Moving Educational Equity Beyond the Schoolhouse

Professor Tyrone C. Howard, Director of the UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families and the Black Male Institute at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, discussing report findings. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

UCLA researchers and local education leaders convened at the Wellnest Avis and Mark Ridley-Thomas Life-Learning Center to discuss the release of Beyond The Schoolhouse, a policy report, examining both in-school and out-of-school risk factors that impact Black children’s educational success in Los Angeles County.

Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education and the founder of the Center for the Transformation of Schools at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

In a presentation that included several specific recommendations for local, state and federal policymakers, the report’s authors urge the development of a targeted Countywide strategic plan to address the needs of Black children. These recommendations come in response to findings that despite California’s growing commitment to equity, on virtually every academic indicator – from achievement in mathematics and English to the completion of A-G requirements for entry into the CSU or UC systems of higher education – Black students in Los Angeles County have consistently trailed behind their non-Black peers. Of note is the finding that academic factors alone do not accurately provide a complete picture of the challenges facing Black students over the course of their education.

Students in attendance during the convening.  Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Black students, more than any other racial or ethnic group, are more likely to experience homelessness, to be placed in foster care, or to have a parent who is incarcerated. Furthermore, many Black students reside in communities and attend schools that are highly segregated by race and income, have less parks and recreation facilities, and contain environmental hazards that negatively impact their health and well-being, including higher rates of asthma and exposure to lead. Ultimately, Black students must contend with a host of systematic external factors that significantly impact their ability and access to quality education.

“Homelessness, poverty, poor health outcomes and other adverse experiences interfere with our children’s ability to survive, let alone thrive,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Our commitment to improving student achievement requires that we do as this important report suggest that we do: go beyond the schoolhouse to the communities where black children and families reside to implement solutions that address accumulated disadvantage and expand opportunity for Black children and youth.”

(clockwise) UCLA Professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez, LA County Superintendent Debra Duardo, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, and Dr. Shani Byard. Photos by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

“Where a child lives, whether they have access to healthy food, clean air, quality health care and other services has a profound influence on their academic performance and the quality of schools they attend,” said Tyrone C. Howard, Director of the UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families and the Black Male Institute at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

“Our hope is that this new study will not only make clear the urgency of the situation confronting Black students, but that it will inform and fuel a strategic and comprehensive effort to address the accumulation of disadvantage confronting Black youth in order to improve educational and developmental outcomes” says Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education and the founder of the Center for the Transformation of Schools at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. “It is not enough just to improve schools, we must address the out-of-school factors that influence a child’s development. We must do both.”

“The academic achievement of Black and low-income students in California has been a focus for many decades in schools,” says Joseph Bishop, Director of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools. “Yet our failure to recognize that schools alone cannot address poverty and unhealthy community conditions has made it more difficult for social policies to have a positive impact on the needs of our most vulnerable children.

See Exhibit 5, Beyond the Schoolhouse Policy Report: Overcoming & Expanding Opportunity for Black Youth in LA County

Specific Beyond the Schoolhouse findings include:

• Academic performance and health are highly correlated with where a child lives. Whether or not a child has access to healthy food, parks, clean air, or good health services, has a profound influence on their academic performance and the quality of schools they attend.
• Most of the schools where Black children are concentrated have limited resources despite having high numbers of very disadvantaged students (e.g. students in foster care, students who are homeless, in special education, etc.).
• Childhood hardships (e.g. basic needs not met, parental substance abuse, hunger) are highest for Black students (12%) compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
• The suspension rate for Black students in foster care is 16%, higher than any other group of students.

The full study and recommendations are available online at transformschools.ucla.edu/beyond-the-schoolhouse. The report was a joint project of the Black Male Institute and the Center for the Transformation of Schools at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. The Hewlett Foundation, The California Endowment, the Broad Foundation and the Office of Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas provided funding for the study.

(left to right) UCLA Professor Tyrone C. Howard, UCLA Professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez, LA County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Wellnest President Charlene Dimas Peinado, Dr. Shani Byard, Senator Steven Bradford, and UCLA Professor Joseph Bishop.  Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors