U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today announced the successful resolution of the first proactive civil rights enforcement action taken by the Department of Education under the Obama Administration..
"Today's agreement will go a long way toward ensuring that Los Angeles' English Learner and African-American students are performing to their fullest potential," Duncan said. "The remedies it contains are intended to address some challenges unique to Los Angeles and others that we are seeing play out in many different places across the country. But the process that got us here, the cooperation, the commitment to crafting effective solutions, and the fundamental agreement that every student deserves an equal shot at a world-class education is a model that I hope to see repeated again and again."
Secretary Duncan was joined by John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali to announce the Voluntary Resolution Agreement between LAUSD and the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
"There is a no greater challenge facing the LAUSD than to dramatically improve the academic performance and graduation rates of English Learner and African-American students," Deasy said. "While the District has made considerable progress in this regard, success for every student remains to be delivered. The proposals offered by the Department of Education's Civil Rights Division are a welcome and promising addition to efforts already undertaken."
The voluntary agreement concludes an OCR investigation launched in March 2010 that focused on the educational opportunities of LAUSD's English Learners and comparability of resources for African-American students.
"The achievement gap is the civil rights issue of our time, which is why everything we do at LAUSD and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools is geared toward protecting every child's right to learn and to prepare for life," Villaraigosa said. "We can – and must – do better, and this agreement between the Department of Education and LAUSD is another step in the right direction toward ensuring that English Learners and African-American students have equal access to the resources they need to graduate high school and get a solid footing on the economic ladder."
Under the agreement, the District will revamp its entire program for English Learners and accelerate its efforts focused on closing the achievement and opportunity gap for African-American students. The District will also increase its focus on college- and career-ready curricula and programs, and ensure access to needed supports, including effective teachers, to accelerate student progress.
"President Obama often says that the story of the civil rights movement was written in our nation's schools, and that story is defined by the kind of bold, transformative efforts that we're all so proud to announce here today," Ali said. "I want to sincerely thank Superintendent Deasy, his team and the city of Los Angeles for their help in confronting tough issues, working to craft honest solutions and ultimately helping to author this latest chapter in a story we are all committed to seeing fulfill its promise."
For English Learner students, the District will revamp in almost its entirety, the ELL program. LAUSD will:
- Develop and implement a new English Learner Master Plan, monitor program implementation carefully, and evaluate its success for EL students and their teachers.
- The resolution has a special focus on secondary PRP students (those Preparing for Reclassification) who have completed the ELL program but who have not been deemed proficient and heretofore have not had their specific needs addressed.
- Do meaningful professional development geared specifically at strengthening the delivery of instruction to EL students.
- Communicate with EL parents in a way that enables them to understand the District's EL program and their children's academic progress.
- Ensure EL students and their parents access the District's college and career ready curriculum and have the information they need to prepare for success in postsecondary education and careers.
For African-American students, the District will:
- Expand access to the full range of educational resources they need to learn. Examples include technology, library materials, and access to gifted and talented programs.
- Develop a plan to enhance the capacity of teachers to address the needs of African-American students.
- Ensure African-American students are more fairly evaluated and placed in gifted and talented programs.
- Take steps to report disparate discipline rates, and eliminate inequitable and disproportionate discipline practices.
- Renew its focus on identifying the academic English needs of African-American students and ensuring that they have the instructional supports necessary so that they graduate college and career ready.
- Implement a first-of-its-kind pilot project for a community school in a predominantly African-American neighborhood that will provide wrap-around health and social services and become a sustainable and replicable model for promoting African-American student success.
- Provide parents and students with information and support so that students can prepare for success in postsecondary education and careers.
OCR will monitor this agreement until such time as it determines the District has fulfilled the terms of this agreement and is in compliance with Title VI and the regulation implementing Title VI, at 34 C.F.R. part 100, that were at issue in this case.