Some people blame charters for “taking” LAUSD students, but as a mom who commuted to Downey Unified schools, their new record of 96% graduation rate proved me, and countless other parents who leave LAUSD to neighboring school districts, right. We just want excellent public schools and are willing to do whatever to have access to them. Last week, Downey Unified School District (DUSD) and their Superintendent Dr. John Garcia hit a new record of 96 percent in graduation rates this year and decreased dropout rates from 4.1 percent to 2.2! These are HUGE achievements that should be widely recognized.
A recent article in the The Downey Patriot reported the accomplishment and compared LAUSD, the largest school district in Los Angeles County, second to last with a 72% graduation rate.
I lived in the LAUSD service area when my daughter began preschool. I didn’t want her to experience the kind of failing and severely overcrowded schools I attended.
We commuted to Downey every single day for 10 years.
Let that sit. Every single day. For ten years.
I escaped our failing schools because I desperately wanted better schools for my daughter. I wonder how many other families are still doing the commute now.
Twelve years ago I did not know how schools were rated or what the graduations rates were. All I knew was how I felt on the Downey Unified School campuses. I felt welcomed. There was this sense of unity among parents and teachers. I can’t say it was perfect but parent voices were heard and this was important to me.
Although I chose to move my daughter to an all-girl Catholic school for high school, I know that DUSD has much to teach LAUSD.
Downey Unified has figured a few things out:
- They engage parents, with respect: Parents are seen as partners and respected.
- The middle schools are great. They are small enough to make sure that students aren’t falling through the cracks.
- They have consistent messaging for children. They have a great approach that follows children from elementary school to middle school called “character counts.” These pillars are about the importance of character building, good citizenship and succeeding in school.
- High School students are encouraged. Students are informed and encouraged to participate in community programs such as tutoring at elementary schools. Students become role models to younger children and also explore a career path in education.
- They create an environment where all students have real access to A-G coursework.
This district is a very high performing school district which neighbors LAUSD and it has many of the same demographics of students and yet, they have dramatically different results.
LAUSD needs to take note. Learn from Downey Unified and implement those changes within LAUSD so that many of the families who are fleeing LAUSD can come back. We want excellent schools in our own communities. Our kids deserve them. Where is the urgency?
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