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Los Angeles Unified School District, California
|Number of Schools||713|
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is a large, sprawling school system covering some 700 square miles and serving nearly 750,000 K-12 students in 713 schools. In addition to the city of Los Angeles, the district encompasses 25 other cities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County. Many district schools and the students and families they serve are affected by the challenges found in most large urban areas, including severe poverty, crime, and violence. Compounding these challenges for the district are overcrowding, facilities in need of repair, and staffing difficulties. Many students enrolled in these schools also contend with issues related to immigration and language. The predominant ethnic group in the student population is Hispanic, representing over 72 percent of the enrollment, with African American students making up 12 percent, white students 9 percent, and Asian American students 6 percent. Taken together, Hispanic and African American students perform at significantly lower levels than all other groups-resulting in a major achievement gap that the district is aggressively tackling.
Although some LAUSD schools are showing steady progress (13 Title I schools earned a Title I Achieving Schools Award for having met and sustained their Annual-Yearly-Progress targets for three consecutive years), 106 schools are currently designated as "Program Improvement Schools." SES is an important avenue to help serve the children in these schools.
Given the size of the district and the number of students eligible for SES-164,000 the first year-implementation of the new program has been a tremendous undertaking, involving virtually every district department. The district placed SES within its Beyond the Bell (BTB) department, which managed its existing extended learning program. But to ensure that this important new program did not get lost in the mix, LAUSD appointed a full-time SES manager and an assistant. They oversee all of the information and recordkeeping systems and monitor the communication loop among the students, their parents, the students' classroom teachers, SES providers, and BTB. Managing information has been a major focus: To effectively carry out the massive process of informing parents, the district modified both its information management systems and its student database to include specific fields for SES data. It has also created additional databases to monitor and verify student registrations, parental provider selections, SES facilities information, and provider recordkeeping.
Twenty-six SES providers offer academic assistance to Los Angeles's students, including LAUSD's own Beyond the Bell Learning Centers. Given the extremely large number of eligible students, the district decided to create a "master" contract for each provider, rather than a separate one for every student served; in addition to signing this umbrella contract, providers must complete a learning plan for each student. Providers are also required to document student attendance and to send progress reports to a student's parents and teacher after every 15 hours of service. To notify eligible parents, LAUSD mailed an explanatory letter, along with a provider-selection booklet and an "Official Request Form" in English and Spanish. Upon request, the information was also sent out in one of five other languages. Following a disappointingly low response to that initial mailing, BTB leaders held strategy meetings with principals and Title I coordinators from the program improvement schools and planned a more intensive marketing effort centered on school-to-parent communication. Each school was given an SES supply box containing, among other things, a CD listing all eligible students, mailing labels for each one, extra provider-selection booklets (available in seven languages), and informational flyers in multiple languages to be sent home. Urging parents to take advantage of SES's free tutoring, the provider brochure and one of the district's flyers caution, "Don't throw away your child's future!" Principals and teachers also communicated with eligible parents through meetings, by greeting parents when they brought children to school or picked them up, and by telephoning them.
BTB staff met with a variety of parent groups, including the Title I District Advisory Council (DAC), to encourage participants to spread the word. The DAC, in turn, proposed strategies to connect with parents through community- and faith-based groups. The district also advertised SES in local newspapers, including ethnic language papers, and on radio and television. The superintendent and other district leaders held press conferences, and the Office of Communications published several news releases.
Although actual SES impact on student progress will be determined by evaluating a student's classroom performance and assessment results, Los Angeles keeps track of two other near-term indicators of effectiveness: student attendance and the usefulness and quality of information providers supply to parents and teachers about student progress after every 15 hours of service.