Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times/POLARIS
Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho shares his artwork with students during a visit to Elysian Heights Elementary Arts Magnet in Los Angeles.

Do you count on EdSource’s education coverage? If so, please make your donation today to keep us going without a paywall or ads.

Los Angeles Unified’s new Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has released his first strategic plan outlining his vision of success for a district grappling with how to help students recover from a learning crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The plan, shaped by the superintendent’s core priorities and informed by guidance from the Board of Education with significant input from students, educators, and community members will guide the district’s priorities for the next three years and lay the groundwork for new initiatives to foster student success.

For this plan to succeed, it must not only reflect the extensive input the superintendent sought from LAUSD communities, but must also prioritize action to intentionally dismantle the structures and power incentives that limit opportunities for hundreds of thousands of students of color across the district.

Not every student is met with a caring and empowering environment at school. Rather, students of color are asked to navigate institutions built around Eurocentric curriculums, inequitable funding structures and a workforce that is not reflective of who we are.

In the fall of last year, as LA students prepared to return to school in person for the first time in a year and a half, my organization, Our Turn, launched a survey to gauge what students were thinking and feeling. Overwhelmingly, our survey revealed a desire to take on the ways that structural racism still shapes resource allocation, curriculum selection and school cultures, stymieing the success of students of color in LAUSD.

There is some momentum behind this work. Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 101 into law, which requires California high schools to teach ethnic studies courses by 2025. Los Angeles Unified will also require ethnic studies as a graduation requirement for students by 2023.

These are both admirable attempts to begin changing the status quo. But the work of ensuring that we teach the full, unadulterated history of peoples of color in our schools is far from over. Entrenched racism is keeping LA students of color from maximizing their potential and accessing lives of opportunity and full agency. More expansive reforms and more direct action are necessary.

Research shows that having a demographic or cultural match between teachers and students positively impacts everything from test scores to suspension rates, and that the underrepresentation of educators of color limits the success of students. Neuroscience research also shows that students do better when the curriculum reflects their own cultural backgrounds because the brain searches for personally relevant connections to material when we are learning.

To seize on the opportunity to reorient the district away from a status quo that holds students back, Superintendent Carvhalho must align his agenda with intentionally building on this knowledge to support students currently marginalized in LAUSD. As his pandemic recovery plan and overall strategic agenda continues to take shape, we specifically hope he will take the following actions:

  • Allocate dollars to fund a community-led search for culturally inclusive curriculums, textbooks and lesson plans.
  • Terminate contracts with the current textbook providers.
  • Initiate a pilot program to provide more inclusive textbooks in select priority schools as identified by the Student Equity Need Index, which identifies the schools in LAUSD that most meet the criteria for additional resources under the Local Control Funding Formula, the state’s K-12 funding formula.
  • Provide all students with more inclusive textbooks in every subject including history, English, literature, art and math by 2025.
  • Engage in meaningful consultation with Indigenous tribes and tribal organizations.
  • Require schools to foster and affirm a safe culture for Black, Indigenous and other students, including ensuring school staff represent the diversity of the student body.

Everyone within LAUSD has a responsibility to create schools and classrooms where healthier futures are forged. As the district’s new leader, Superintendent Carvalho has the incredible opportunity to pursue this goal. Through his leadership, the superintendent can move the district toward becoming a more honest and inclusive system that will transform the student experience for the better.

•••

Salma Ocelotlxochitl Perez is from northeast Los Angeles and is a student at Mount St. Mary’s University. Avery Collins-Byrd is from South Central Los Angeles and is a student at the University of California, Los Angeles. They are both fellows with Our Turn, an organization that works to advance equity in education systems in cities across the country.

The opinions in this commentary are those of the authors. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our guidelines and contact us.

Do you count on EdSource’s reporting daily? Make your donation today to our year end fundraising campaign by Dec. 31st to keep us going without a paywall or ads.

