LAUSD chief Michelle King has a plan to improve LA schools. Here are her goals

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One week before Los Angeles Unified schools start the new year, Superintendent Michelle King delivered her second annual “State of the District” address, listing gains in bilingual education and suspension reduction and outlining plans for expanded language programs, teacher training and arts and science programs.

“We are reaching new heights, and we will accelerate our pace towards 100 percent graduation,” King told LAUSD board members and hundreds of school administrators Tuesday at James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles.

King opened her annual address by delineating advances over the past year. Among them:

• The number of school days lost to suspensions has plummeted, King said, from more than 26,000 instructional days lost five years ago to 5,160 days most recently.

• Magnet programs have grown from 169 programs five years ago to 225 programs now, King said.

• This past school year, 3,117 students were proficient in English and a second language, according to a state measurement, King said. That’s almost double the number of students five years ago — 1,650.

• The district’s English-learner reclassification rate has risen to 20 percent, a record, compared with 15.6 percent five years ago, King said. That’s the measure of how many students are becoming more proficient in English.

• King said that last June, 85 percent of graduating seniors met the requirements for what are called “A-G” classes, the college-preparation classes required by University of California and California State schools for admission. Students need to have a “D” or better in these classes to pass them.

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The district had a 77 percent graduation rate in 2016, according to state data released last spring. King said she hopes to see evidence of more progress soon.

“We look forward to continued progress in our graduation rate when the state releases its official numbers in the coming months,” she said.

King’s wide-ranging address mainly was oriented to accomplishments and plans, and she didn’t go into depth about the state of the strained district budget. The school district’s budget experts have predicted colossal deficits. But King did take a swipe early in her 20-minute speech at the amount of public money that goes to the district.


“We also have a per-pupil funding level that is the lowest of any state, one of the lowest, in the nation,” King said.

LAUSD also has been facing steadily declining enrollment, and many see an expansion of programs, such as magnet schools, as the solution. King outlined several such plans, including:

• Spanish-Korean dual-language immersion pilot at 10 early education programs

• Expanding training for restorative justice, an alternative disciplinary approach to address student unruliness, at 359 additional schools

• Increasing training for general education teachers on integrating arts into their classrooms

• Opening new so-called science-oriented STEM and STEAM programs next year

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“We must also prepare them for jobs that do not yet exist,” King said, pointing to the new technology of the Hyperloop being developed by Elon Musk. “For students who want to become Hyperloop designers … we are ensuring that they are college- and career-ready, so that they are prepared to succeed in any workplace in the years ahead.”

King said a “laserlike focus” is needed on schools that fall short.

“This year, we are assisting underperforming schools by providing additional hours in classrooms for new teachers, priority staffing and equitable investment.”

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the union that represents LAUSD teachers, said: “We’re supportive of Michelle King and the direction that she wants to take the district in.”

Caputo-Pearl said he was pleased King touched on a projected teacher shortage.

“Everybody knows, from both the local, state and national research, that a teacher shortage is coming,” he said. “What it means is that we’re going to have to have fair pay and benefits and good teaching and learning … conditions to be able to attract and retain teachers.”

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Kelly Gonez, the new board member representing much of the east San Fernando Valley, said she liked King’s focus on dual language and science education.

“I’m deeply invested in the superintendent’s vision for the district,” Gonez said after King’s speech. “I really strongly believe in dual-language programs. There’s a ton of research behind them, and especially for the students that I serve, many of the students come from immigrant families who already have the access to another language at home. That’s something we should be really investing in.”

Although King didn’t go into detail about the district budget, her comments about expanding specialized programs did address that topic, Gonez said.

As declining enrollment pressures the district budget, she said, “Investing in our programs and making them really competitive and attractive to families, that’s what’s going to bring kids and families back to our schools.”

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