Leveling the Playing Field: A response to the Los Angeles Times

Thursday, February 25, 2016 Written by 
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It is an exciting time in Inglewood and I am thrilled about the potential and much needed investment the new stadium will bring to our community.  While I’m excited to root for the LA Rams, I also believe there is another group of people Inglewood should promote with great pride — our students.  


Inglewood Unified is home to a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and six California Distinguished Schools. I am rooting for our students from Monroe Magnet Middle School who lead in statewide Math, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) competitions and are strong in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) performance. I am rooting for our students at City Honors High School, where they have consistently created high achieving graduates attending colleges such as UCLA, UC Berkeley and USC.  I am rooting for our Law Academy students at Inglewood and Kappa League students at Morningside High schools.  


Right now, you see bulldozers and cranes gracing the grounds of the Hollywood Park site and very soon, our school campuses will push forward with $90 million in Measure GG bond money and $44 million from the Los Angeles World Airports to improve and modernize our schools. When you discover your favorite athlete played at UCLA or CAL, know that students earning degrees at those prestigious colleges once sat in classrooms at Inglewood, Morningside and City Honors High schools. 


However, if you read last week’s Los Angeles Times article entitled, “Can Inglewood’s NFL-Fueled turnaround be a success if its schools are failing?”you would not have known about any of these incredible accomplishments. Instead, the Times concentrated on an overly simplistic narrative that has encouraged private interests to dismantle education for years and failed to recognize the achievement taking place in our schools, the hard work of our teachers, the dedication of our staff, and most importantly, the outcomes of our students.


I am very proud of our city’s recent success in securing a huge boost to our local economy. I believe the stadium will greatly benefit our schools, with resources and opportunities for our students.


But I won’t stand by without setting the record straight about Inglewood Unified School District’s progress. Our schools are on the rise and while there is still more work to do, the new leadership on the school board and our highly qualified state administrator are pushing our district forward. 


I disagree with the assessment made by the Los Angeles Times and here’s why:


Let’s start with the data. While pushing a negative narrative about Inglewood Unified’s performance, the article did not fully explain the recent change in standards. The newly adopted Common Core State Standards have changed the ways in which teachers teach and students test. According to the California Department of Education, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson articulated that “Because 2015 is the first year of the new tests and because they are substantially different from their predecessors… the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) results will serve as a baseline from which to measure future progress and should not be compared to results from the state's previous assessments, the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program”. 


If the data prior to the adoption of the new standard had been relied upon, the article would have found that many of our schools were improving in academic outcomes, not underperforming. Our schools stay in the game each and every time an English Language Learner or child with special needs requires a dedicated and caring adult.  Our teachers and staff go the extra mile when many charter schools will turn them away by the end of the year. Our students and families have faced hard times economically and they push ahead anyway because they understand the opportunities afforded to them through our public schools. Let’s be clear: Inglewood schools, when compared to state averages, perform near and in some cases better than their counterparts. 


I believe it’s convenient to misrepresent data when there is pre-existing bias in reporting. According to the paper itself, “The Times receives funding for its digital initiative, Education Matters…from the Broad Foundation to support this effort.” 


I would argue that there’s a desire to push a more positive narrative for select charter schools. My thought was confirmed when I watched a related video published in the Los Angeles Times just days prior to the publishing of the “Education in Crisis” article.  The video entitled, “Animo Inglewood Charter High School known for its high academic standards” praised the charter school’s achievements. I’m not disputing that Animo is making strides with their students but I have a problem with a publication not providing balanced information about many of the successful activities within Inglewood Unified School District. 


Both the video and article ignore the many programs offered to our students ranging from dual language immersion programs at Parent K-8 to transitional kindergarten and from our Turnaround Arts Initiative at Warren Lane to smaller class sizes.  I’m not surprised that these accomplishments were left out of the story given that the Broad Foundation has created a controversial plan to rapidly expand charter schools in Los Angeles. Bias in the media is not new, but I demand balanced and fair reporting for our schools. Inglewood Unified did not receive a fair review and this adds fuel for those interests who want to dismantle our schools.  


I am proud to have led a campaign where Inglewood voters adopted Measure GG, a 90-million-dollar measure to improve and modernize our schools. Under the leadership of Dr. Vincent Matthews and a new school board, we’ve adopted our facilities plan, hired architects, confirmed our construction management team and have identified projects that give us the best bang for our buck. Further, with the recent awarding of 44 million dollars from Los Angeles World Airports and millions more in emergency repair program funds, our facilities are well on their way to being improved.


Our schools are turning a corner. We have persevered through years of state budget crises, where monies owed to us were held as IOUs and charters worked hard to recruit from our schools, in order to deliver the high quality education each and every child deserves. The article would lead you to think that charter schools offer better opportunities. In reality, children do well in an Inglewood Unified school. I would encourage the LA Times to highlight our district’s successes. I am a proud graduate of Morningside High School and a product of Inglewood Unified and this community.  There are many other alumni that have gone on to do great things and although we still have much work to do, you should know that we’re making great progress and we stand tall as a district of champions.


Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza is the founder and executive director or the Social Justice Learning Institute and an Inglewood School Board Member.  He is a proud graduate of Morningside High School and is an Inglewood native focused on improving conditions for youth and residents.  He holds a Ph.D. in education from UCLA and is actively involved in statewide efforts to improve access to higher education.



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