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LA parent voice: How can my kids be honor roll students and still not read or do math at grade level?

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | May 30, 2018

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Every week, we sit down with Los Angeles parents to talk about their students, their schools, and what questions or suggestions they have for their school district. (See our previous interviews.)

Lluvia Saenz, whose three kids attend LA Unified’s Huntington Park Elementary, made sure she was in the district’s school board auditorium when the new superintendent, Austin Beutner, was announced. She wanted Beutner and the board members to hear directly from her why teachers need to be better trained to prepare students for state tests.

Her kids all receive what the school calls “achievement diplomas,” meaning their teachers chose them as top students in their class for outstanding academic achievement. But Saenz knows her kids are not meeting grade-level standards on their state tests.

“It’s no use if my kids are on the school’s honor roll if they are not proficient in reading and math. I feel like the school is taking advantage of me by making me believe my kids are learning, but the state evaluations show otherwise,” Saenz said in Spanish.

Last year’s test results on the state exams that students take in May — known as Smarter Balanced tests or CAASPP — showed that less than half — 40 percent — of LA Unified students met or exceeded standards in English language arts. Only 30 percent did so in math.

Huntington Park Elementary’s test scores were even lower, below both LA Unified and state averages. Only 24 percent of the students in the third-, fourth-, and fifth-grades met or exceeded standards in English language arts; 29 percent did in math.

“In this district, it is rare that a school has the majority of their students getting proficiency levels in the SBAC tests. The kids are getting really low scores in these tests,” said Saenz, who is part of the English Learner Advisory Committee at the school and for the local district.

What do you believe are the main challenges LA Unified faces in getting kids to grade-level standards?

The LAUSD is not prepared to deal with so many students. They don’t have enough personnel to train teachers to work effectively with that many students. The district is not investing enough in training teachers to prepare the students so they can meet academic standards. If they don’t have well-trained teachers, we cannot expect they will properly prepare the students to do well on these tests.

Why do you think teachers are not getting that training or support?

I think the district is not giving enough funds for teachers to get more professional development. If a teacher doesn’t have good training, he cannot provide his students with the tools they need to learn according to the standards.

What’s your overall experience at your kids’ school?

I can’t say my children are doing poorly in school, because they’re honor roll students. But the problem is that I can’t trust the grades they receive from their teachers when I see the SBAC results, and the scores they get show me that they are not proficient. I know that they are not reading proficiently, so I can’t trust the grades they get in school.

What are you hoping the new superintendent will do?

I would like him to follow the goal that Vivian Ekchian and Michelle King set for parents to be really involved in our schools. Ekchian let us set up groups to monitor our students’ academic progress and took our concerns into consideration. I really hope this new superintendent understands that we want to be directly involved in our kids’ education and that he values our input.

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