepared for the rigors of higher education.
“We want to stop graduating them with nothing in their head,” said parent Brenda Hearn, NBC 4 reported.
However, at a larger rally that day, members of a coalition supporting the board’s resolution countered that students should not be blamed for the District’s failure to adequately prepare them to pass the classes with a C or better. They said students shouldn’t be discouraged from getting their high school diploma because the District has failed to live up to promises made a decade ago.
What’s needed is a stronger commitment on the part of the District to help students pass the classes and to close the achievement gap, said Maria Brenes, executive director of InnerCity Struggle, a leading advocate for the tougher requirement a decade ago.
Board member Garcia said the demands of the community are “loud and clear.” They support the A-G requirement and believe “our children are capable of achieving their potential and that every child, with the proper academic support, can become a college and career ready LAUSD graduate.”
Board members also voted to conduct a district-wide audit of programs that are intended to help students prepare for graduation and college.
Board members said the A-G resolution passed Tuesday must be accompanied with a commitment by the District to give students and teachers the support they need to be successful.
Coalition members said Tuesday they expect the District to develop a strategy that will allow students who are “off track” for A-G, to “get the services that they require – such as counselors, credit recovery programs and online courses – in order to pass these classes.”
Parents, students and school staff will be rating the Los Angeles Unified School District through a new a new poll that will help evaluate the quality of their school.
The survey asks whether the school offers opportunities for students to become leaders, how welcoming and collaborative is the environment and how clean and safe is the campus.
Students will take home a survey for parents that can be filled out on the form or online at www.reportcard.lausd.net. Students and staff will take the survey at school. The deadline to respond is April 10.
For more information, contact school or call (213) 241-5600.
On March 3, voters in several local cities will go to the polls to elect members of their city council and local school boards.
The past several elections have seen historically low voter turnouts, with in some cases fewer than a quarter of the eligible voters deciding who will lead us through these complicated times, and how to spend our tax dollars.
In cities across the region, what development, housing and city services should look like are ongoing concerns. While the economy has improved, the plight of many low- and middle-income families has lagged behind.
In every city there is talk about encouraging businesses to locate there and ways to create more jobs.
Education is still seen as the best way to improve one’s chances for a better life and financial security, yet there are diverse views on what’s needed in our schools to help students achieve.
The people elected next Tuesday will have a big say in that happens in all these areas.
EGP encourages voters to have a say in their future, and to get out and vote March 3.
These are our ballot recommendations:
Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education – 5th District
We endorse Dr. Ref Rodriguez in this race.
We feel that the incumbent Bennet Kayser has had an opportunity to assist the LAUSD in reforming many issues of concern to parents and students of the school district, but seems to just continue in the role of supporting the status quo.
We have not been impressed by his performance and feel that he failed to act as an independent or inquisitive advocate for the diverse mix of students in his District.
From questions regarding the iPad fiasco, to the debacle at Jefferson High with LAUSD’s student (mis)information system, a technological disaster, it seems to us that he has failed to demonstrate the leadership needed to correct these problems. It’s time the District is represented by a more thoughtful and resourceful representative.
Ref Rodriguez to us is just such a candidate.
Rodriguez grew up in Cypress Park and has a good understanding of the challenges students, faculty and parents in the District’s lower-income, predominantly Latino schools face.
As one of the co-founders of the charter schools under Partnerships to Uplift Communities, he has a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to create schools that work, from developing curriculum to supporting teachers to engaging families and the surrounding community.
While it’s easy to lump people in to pro- or anti-charter school groups, we were impressed by Rodriguez’s commitment to make all schools work, and willingness to decertify charters that fail to meet education goals and standards. He supports ensuring teachers have the tools they need to succeed, including being fairly compensated and involved in the decision process as a team member. But he also understands that teachers do not have an exclusive on good ideas and what works.
We like that Rodriguez has more questions than answers, and promises to use his questions to break through the entrenched bureaucracy which often stands in the way of progress.
We believe he is uniquely qualified to be on the school board to represent the district’s diverse students and parents.
Among Ref’s many contributions to the area in education is his appointment to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing by Gov. Jerry Brown and Board member of Alliance for a Better Community Los Angeles.
He has served as a board member of Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, board member of Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club, Los Angeles and a member of Small Business Alliance.
Rodriguez’s education consists of Doctor of Education Fielding Graduate University and Bachelors of Arts and humanities, Loyola Marymount University.
Vote for Ref Rodriguez for LAUSD District 5.
Los Angeles City Charter Amendments 1 and 2
We recommend a No Vote on both measures to amend the city charter to change the elections dates for city offices and ballot propositions.
While we agree that something must be done to increase voter participation in city elections, changing the sequence of elections and terms of office are not the solution to the problem of voter apathy.
Changing city elections to coincide with the Presidential Election does not guarantee that voters will be any better informed or enthusiastic about city elections. In fact, there is a real danger that the information about city offices and ballot measures will be drowned out by the louder and better-financed state and national campaigns. Not to mention that the change would result keeping some elected officials in office nearly two years longer than voters might want.
It’s an experiment that the city doesn’t need at this time. What city voters would probably prefer is a way to make voter eligibility and voting less difficult. We believe many potential voters would come out to the polls if they could register the same day to vote by provisional ballot and if there were less complicated ways to vote once registered.
Money spent to change election dates would be better spent on city services like street and sidewalk repairs. Vote No on Charter Amendments 1 and 2
Commerce City Council Election – Vote for Two
While there is something to be said about the smooth working of a city council not embroiled in political one-upmanship, it is equally important to have city councils with members who are willing to stand alone when they don’t agree with their fellow council members.
That is why we endorse Denise Robles for reelection and Hugo Argumedo for the second open seat.
Hugo Argumedo has been on the council before, elected in 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2007.
During the time he served Commerce experienced an era of growth in many areas, from new retail developments to improvements in the city’s infrastructure and services.
The Crown Plaza Hotel was inaugurated and the Citadel was expanded, which led to the creation of many jobs for the area. He helped negotiate a new contract with the fire department, saving the city millions of dollars. He helped pass a hotel visitor tax, which now generates approximately $2.3 million for the city.
We are well aware that his tenure was not without controversy, but we believe he has learned valuable lessons from his mistakes that are likely to help him push for greater transparency if elected.
We support Denise Robles because she has not been afraid to be the lone voice of opposition on issues before the council. She has refused to be bulldozered, when it may have been personally more practical and advantageous to just get along.
That’s not to say that we always agree with her; in fact, there have been times when we thought she was on the wrong side of an issue.
But we believe that Robles has conducted herself in a professional manner and represents voices in the city not always heard. Like her fellow council members, she has her own constituency and followers and that’s okay.
One person speaking out alone is often seen as an interloper, and while they may have valid points of views and concerns, they are often written off as a troublemaker.
EGP believes the reelection of Robles and election of Argumedo will add balance to the equation, although it is our hope the council will avoid splits on issues that are more about power and control than differences over the best path to serve Commerce residents and businesses.
Vote for Robledo and Argumedo for City Council.
Earlier Endorsement: Jose Huizar for Los Angeles City Council District 14