As a graduate from David Starr Jordan high school and UCLA, I followed with interest Superintendent Austin Beutner’s Address to the UC Regents at Mann UCLA Community School on September 17th. While it was encouraging to hear about the progress being made in graduation rates, increased achievement on state test results and greater college preparedness, the Superintendent expressed concern at the lack of opportunity many students of color still face in getting into the UC system. He commented, “Latino and African American students represent 54 and 6 percent of students in California, yet the freshman newly enrolled in 2018 at UCLA enrolled just 24 and 4 percent, respectively. In LA Unified’s graduating Class of 2018, 2,763 African American students graduated, and of these, only 62 students went to UCLA.”
It can be difficult to be a class group where there are so few faces that look like your own. As a freshman, I felt overwhelmed and often wondered why there were so few people of color roaming in the hallways. I knew plenty of talented, intelligent, hardworking students who crumpled at the sight of the rejection letters from the UC system, and I often wondered what needed to happen for that to change. And thankfully, the superintendent had some answers and suggestions for that. For example, “Last year, for the first time, we provided the opportunity for all high school juniors to take the SAT during the school day – almost doubling the number of students taking a college placement test from 44% to 80%.”
However, what truly piqued my interest about Superintendent Austin Beutner’s address were his ideas on where we need to go from here. Specifically, Superintendent Beutner spoke of four areas of additional opportunity.
1. Better information sharing between the UC and K-12 systems in California. Currently, Los Angeles Unified does not know how students from Los Angeles Unified do once enrolled at a UC school. This information can help better prepare Los Angeles Unified students for success in the UC system.
2. Increase in collaborative efforts like the UCLA – Los Angeles Unified effort at Horace Mann UCLA Community School to train and develop teachers.
3. A Primary Promise. California needs to consider implementing universal preschool. Research shows how this will help students to become proficient readers by 3rd grade.
4. Adequate funding of K-12 education. A generation ago, while the UC system was being built as a leader for the nation, California led in student achievement and in funding for the K-12 system. That is no longer the case.
We need to do better not for our sake, but in order for our friends, sisters, brothers, colleagues to experience diversity and no longer feel the way I used to when I first arrived at UCLA. I truly hope Superintendent Beutner’s ideas are implemented.
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