A report by the Oakland-based Education Trust–West organization documenting the educational status of African-American youth in Los Angeles County has painted a dismal picture of the college readiness and college completion prospects for a cohort that makes up one-third of all Black K-12 students in California.
Among the findings in At a Crossroads: A Comprehensive Picture of How African-American Youth Fare in Los Angeles County Schools, African-American students are much less likely to take the rigorous college prep courses required for admission to California public universities. Released last week, the study, which overall revealed mostly poor outcomes for its subjects, predicts that just one of every 20 African-American kindergartners will graduate from a four-year university if current conditions fail to improve.
The report amasses data on academic achievement, suspensions and the psychological conditions of 135,000 Black students in 81 public school districts in LA County. In addition, the report analyzes special education identification rates and health and wellness data collected in the California Healthy Kids Survey. It also pinpoints data in a number of school districts where Black students are faring well on certain outcomes, including academic performance, graduation rates, suspension rates and health and wellness indicators.
“This report reveals that the vast majority of these students are not receiving the opportunities they need to succeed and to ultimately achieve their college and career dreams,” Education Trust-West analyst and report author Lindsey Stuart said in a statement.
The report indicates that over the past decade, the overall African-American student population has declined in the county and in many school districts. Relying on student achievement data, the report locates insistent gaps in math and English language arts at both the elementary and secondary levels. The report also shows that high school graduation rates lag across the board, particularly for Black males.
Arun Ramanathan, the Education Trust-West executive director, told The Los Angeles Times that California essentially operates “a school-to-prison pipeline” for African-American students, in which “they are more likely to go to prison than college.”
“We need to forcibly intervene as a California community to prevent this from continuing,” he said.
Ramanathan told Diverse that the report represents the latest in a series of efforts in California by community organizations and public officials to bring about interventions to reverse the social and economic conditions that are trapping “boys and men of color” in dead-end and unproductive lives. As a California-based education advocacy organization, the Education Trust–West works to close gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and low-income students in the state.
“What’s happening right now, at least in California, is that there is an increasingly powerful conversation about issues for boys and men of color. We’ve had, both in Oakland, which is where we’re based, and in the state legislature, [conversations resulting in] two separate reports and two separate commissions focusing on boys and men of color,” Ramanathan said.
The California Community Foundation, which is based in Los Angeles, “has its own boys and men’s initiative” and got the Education Trust-West organization to take a look at Black youth in LA county, according to Ramanathan. “We didn’t focus solely on boys and men of color; we focused on African-American youth overall. We did disaggregate data by sex as part of the report,” he explained.
Dr. Lawson Bush, professor of urban educational leadership at California State University, Los Angeles, praised the report. “Any attention that can be paid directly to the status or outcomes regarding African-American students, should be applauded, and we need more of it. Where it goes from there is another thing, but at least they’ve done the thorough job of getting that information out,” he said.
For Sydney Kamlager, the district deputy director for Assemblywoman Holly J. Mitchell (D-Culver City), the Education Trust-West report did not present any information that was unknown to people in Los Angeles county. Kamlager participated in a public panel discussion last week in Los Angeles that marked the report’s release.
“I don’t think that anyone felt that the information was shocking. … It’s a reminder that we still have work to do,” she said.
Kamlager added that community organizations and county residents “are in a unique position right now with having nine members in the California Black Legislative Caucus” as allies. The potential exists to “use that collective to help advocate for better policy instruments that can better our Black children, specifically our Black boys,” she said.