December 11, 2023

We need to be doing more for LAUSD’s Black students

Sarina Sande • Executive Director for Educators for Excellence

As we wrap up 2023, I’m feeling proud of the work E4E-LA teachers have done over the past year to create a more equitable education system in the second-largest school district in the nation. From stepping up to run for union leadership roles, to co-creating and launching LAUSD’s first anti-racist teaching practices micro-credential, to continuing to push the district on ways to foster more inclusivity in the curriculum being used in classrooms. And yet, I also feel, as I have at the end of every year I’ve been doing advocacy work alongside teachers, there’s much more to be done, especially for LAUSD’s Black students. 

Though test scores are not the only measure we should use to assess students, teachers, schools, and districts, they are a helpful indicator to look across student groups to understand how different student populations are performing in relation to one another. Year after year, we find the Black student population with the lowest percentage of proficiency. This is a clear indicator that Black students as a whole in our district are not getting the resources and support they need in order to achieve and succeed in core subject areas. Subject areas that research shows are an indicator of success in college and career readiness. Early this year, the LAUSD school board approved The Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP). This plan addresses the need for culturally responsive curriculum and instruction as the classroom norm, fosters partnerships with community-based organizations with proven track records of success within the Black community, and provides increased staffing support to address the academic and social-emotional needs of Black students. This plan is intended to create learning environments and supports that will allow LAUSD’s Black student population to thrive. 

BSAP has recently been challenged by a group of parents promoting equality, instead of equity. Concerned about their students missing out, they are calling for the elimination of the plan. And while there are differing opinions on the success of this plan to date, the test scores are clear–LAUSD must do something differently for Black students in order to uphold its duty to provide a quality education to all of its students. 

If students can connect with their school work and see themselves represented in their lessons, they can reconnect with their educators and their education. Secretary Cardona also recently highlighted the importance of student identity being recognized in the classroom. 

In a time where LAUSD is being pushed for additional culturally relevant education for its vast amount of teacher diversity, why would we be rolling back programs that already exist? Increasingly, LAUSD is prioritizing an education system that is culturally affirming, actively antiracist, and bias-aware. At the same time, there is a mounting public challenge to antiracist pedagogy, inclusive curriculum, and the accurate, culturally responsive teaching of history. While LAUSD publicly commits to creating inclusive learning environments, educators are often not given the tools and support to do so. Given the rich diversity of LAUSD, the district must accelerate its work to build a culturally relevant education system, not reel back its approach to creating welcoming and inclusive learning environments. 

Students in our classrooms are feeling disconnected. And while there is no “magic strategy” for getting our students back on track, there are things we can be doing now to help students further immerse themselves in learning. Implementing culturally relevant curricula into classrooms is essential for students’ success. 

The one-size-fits-all approach for students has not worked in the past to address Black student achievement, and it certainly is not working now. We must stand behind the values of equity to ensure students are receiving the support they need. I am calling on the board to stand behind BSAP and fight for our Black students. The time is now, and our students cannot wait. Sign our Culturally Relevant Education digital action today.

Background Image:
Sarina Sande