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LAUSD Superintendent launches big tutoring expansion and evening buses for kids

Thousands of LAUSD students donned rain boots and held umbrellas to attend the first day of spring semester on Monday, Jan. 9, and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho wasted no time in announcing two new efforts to help address severe student learning loss during the pandemic.

For the first time ever, Los Angeles Unified School District will begin offering tutoring during the school day and expanded bus service for students who are tutored after school, Carvalho said at a press conference at Gulf Avenue Elementary School in Wilmington.

Tutoring during daytime hours will be offered at specific schools across the sprawling district, while the evening bus service will begin at the Young Empowered Scholars Academy in Hyde Park this week — with a goal of expanding it to about 100 schools in coming weeks.

Both new programs seek to break down barriers children face in accessing the tutoring they need and to make sure that the district’s highest need students are receiving targeted learning support.

In LAUSD, that need is huge.

Data from standardized testing revealed that LAUSD’s students lost approximately 5 years of learning progress in math and English during the pandemic.

Those hurt the most by remote learning during COVID-19 were students living in poverty, Latino students and English language learners, LAUSD reported. Test scores from the 2021 to 2022 school year also showed that  after multiple semesters of remote learning about 80% of Black students were not up to standards in math, LAUSD Board Member Tanya Ortiz Franklin has said.

Karla Estrada, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction,
Los Angeles Unified School District, speaks to the media during a press conference on the first day of the Spring semester, from Gulf Avenue Elementary in Wilmington on Monday, January 9, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Fourth grader, Steven Lopez shares his Winter session learning experience with the media during a press conference on the first day of the Spring semester, from Gulf Avenue Elementary in Wilmington on Monday, January 9, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho speaks to the media during a press conference on the first day of the Spring semester, from Gulf Avenue Elementary in Wilmington on Monday, January 9, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho visits fourth grade students on the first day of the Spring semester, at Gulf Avenue Elementary in Wilmington on Monday, January 9, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

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Carvalho has set an ambitious goal to make up for that loss among children in just two academic years. The new bus and tutoring programs are the latest part of his strategy to do so.

“We recognize that with darkness coming in earlier during the winter days of school, if we want kids to take advantage of tutoring services we ought to be smarter about the way we deliver,” Carvalho said. Tutoring “provided during the ‘time between bells’” — meaning during normal classroom time — “ensures that you have a captive audience, so you’re able to address the needs of more students,” he said.

The school day sessions will pull small groups of students out of class for 30 minutes of targeted tutoring at a time, Carvalho said. The daytime tutoring will be in addition to existing after school and weekend tutoring programs.

The evening bus service will allow students to participate in after school tutoring programs without worrying about how they will get home safely in the dark, with many parents unable to pick them up because they are still at work.

“We will do the equivalent of concierge service, meaning door-to-door delivery. We have coordinated these bus routes to provide an opportunity for students, who are bused or not bused, and are afraid to take advantage of this additional service,” Carvalho said, referring to after school tutoring.

The evening buses will offer two new pickup times, between 4:45 p.m. and 6 p.m., for students who stay after to participate in tutoring. The district aims to roll out the program at 100 schools in the coming weeks with a focus on schools with the greatest need. Information on the new bus schedules will be provided by individual schools.

Another cornerstone of Carvalho’s strategy to bring kids up in reading and math who fell far behind during the pandemic are  bonus school days, known as “acceleration days,” tacked on to each semester. He hopes these four voluntary extra school days, which kids can attend or not, provide academic enrichment targeted at highest need students — but open to all students across the district.

The first two acceleration days were held on Dec. 19 and 20, and two more are set for the start of spring break on April 3 and 4.

Around 60,000 students attended the first acceleration day on Dec. 19, but that number dropped off “dramatically” to around 44,000 students on Dec. 20, Carvalho said.

He was not deterred, calling the drop-off rate “very typical in these types of additional supplemental offerings.”

“The fact that we got dozens of thousands of students here is by itself a success,” Carvalho said. “The second success story, and we’re still going through the data, is that the right kids actually showed up, the kids who needed it the most.”

Carvalho also noted that this acceleration day schedule was his second choice plan.

Initially, he sought to embed the days into four Wednesdays across the school year, not during their vacation breaks. But he got strong pushback from United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing district teachers. UTLA alleged that the days were added to the schedule without proper labor negotiations and threatened to strike during the first planned acceleration day on Oct. 19, 2022.

The LAUSD Board of Education signed off on a compromise with UTLA in October 2022 that shifted the acceleration days to winter and spring breaks and clarified that teachers who opted in to acceleration days would be paid at their normal per diem rate.

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At Monday’s press conference, Carvalho also brought attention to the labor contract negotiations underway for teachers and support staff and reiterated that he is committed to salary increases.

“We need to provide adequate compensation that addresses the critical challenges facing anyone in this community – affordable housing and the cost of living – so minimum, we need to do an increase that’s parallel to the inflation level and higher if we can, and I believe we can.”

UTLA, for its part, is seeking a 20% raise for all teachers over two years. According to a bargaining update posted by UTLA, the district’s latest offer is an 8% increase over two years.

SIEU Local 99, the union representing about 30,000 non-teaching staff including bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers, is also seeking raises. In a December bargaining update, Local 99 declared that negotiations were at “an impasse,” saying that the district’s proposal for a 5% increase in the 2022-2023 school year is not enough.

Carvalho, for his part, remained optimistic about the negotiations and said the district has “more to put on the table,” so long as the table is populated with “people willing to negotiate.”

“We enter this year full of hope for our students,” Carvalho said in concluding his speech to launch the new semester. “(And) full of hope for our workforce members and our entire community.”

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