The Hutchinson Report
African American students the biggest losers with LAUSD’s meat-axe budget cuts
LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines minced no words at the education forum sponsored by the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable on Saturday, March 28. He said that the cuts the LAUSD will make to patch up a $718-million budget deficit will be big, painful and draconian.
Parents, teachers and students will be the big losers. But the biggest losers of all will be the District’s African American students.
They make up about 11% of the students in the sprawling district. They are the most underserved and underperforming of all students.
Cortines came to the Roundtable armed with the alarming figures. In all grade levels Black students have the widest achievement gap between White and Hispanic students in English Language Arts and Mathematics. They have the highest drop out rate of all ethnic groups. That’s nearly double that of Whites, triple that of Asian students, and significantly higher than Hispanic students. Black students had the lowest percentage of graduates that met UC and CSU entrance requirements than any other group.
Cortines noted that there has been some marginal improvement among Blacks students in bumping up their math scores. It’s hardly enough, though, to uncork the champagne and celebrate that the District has turned the corner in improving Black student achievement.
Cortines may actually understate the plight of Black students. The California Department of Education reports that based on results from the 2006 California Standards Test that measures academic progress of students at virtually all grade levels, Blacks students are failing miserably.
Less than 30% of Black students can read, write and do math at their grade level, while more than 60% of White and Asian students meet California’s proficiency standard. It gets even worse. Even when income and parental background are factored in, Black students still score far worse on achievement tests in language and math than all other groups. The Department also found the same off the chart drop out rate for Black students.
Cortines did not say it but a big reason for the stubborn persistence of the achievement gap is that Black students are still more likely to be poorer, trapped in chronically segregated South L.A. schools, with the highest rate of inexperienced and un-credentialed teachers.
The annual report by the Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project on the devastating effect of poverty and segregation on Black student performance repeatedly confirms this. The nation’s big city public schools are more racially segregated than they were two decades ago. The students in these schools are poorer than students in predominantly, or exclusively White schools and they do far worse in reading and math tests than non-Black or Black students at racially mixed schools.
The Black and Latino students who attend racially isolated schools are not in the schools because of Jim Crow segregationist laws, or failed school bussing policies. Two decades of pro-integration court decisions, limited bussing programs, civil rights legislation, and the election and the appointment of soaring numbers of Blacks and Latinos to boards of education in major cities have racially remade the face of public education. Black and Latino public school superintendents and top administrators are now fixtures in most urban school districts. This should have long ago rendered public school segregation an historic oddity.
However, the bitter truth is that more than a half century after the Brown decision, segregated public schools while no longer the law of the land is the fact of the land. The rigid barriers of housing discrimination, underclass poverty, the near universal refusal of federal and state courts to get involved in any more school desegregation cases, and the continuing flight of White, as well as Black and Latino middle-income persons to the suburbs insure that even more poor Black and Latino students will be perpetually trapped in segregated schools. The hodge-podge of panaceas that politicians and educators ladle out to raise minority achievement levels such as school vouchers, fracturing urban districts, a wholesale dump of incompetent teachers and bureaucrats, magnet schools, and the Feds badly under-funded and badly lacerated No Child Left Behind Act, have only marginally raised achievement scores.
Now Cortines and the LAUSD with their forced meat ax budget cuts will add even more pain to the painful Black student achievement gap. The urgent need then is for maximum damage control to minimize the pending educational carnage. Parent groups, unions and other organizations in L.A. have mobilized their constituencies to save their pet programs. They’ve daily flooded Cortines with calls, letters and e-mails. African American community groups and leaders should do the same.
The Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and other civil rights groups at the Saturday Roundtable emphatically told Cortines that Black students will be even bigger losers in the District’s budget meltdown. Cortines agreed, and said that it’s up to us to hold his and the District’s feet to the fire. We’d better, and do it fast.
- Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on Fridays 9:30 to 10 a.m. in Los Angeles on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and nationally on blogtalkradio.com.
DISCLAIMER: The beliefs and viewpoints expressed in opinion pieces, letters to the editor, by columnists and/or contributing writers are not necessarily those of Our Weekly.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Academic Performance Index score for Los Angeles Unified schools—summarizing students’ performance on a series of tests—rose by 19 points in 2010-11, besting the statewide average.
The district’s score went from 709 last year to 728. The statewide API score increased by 11 points, from 767 last year to 778, according to figures released today by the California Department of Education.
The scores range from 200 to 1,000, with a performance target of 800.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Los Angeles Unified School District 10th graders fared slightly better on the California High School Exit Exam than last year’s class, with 75 percent passing the math portion and the same percentage passing the English section, according to test results released today.
The scores were an improvement over last year’s 10th grade class, which had a 72 percent pass rate for the math section of the test, and 73 percent on the English section, according to the California Department of Education.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Eight schools in Los Angeles County and four in Orange County were nominated by the California Department of Education to be national blue ribbon schools.
The Los Angeles County nominees are:
• California Academy of Mathematics and Science, Long Beach Unified School District;
• Gertz-Ressler Academy High School, Los Angeles Unified School District;
• Renaissance Arts Academy, Los Angeles Unified School District;
• McGrath Elementary, Newhall School District;
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Dozens of schools districts and schools in Los Angeles and Orange counties were awarded more than $13.6 million in federal grants to bolster programs that help students prepare for "college and careers,'' it was announced today.
A total of 37 districts and schools in the two counties received Enhancing Education Through Technology Competitive Grants.
Among the recipients were:
• Los Angeles Unified School District, $3 million;
• Long Beach Unified School District, $1 million;
The Los Angeles Unified School District board voted Tuesday 5-2 to adopt the School Climate Bill of Rights, which consists of a resolution that bans “willful defiance” suspensions and directs LAUSD to enact common-sense approaches to school discipline and expand programs that support all students in becoming healthy, thriving adults.