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Carvalho wants 30 LAUSD high schools to offer online college courses in fall

Cari Spencer | June 6, 2023

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A classroom with about 15 students wearing masks and working on laptops

Ed Equity Lab students at All City Leadership Secondary School in Brooklyn, New York (Michael Quinones)

L.A. Unified Superintendent Alberto Carvalho wants to dramatically increase the number of high schools offering prestigious online college courses for the fall to boost enrollment and increase pathways to college — but so far the goal is elusive.

In an interview with LA School Report in early May, Carvalho said he was confident 30 schools will offer classes in partnership with the National Education Equity Lab — a not-for-profit program that brings remote classes taught by professors and facilitated by high school teachers to low-income schools across the country.

As of last week, 15 LAUSD high schools had signed up, according to officials at the National Education Equity Lab. But an LAUSD spokesperson said just 10 schools are registered to offer the classes.

“Now that we have an established footprint, we can rapidly scale up,” Carvalho said early last month. “And I see no problem with actually reaching that goal … considering the needs and demands so far, [the] goal of 30 is a very tangible goal and aligned with our strategic plan goals that are rapidly expansive, high-level choice opportunities for students.”

When Carvalho first arrived in 2022, seven schools offered National Education Equity Lab courses, he said. This past semester, classes were offered at nine schools, said John Dixon, the National Education Equity Lab’s senior director of high school partnerships.

High schools have until the end of June to sign up to offer the classes, said Dixon.

Last year, Carvalho said he planned to “forcefully” expand the district’s partnership with the National Education Equity Lab. At the time, he lauded the partnership as a way to bring families back into L.A. Unified and boost enrollment. For the 2022-2023 school year, enrollment dipped by nearly 2% — a continued decline from recent years but not as bad as the 4.1% drop that was projected.

Carvalho told LA School Report he sees the partnership as a way to guarantee students have increased graduation rates, opportunities for academic enrichment and post-secondary success.

“National Education Equity Lab provides just that,” he said. “Our students really have an opportunity to catapult ahead through meaningful, high-level, rigorous coursework. It also allows them to experience and visualize what their post-secondary careers can be through college instructors through the support of Los Angeles Unified staff.”

At the Miami-Dade County school district, Carvalho doubled the number of schools in partnership with the National Education Equity Lab from 11 high schools to more than 20.

LAUSD’s partnership with the not-for-profit began in 2019, but was formalized last November with a contract that will expire in 2025. Five different courses were offered through the partnership last year including “Introduction to Computer Science” through Stanford University, “Map of the Modern World” through Georgetown University and “Introduction to Microeconomics” through Barnard College.

Earlier this year, the National Education Equity Lab announced a partnership with the University of California system.

Now that the contract is in place, there is a formal process for incorporating National Education Equity Lab courses into school schedules for students to choose from and receive high school and college credit, according to Dixon.

Prior to the contract, there had been issues with classes not being offered in some master course lists or during the school day, leading to the most motivated students signing up and some teachers being the ones to select their own students.

Last year, LAUSD and National Education Equity Lab officials promised that all partnership classes in the 2022-2023 would be held during the school day in order to be accessible to all students. However, at Santee High School courses remain outside of school hours, according to Dixon.

“The expectation at the lab is that 100% of our schools are going to offer the courses during the school day,” Dixon said. “Depending on if there are some challenges with teacher capacity or teacher shortages, there are times when we might have to make an exception … that was the case for Santee, but we are working with the district and with the school to ensure that all of our schools in LA are running the courses during the school day.”

Carvalho said the early scheduling kink, which was partially there because of time zone differences, has been worked through.

“We were able to iron out those challenges and we have not had a challenge since then,” he said.

Dixon said that one of the major obstacles the district and National Education Equity Lab have had to work through is ensuring that university timelines for approving courses align with when students need to select courses and enroll. Carvalho said the district’s ability to scale up the program is limited only by the slots available from partnered universities, but he hopes it becomes a major facet of the district’s strategic plan.

“It is ultimately our goal to ensure that every single high school students in every single high school has an opportunity to enroll in high level, rigorous coursework that allows them to graduate on time but also simultaneously earn college credit — whether that is through dual enrollment programs here locally, through Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or the National Education Equity Lab offerings,” he said.

Earlier this year, an LAUSD senior enrolled in a Stanford computer science course through the National Education Equity Lab earned the highest score in the nation and received college credit she will use in her plans to enroll in a university next fall.

“At the end of the day, what this comes down to is really helping our scholars see themselves and the opportunities that they have available to them and expanding what they know to be possible for themselves, for others within their communities,” said Ariel Murphy Bedford, the chief academic and impact officer at the National Education Equity Lab. “Ninety-nine percent of our teachers who we’ve surveyed have mentioned that offerings have prepared their students to be ready for college level work.”

This article is part of a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.

Cari Spencer is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California, originally from the suburbs of Minneapolis. She studied journalism and sociology.

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