Credit: John Fensterwald/EdSource Today
Debra Watkins said the district should adopt Project WORD, an intervention and mentoring program, at four high schools.

The East Side Union High School District board unanimously approved the inaugural three-year plan for academic achievement required by the state’s new school funding formula Thursday after hearing a dozen speakers call for a different strategy to meet the needs  of the district’s African-American students.

In approving the new Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, the board instructed Superintendent Chris Funk to provide details at the  next meeting about how the district will meet its commitment to African-American students.

The LCAP, written after parent surveys and community meetings with parent organizations representing the ethnically diverse district in East San Jose, spells out how the district will spend supplemental dollars allotted to “high-needs” students – low-income students, students learning English and foster youths –– under the Local Control Funding Formula. That supplemental money totals $5.3 million next year, most of which will go toward hiring a social worker and a parent involvement coordinators at all 11 high schools, plus teacher coaches and an additional counselor in those students with the highest proportions of high-needs students.

“The history of underachievement is long and painful.   Motivating black and brown students is not as hard as it seems.’  –  Debra Robinson,  English teacher at Mount Pleasant High School

African-Americans make up 700 students, or less than 3 percent, of the 24,300 students in the district, and their parents have complained that their needs have been largely ignored despite persistently lower-than-district-average graduation rates and grade point averages. The LCAP does single them out for extra attention that Associate Superintendent Juan Cruz said could serve as a model for Hispanics, the district’s largest underperforming student group..

  • Incoming ninth grade African-American students will be recruited for a summer bridge program preparing them for high school work.
  • The additional counselors will prepare an individualized learning plan for all African-American students, setting them on a path to graduate and go on to college, by the end of September each year and then updated twice annually.
  • Teachers will be paid to establish and strengthen high schools’ Black Student Unions to see that students receive health and social services.

In letters to the board, some leaders in the African-American community initially praised this plan. But last month, other leaders criticized the LCAP for failing to specify services and commit money for them.

In a letter last month to Funk, seven regional organizations, including the Santa Clara County Alliance of Black Educators, made five recommendations that they said were based on “feedback from the Black community and the wisdom of veteran Black educators.” They included hiring an African -American parent coordinator at the district office, providing district-wide culturally sensitive training to reduce suspensions and expulsions and reinstituting Project WORD, a school-based intervention program that includes academic coaching at four high schools. The district had run Project WORD for a cohort of African-American students for four years through a foundation grant that resulted in a near-perfect graduation rate, said Debra Watkins, a retired East Side Union teacher and president of the California Alliance of African American Educators. It has continued on a smaller scale at two high schools.

There needs to be one coordinator at each school to see students’ needs are met, instead of dividing responsibilities among a social worker, a counselor and a parent specialist, as the LCAP proposes, Watkins said.

“The history of underachievement is long and painful,”  Debra Robinson, an English teacher at Mount Pleasant High, where she has run Project WORD, told the board. “Motivating black and brown students is not as hard as it seems.” But, she said, a pattern of “broken promises” on providing resources to address minority students’ needs “plagues this district.”

Saying that he wanted “to give due respect to community comments” and create a plan that “meets the needs of African American students with proper programming and funding,” board President J. Manuel Herrera made the motion tying the approval of the LCAP to a fuller presentation by Funk in August on the issue. He indicated that one option would be to revise the LCAP for next year to include additional commitments, although that would require a formal process with additional hearings.

Funk reminded the board that this was the first year of a seven-year rollout of the new state funding formula. “We are dedicated to closing the achievement gap of African-American students, and I am confident we are on the way to achieving that,” he said. He said that the presentation in August would include potential ways to fund the commitment outside of the LCAP.

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  1. Don 4 years ago4 years ago

    “The history of underachievement is long and painful. Motivating black and brown students is not as hard as it seems.’

    Am I the only one baffled by this statement?

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 4 years ago4 years ago

      In the context of the meeting, Don, it meant that rising achievement can happen with money and commitment. In this case, Debra Robinson was making a plea for continuation of Project WORD that she administered through a grant at Mount Pleasant High.

      • Don 4 years ago4 years ago

        The motivation of a child should never be characterized, especially by a teacher as quoted here, as more difficult based solely upon skin color. I felt that should be noted as such statements are often construed as fodder for soft racism though its also clear she didn't intend it that way. But back to the substance of your article, John you wrote about individualized learning plans in, I believe, a previous article … Read More

        The motivation of a child should never be characterized, especially by a teacher as quoted here, as more difficult based solely upon skin color. I felt that should be noted as such statements are often construed as fodder for soft racism though its also clear she didn’t intend it that way.

        But back to the substance of your article, John you wrote about individualized learning plans in, I believe, a previous article on this district. In an LCAP such language provides an air of the practical and the substantial – a program for putting students on track to graduation and college, but what exactly are they? I ask this because of my background with IEPs. While we understand they are not the same, an individualized learning plan has to take into consideration the specific needs of a child based upon the goals and then it has to be set in motion. What are they talking about doing? It sounds like more than going beyond a generalized A-G requirement game plan. In my experience, counselors do not have the training to identify the specific learning needs of students, even if they aren’t disabilities, and to address those needs. That isn’t their area of expertise. Are they talking about providing specific instructional program changes, content specialists, after school tutoring, etc?

        • John Fensterwald 4 years ago4 years ago

          East Side Union is not talking about an Individualized Learning Plan as followed by federal and state laws for special education students. Nothing as complex or legally entangling. Details must be worked out and the LCAP fleshed out. As I understand it, counselors would meet with African-American students to go over their schedules in the fall to see they are on track to graduate, go to college, meet their post-graduation plans, and update this during … Read More

          East Side Union is not talking about an Individualized Learning Plan as followed by federal and state laws for special education students. Nothing as complex or legally entangling. Details must be worked out and the LCAP fleshed out. As I understand it, counselors would meet with African-American students to go over their schedules in the fall to see they are on track to graduate, go to college, meet their post-graduation plans, and update this during the year. If students need extra help in these or other areas, counselors and social workers would help make it happen. Common sense stuff that the commitment would make real.

          • Don 4 years ago4 years ago

            Sorry to belabor the point but.. meeting with students and going over their schedules and credits are what counselors do on a regular basis - that is, if they have the time after dealing with disciplinary problems. The East Side LCAP is food for thought as it applies across districts. Communities should demand specifics when districts they offer up plans. No educalionalese phoney baloney. Were I a community member of East … Read More

            Sorry to belabor the point but.. meeting with students and going over their schedules and credits are what counselors do on a regular basis – that is, if they have the time after dealing with disciplinary problems.

            The East Side LCAP is food for thought as it applies across districts. Communities should demand specifics when districts they offer up plans. No educalionalese phoney baloney. Were I a community member of East Side I would want to know what is exactly meant when the district talks about an Individualized Learning Plan (nothing to do with an Individualized Education Program/IEP). If district leaders have to flesh out later what it will look like, I maintain they have not given it enough consideration before offering it as part of an LCAP plan. It doesn’t make sense to me that a “learning plan” would be the responsibility of a social worker and counselor. That is an instructional issue if I am to take the term literally. But therein is the problem. What do they mean by a individualized learning plan? Without any given form or specifics it is just an idea that does nothing but fill up a column on the LCAP spreadsheet.