Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and its new superintendent, former Miami-Dade boss Alberto Carvalho, recently unveiled their new strategic plan for the next four years, titled “Ready for the World,” which is exactly what all students should be by the time they finish school—but what does that mean, and how can you achieve it in one of the most beleaguered school districts in the nation?
Bearing in mind that LAUSD is the second largest school district in the country, with 575,000 students of whom only 10% are White, the answer, hopefully, is by providing an environment that recognizes the district’s diversity as an asset that can be leveraged to open the minds of every student and inspire them to make the most of the global village in which they will live. According to the plan, its first core belief is that “each student arrives with a unique and diverse range of strengths, skills, and perspectives that we must honor and uplift.” This may sound like a tall order, but there’s nothing wrong with having high expectations, as long as realistic investments and supports are put into place to help achieve such lofty goals.
So far, the process looks promising—to develop the plan, more than 20,000 stakeholders were consulted between February and June 2022 through a variety of listening and learning sessions, including more than 100 face-to-face or virtual meetings with parents and students across grade levels from every local district; employees and labor partners; educational providers; civic partners; local, state, and federally elected officials; business, community, faith-based, and philanthropic partners; and areas of underserved student groups.
The plan is set around four specific goals—literacy, numeracy, college and career readiness, and wellness—but, according to the report, will not only focus on academic achievement and wellness but also on creating the right environment for success, with training in social–emotional learning for community, staff, and district-level employees.
Included is the objective to increase staff recruitment and focus on retention during this national teacher shortage, while ensuring that vacancies at high- and highest-need schools do not exceed 6%. It also prioritizes expanding professional development for current teachers as well as increased training and support for new hires.
Of course, funding, especially when post-pandemic recovery grants run out, will be crucial to the plan’s success, so the district is preparing for the near future when extra COVID-19 relief money is no longer available, according to Carvalho. To counteract a dip in student enrollment, and therefore funding, new dual language programs will be added to the existing 200 in English plus Arabic, Armenian, French, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish.
It remains to be seen how successfully the plan will be implemented, but its creation and its optimism set an example that large urban school districts can and should capitalize on their diversity to provide education suitable for the 21st century.
Daniel Ward, Editor