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‘There’s no timeline for accountability’: LA parents tell state board the lowest-performing schools need to be improved now

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | July 12, 2017

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Sixth-grade student Semaias Muralles from South LA addresses the state board’s ESSA meeting on Wednesday in Sacramento.

Los Angeles parents traveled to Sacramento Wednesday in hopes of making sure their children’s interests will be reflected in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan, which must be finalized and submitted to the federal government by Sept. 18.

A mother from Compton, Esther Covarrubias, was one of a handful of parents who are members of the Parent Power Network in LA who addressed the state Board of Education. “The state needs to design a plan that truly improves the lowest-performing schools such as the ones I attended when I was 12 years old and I was an ESL student who failed because of the old system,” she said during public comment.

She also urged the board to ensure that the plan can improve schools in poor and minority areas such as South and East LA and Compton — not in three or five years, but now.

“I agree with the plan, but I still feel that they are not presenting improvement plans as urgent, particularly in the lowest-performing schools. There’s no timeline for accountability as well as a plan to assign more funds to those schools,” Covarrubias said.

The California Department of Education at Wednesday’s meeting presented its revisions to the state’s plan based on feedback received from more than 450 survey responses and 700 pages of comments from Californians who participated in the 14 meetings held for the public across the state, in webinars, and in web polls.

• Read more: Accountability and school improvement are top concerns as Angelenos give input on California’s ESSA plan

Some of the revisions were made to include more explicit language on how to have a single integrated accountability system for all school districts, what would be the purpose of assessments, and whether students would take both the California Standardized and Smarter Balanced assessments to measure their level of learning.

Another revision brought to the board concerned the identification of the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title I schools, which are schools with a majority of students coming from low-income families.

“298 schools is what makes up currently of Title I. Now, this will change slightly next year when we release the new dashboard in the fall. By then we’ll have a new count,” said an administrator from the CDE, who also explained that California will get 10 percent to 13 percent of the $400 million of federal funding to be distributed nationally for Title I in fiscal year 2017.

“We want to make sure the state stops making promises of helping our schools and not doing any of what is written on paper. We haven’t seen any improvements with previous plans, so this time we want to see those changes,” said Fidelia Muralles, one of the parents who spoke to the board.

Her son, Semaias Muralles, a sixth-grade student at a charter school in South LA, also spoke at the meeting to ask the board members to put themselves “in his shoes.”

“There needs to be a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C to make sure schools get better. Too many students like me are doing their part. Now we need you to do your part and help us,” he said. He previously attended 20th Street Elementary, an LA Unified school where parents used the state’s “parent trigger” law under the Parent Empowerment Act to demand improvements. As a result, this year it was integrated into the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

California has to submit its ESSA plan to the U.S. Department of Education in order to receive about $80 billion in federal funding. Some states have already submitted their plans. The deadline for all states is Sept. 18.

• Exclusive: New interactive map shows state progress in finalizing ESSA plans

“Most Californians have approved this plan. We heard feedback from stakeholders, and this plan reflects that,” said Barbara Murchison, who has been collecting the ESSA input from throughout the state since April.

The California State Board members submitted two motions for additional revisions in the Title I and accountability sections and to allow more feedback from stakeholders when a memorandum of the final plan is released in August.

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