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Best education articles of 2023: Our 9 most shared stories about LA students & schools

LA School Report | December 19, 2023

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2023 continued to be a tumultuous time for the nation’s second largest school district, as enrollment, transportation and other issues continued to disrupt Los Angeles Unified post-pandemic.

The year began with a heated battle at LAUSD for special needs services, with parents and advocates slamming the district’s regressive rollout plan. 

LA School Report also talked to parents, teachers and students as Los Angeles district schools saw declining enrollment and growing chronic absenteeism.

Over the past 12 months, our readers learned more about the state of the district through in-depth interviews with accomplished educators.

As Los Angeles schools experienced an eventful 2023, here are our top stories for the year:

Isaiah Gardner holds a certificate he earned for “Most improved in History” in 2021. (invincible_isaiah_/Instagram)

Services denied: LAUSD parents and advocates slam weak rollout of plan for students with disabilities – January 10

Special Needs: Los Angeles parent Clenisha Cargin routinely made a round of phone calls to LAUSD school officials trying to get help for her son. Legally entitled to speech therapy and an aide, her son hadn’t gotten these services. Under an April 2022 agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, LAUSD must assess whether Cargin’s son and each of the roughly 66,000 LAUSD students with disabilities are eligible for “compensatory education” to make up for services many were illegally denied during remote schooling. In January, parents and advocates told LA School Report the plan’s rollout has been uneven and confusing. Will Callan reports.

Bridgette Donald-Blue/Facebook

Coliseum Street Elementary teacher named 2023 California Teacher of the Year – April 18

Q&A: Bridgette Donald-Blue, one of California’s Teachers of the Year, has been an educator for over 30 years. After graduating from Howard University and joining Teach for America, she thought she would go on to law school, but found herself falling in love with teaching. She’s not only proud of what the award says about her life’s passion, but her school too. Read Cari Spencer’s full interview.

The colorful mural was brought to life by local artist Robert ‘Dytch66’ Gomez of Blank Canvas LA. (Photo by Attain Design & Marketing)

LAUSD magnet school establishes new identity through inspiring mural – August 8

Los Angeles: Valley Oaks Center for Enriched Studies opened in the midst of the pandemic on an old campus in the Sun Valley area. In an effort to foster a more welcoming environment and establish the school’s presence in the community, VOCES unveiled a new mural to inspire students to pursue their dreams through a variety of programs and resources. In August, Principal Ivania Holodnak shared with LA School Report the importance of the mural and what it meant for the film and television focused school. Bryan Sarabia had the story.

Enrollment continues to decline in LAUSD, a trend many large public school districts are also experiencing – September 12

Enrollment: Between the harsh winds of a hurricane and the hectic second week of school, LAUSD officials were hoping for one thing this school year — higher enrollment. Declining enrollment has been a trend that extends from San Diego to Chicago to New York City, and can spell big financial trouble for school districts. Nova Blanco-Rico and Balin Schneider took a closer look at the numbers.

Four-year-olds have class at 135 Street Elementary School where they have the newly implemented Universal Transitional Kindergarten. (Charles Hastings)

As the new school year begins, hopes are high for LAUSD pre-K for four-year-olds – September 26

Pre-Kindergarten: With the post-pandemic effects on learning now fully realized, LAUSD put its faith in a new universal transitional kindergarten program for 4-year-olds, attracting thousands of young learners to the system. But was it enough to address what’s really at stake for young learners in the future? Charles Hastings had the story.

LAUSD school bus GPS tracking a great idea but not always accurate, parents and drivers say – October 3

Transportation: LAUSD launched a new GPS feature this spring for parents to track children’s school bus routes, in hopes of sharing real-time updates — but there have been glitches. In October, parents and bus drivers told LA School Report the inaccuracies caused confusion. Corinne Smith took a deeper look at the issue.

Carvalho visited Daisy Morales’s home whose four children had been chronically absent from their LAUSD schools. (Erick Trevino)

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho visits homes of chronically absent students – October 24

Chronic Absenteeism: With a high rate of chronically absent students, LAUSD superintendent Alberto Carvalho visited families struggling with the problem during the district’s fifth iAttend event. “They don’t like to catch the bus in the morning because of their anxiety,” said Daisy Morales, a mother of four whose kids averaged 64 absences. In October, Morales told LA School Report how she struggled to get her kids to school after they missed the bus, but after the district intervened, began attending classes more regularly. Here’s what they told Erick Trevino.

Courtesy of the office of Nick Melvoin

Q&A: LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin talks about his Congressional run – November 7

Q&A: Nick Melvoin has accomplished much in his 38 years of public service. Now he is one of 16 candidates running in the March 4, 2024, to represent California’s 30th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. “There are a few things that set me apart, one is my age … and I think it is important for the next generation to take the helm,” Melvoin told LA School Report. “I think we are more inclined to work together to solve problems because we have seen the consequences of the failure to solve problems.” Read Katie VanArnam’s full interview.

LAUSD board president Jackie Goldberg (left) and board member Rocio Rivas questioned district officials about new charter school policies at a meeting last Tuesday. (Ben Chapman)

The fight over charters in LAUSD school buildings: What’s really happening – November 13

Charter Schools: LAUSD superintendent Alberto Carvalho is on the verge of issuing a new policy that could ban charters from nearly half the district’s school buildings. But experts told LA School Report the fight is really about dwindling enrollment and the budget challenges facing the city. “If the district passes a policy that makes it more difficult to operate for charter schools…That’s good for the district,” said Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor of education at the University of Southern California. Ben Chapman reports.

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