One in nine Los Angeles students will attend extra learning days. What happened?

A $123 million Los Angeles School District plan to help students struggling with pandemic-related learning setbacks by offering extra days of school has not garnered widespread adoption, with about 1 in 9 students enrolling.

The extra study time – two days during the winter break – was created as a backup strategy after the teachers union pressured the school system to scrap a plan that would have made it harder for families to opt out.

A big challenge with the “Acceleration Days”, as the district calls them, is the timing. Officials and principals must persuade the families to come back after winter break begins — likely to an undisclosed campus. The last day of classes is December 16th, a Friday. Acceleration days are the following Monday and Tuesday.

In view of the small number of participants, the district extended the application deadline until Tuesday. But at Tuesday’s board meeting, administrators said there would be no set deadline and last-minute newcomers would not be turned away.

Los Angeles Unified test results have revealed troubling academic deficits in the wake of the pandemic, and county officials have repeatedly urged parents to take advantage of the extra time with teachers, even if it falls during a vacation rather than an extended school year as originally planned.

“We panned,” Supt. said Alberto Carvalho. “It’s the second best option. … will it be perfect? no Do we allow the possibility of perfection to impede our ability to deliver something good? Absolutely not.”

The endeavor is optional for students and school employees — who get paid for the extra work. Additional help would still be welcome, said Andres Chait, head of school operations, in response to questions from the board of education.

In all, more than 45,000 students had enrolled as of Tuesday noon — nearly 11% of the district’s 422,276 students. More than 8,000 district teachers and administrators, as well as more than 6,000 non-teaching employees such as bus drivers, supervisor assistants, canteen workers and janitors have agreed to participate.

“Please send your child to school these two days,” said newly appointed Chief Academic Officer Frances Baez. “It’s definitely a big yes – because it’s structured, healthy and safe. … You will not regret it.”

But for many parents, there were too many questions and doubts.

“Parents have been inundated with texts, emails and phone calls asking if their child would attend those days,” said parent Jenna Schwartz, co-host of the Facebook site Parents Supporting Teachers. “However, no information was ever given as to what those days would be like, where they would be held or who would be providing services. … Many parents mistakenly assume that it will be in their school with their teacher.

“How much money has been spent these days on the push that will probably serve at most 10% of LAUSD students?”

North Hills parent Ariel Harman-Holmes said the program was poorly suited to her special needs children — she sees no benefit in taking them to a new location with different instruction without guaranteeing that elements of their specially approved individual learning plan are followed. like her older son’s goal of mastering handwriting skills.

“If LAUSD thinks this is a way to make up for learning losses, that’s not the way to go,” she said. “And it’s certainly not a path for special education children. It’s like a hospital with people at different levels of triage just putting the same band-aid on everyone’s finger. It makes no sense.”

In central Los Angeles, Third Street Elementary parent Stephanie Hartnett said, “It really came down to whether my son needed childcare and whether we thought he needed those extra two days of tuition.” Answering both questions, she decided, was no. “He’s doing well in school and isn’t behind in any subjects.”

The county’s website has gradually answered more questions.

“There was a lot of communication,” school board member Nick Melvoin said, “but [parents] I don’t really know what those days are like… This was one of our first public presentations, I think, but I hope we’ll continue to share this with parents.”

There were also some fixes in response to concerns. Officials decided to keep special centers open for students with disabilities. And if students have transportation on regular school days, they have transportation on acceleration days, too.

But there is one exception. Some students take the bus to a magnet school and many of these special academic programs are closed. These students have to attend a school in the neighborhood and have to get there without using public transport.

The structure will be very similar to a two-day summer school session. Not all schools will be open, but all students will have access to an assigned campus near their homes, Chait said. Students will likely be with unfamiliar teachers and classmates, although teachers would have access to the test data of individual students on their roster and could adjust their lessons accordingly.

The day is as long as a normal school day, although students are assigned to one of two paths. Those behind the grade level receive small group instruction. Those who do better academically will focus more on enrichment – ​​the district has prepared sample grade level activities for teachers to use.

After-school programs cover at most the same amount of time as during a regular school day, but not all campuses.

A total of 293 schools — from about 1,000 campuses across the district — will be open, including all 100 “priority schools” identified because of poor academic performance or because they are in a community with high levels of poverty, high crime, or other problems.

At Tuesday’s presentation, administrators couldn’t say if the effort was reaching the students most in need of help, although board member Jackie Goldberg later estimated that more than half of those attending would fall into that category.

She noticed an incentive for students who fail in class: They would have the opportunity to do makeup work that could change their grade.

Districtwide, more than half of students are behind in the grade defined by the state as their grade level — and the pandemic has made the situation worse. The one-time COVID-19 relief grant is the funding source for the estimated $123 million cost, which could decrease due to low turnout.

About half of the money was used to pay teachers for training days before the start of the school year, Carvalho said. The rest has been set aside for the acceleration days – the two in December and two more in the first two days of spring break. More recently, more than 600 participating substitute teachers have received special training.

“We have the opportunity and the professional and moral responsibility to do whatever we can to help our students,” Carvalho said. “And that’s one of many strategies we use that we can’t gamble away.”

Officials knew it would be a difficult task to get the students back to school during the holidays. Originally, the additional learning days were planned on Wednesdays – which resulted in a four-day longer school year. The extra days were still optional for students and teachers, but in the middle of a normal school week, they’d probably be easier to attend than avoid.

However, the leadership of United Teachers Los Angeles disagreed, saying the extension of the school year should have been brought to the negotiating table as a proposed change in working conditions. The union challenged the action to state regulators.

Rather than face a legal test and a threatened teacher boycott, the district negotiated the current contingency plan.

Although the union accepted the compromise, its leaders also said the funds would be better spent on strategies including “smaller class sizes, hiring more counselors, psychiatric social workers and school psychologists, and investing in teacher training.”

The district has also invested in these strategies, as well as individual and group tuition—although these efforts have been slow to get off the ground due to staff shortages and incomplete planning. One in nine Los Angeles students will attend extra learning days. What happened?

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