I see in the daily news that the nation’s second largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, is set to institute a novel program never before accomplished by any other educational institution. Essentially by decree, on December 6th, the Superintendent of Schools, Michelle King, declared in a 17-page memorandum that she will develop a network of systems and measures to insure a 100% graduation rate of all the district’s students. During an interview afterward, she stated that her blueprint for success, as yet unveiled, will “ensure high academic standards,” while it “puts more emphasis on early childhood education and schools with low academic achievement.
Ms. King, with a postgraduate degree in education, is no novice in the schooling business. During her 30-year career she has served as a classroom teacher, principal and chief administrator of secondary instruction in the district. However, despite her status as titular head of the school district, she nonetheless answers to the Los Angeles Board of Education, a seven-member group which is the actual governing body for the schools. Following her announcement, the Board declined to vote its approval of her program. As a reason for their reluctance, it may have been that the plan embodied a vision, but offered no details as to how it might be accomplished.
In case you’re unaware, three-fourths of LA Unified students who, in 2016, took the statewide Common Core-aligned tests for math, and two-thirds who took the tests for English, failed to meet state standards, this according to data released by the California Department of Education. For this reason alone, the possibility they can all be instructed to perform well enough to meet acceptable academic standards for graduation defies logic. The only way 100% graduation is possible is that the school simply delivers a certificate of graduation to everyone, irrespective of performance.
Let me add a final thought: It’s not unusual for persons in prominent positions of one sort or another to propose grandiose projects, emblazoned with impressive titles. which by any rational analysis are pure fantasy. One such program that comes to mind is President George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind.” There’s something about a leadership role that often causes its possessor to embrace the symbolic gesture. It appears Ms. King fits neatly into this category.