Share Article

Comments (4)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Donald Krause 4 months ago4 months ago

    This Ed Source article is an example of the current state of exposition about social justice issues. The technique frequently employed and used by the authors of this article is to repeat the premise directly and indirectly that structural racism is pervasive in society, but to wittingly decline to provide supporting evidence of such racism as is required of any expository writing. In other words, it not just bad journalism; it’s propaganda. The purpose of … Read More

    This Ed Source article is an example of the current state of exposition about social justice issues. The technique frequently employed and used by the authors of this article is to repeat the premise directly and indirectly that structural racism is pervasive in society, but to wittingly decline to provide supporting evidence of such racism as is required of any expository writing. In other words, it not just bad journalism; it’s propaganda. The purpose of this kind of writing is to turn a premise into a “fact” in the minds of those readers who don’t demand evidence as part of critical thinking to take a proposition and to make of it a given and a truth.

  2. Floyd Ugarte 4 months ago4 months ago

    I think this article is a bit unfair. Many nonwhite students outperform white students by studying long hours, on average over double as many as white kids study. Asian Americans, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Persian, Lebanese, Cuban. The curriculum being Eurocentric has little to do with achievement. Hours studied does. The biggest issue is most new funding, which is pretty equal in California between schools, gets put into across the board raises … Read More

    I think this article is a bit unfair. Many nonwhite students outperform white students by studying long hours, on average over double as many as white kids study. Asian Americans, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Persian, Lebanese, Cuban. The curriculum being Eurocentric has little to do with achievement. Hours studied does.

    The biggest issue is most new funding, which is pretty equal in California between schools, gets put into across the board raises without making it easier to fire bad teachers because the union doesn’t negotiate this in return for the raises. We should put money into tutoring and into motivational seminars encouraging kids of all races to study longer hours and be more dedicated and teach all kids that the studies show (Triple Package and other books) that if you study hard, you’ll earn above the US average.

    The tone of this article is inaccurate and harmful. Many nonwhite kids do very well with teachers who are not of their race, and many kids do poorly with teachers of their race. I believe teaching anti-American sentiment lowers effort and therefore achievement. Let’s teach kids that we are the land of opportunity. Martin Luther King dreamed of a nation in which the content of one’s character determines how you are judged and how successful you are, and the US is one of the first nations in history now in which every ethnic group which studies longer hours than average as kids earns more as adults. Obama said there’s no excuse for kids not studying hard, and parents have no excuse not to help their kids. Reagan said we are a shining city on a hill for all mankind to see. Clinton said those who work hard and play by the rules should be honored.

    We need to teach kids facts that effort results in success regardless of the ethnicity of child or teacher.

  3. Jim 4 months ago4 months ago

    An interesting juxtaposition in your publishing “Deep divisions, further delay for California’s math guidelines” and “How Superintendent Carvalho can create a strong future for all LAUSD students” at the same time. In the “Deep Divisions” piece you quote Dr. Conrad as saying ‘ “To my astonishment, in essentially all cases, the papers were seriously misrepresented” and in some cases “even had conclusions opposite to what was said”’. This commentary says “Neuroscience research also shows that students … Read More

    An interesting juxtaposition in your publishing “Deep divisions, further delay for California’s math guidelines” and “How Superintendent Carvalho can create a strong future for all LAUSD students” at the same time. In the “Deep Divisions” piece you quote Dr. Conrad as saying ‘ “To my astonishment, in essentially all cases, the papers were seriously misrepresented” and in some cases “even had conclusions opposite to what was said”’.

    This commentary says “Neuroscience research also shows that students do better when the curriculum reflects their own cultural backgrounds” with a link to a book by Zaretta Hammond. Interested, I read the paper TOC looking for more information on the “Neuroscience research”. Ms. Hammond has a Master’s in Secondary English Education but no neuroscience. Not sure what the authors thought the point was in linking except perhaps a reliance on the laziness of readers.

    Replies

    • Floyd Ugarte 4 months ago4 months ago

      Jim, you are absolutely 100% correct. These studies are always cited as universal truth but this has not been shown consistently. Triple Package refuted these. If anyone disagrees, please post the specific studies and the methodology for all to read and analyze.