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Commentary reactions: Take responsibility for getting every student career- and college-ready

Guest Contributors | June 9, 2017

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Evelyn Aleman Macias, left, and Michele Siqueiros.

These two responses are to a commentary posted Wednesday by David Tokofsky:

Response by Evelyn Aleman Macias

“Is it realistic to expect that the kids who would have been dropouts in years past will all be getting Cs or better in college preparatory courses?” is the line that stood out for me when I read David Tokofsky’s recent commentary in LA School Report. I’d just come from a parent engagement meeting where public school officials challenged parents and staff to help children achieve beyond all expectations – and beyond those who believed they could not achieve. I took this message to heart and felt inspired by the challenge laid out by these thoughtful education leaders.

Yet, here were Mr. Tokofsky’s words speaking to the contrary. The language simply didn’t resonate with the “all-hands-on-deck” effort and 100 percent graduation goal that Superintendent King has set us on the path for, but rather upheld outdated perceptions of student potential in communities of color.

His commentary seemed somewhat of a response to my earlier piece, in which I reference the LA School Board’s 2015 decision to lower student requirements for college preparatory coursework completion from a C grade to a D, thereby making kids whose desire is to pursue a college degree ineligible for CSUs and UCs. In his piece, Mr. Tokofsky goes on to say that “only the top nine percent of a graduating class can matriculate to a UC, and CSUs only admit the top 30 percent of in-state graduates. It is the California university system that requires students to get a C or better in their A-G required course.”

But Mr. Tokofsky is missing the point of what parents, students, grassroots organizations, community and other prominent civic leaders have tried to achieve through their efforts – what he refers to as bullhorn campaigns – which is to ensure that our children receive the quality education they deserve, so that if they so desire they can attend college. There’s nothing “knee-jerk” about this or the A-G Resolution for All, passed in 2005 and supported by Mr. Tokofsky, which was a result of years of advocacy work in mostly low-income communities aimed at breaking long-standing institutional practices that prevented large populations of students of color from achieving the college dream.

Further, Mr. Tokofsky’s message absolving the school board from all responsibility for creating a policy that could hinder or “affect whether struggling high school seniors would get accepted to college” is quite frankly reprehensible and language that, as a parent, I’m all too familiar with. So, I ask, why do we elect school board members if not to support all students – including those who are struggling – find a pathway to college or a career?

Board members are elected to create policies that ensure our kids are on track to graduate and are able to participate in the workforce, before or after college. This means passing the A-G college prep courses with a C grade or better. As a parent, I’d like to see a board that – rather than focus and place emphasis on a diploma – commits to graduating capable students, who have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college, or a career. I also hope that our administrators and principals share in this vision.

Lastly, by intimating that my commentary is not a “credible” source of information, Mr. Tokofsky is trying to achieve what policymakers often do to parents and students who speak out of place or beyond their allotted time and space, which is to silence them. I am not deterred. Our board must move away from “finger-in-the-air” policymaking and have the courage to set and support policy – like A-G College Access for All – that may not be popular but will meet the needs of our children, first.

Evelyn Aleman Macias has two teenagers in LA public schools and is a parent- and student-voice advocate.

Response by Michele Siqueiros

David argues that it is “a costly fantasy for all our children to go to college.” I’d like to know if that’s what he told his own children? Or maybe the private school he sent them to told them?

David’s name calling (“bullhorn activists”) will not stop us from having high expectations for all our children — regardless of the color of their skin, their ZIP code or how much money is in their parents’ bank accounts.

Perhaps David, a former history teacher, needs a quick history lesson. Thankfully we can credit “bullhorn activism” for ending slavery, giving women the right to vote, passing civil rights laws, reforming the LAPD, and most recently preventing President Trump’s Muslim ban from taking effect. Knowing this history is also why all LAUSD students deserve to meet the high expectation of a passing grade in history class. 

Michele Siqueiros is president of the Campaign for College Opportunity and board chair of the Alliance for a Better Community. She has two children, one of whom is currently attending an LAUSD high school.


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