A comprehensive community schools model can improve student achievement and well-being. It is a framework that has gained traction across the nation and has placed participating schools in a better position to respond to the ongoing challenges caused by COVID-19. In other words, community schools are a catalyst for change, which is why many stakeholders in L.A. County stand ready to see the model expand in the region. Adopting a countywide, comprehensive community schools model is one of the L.A. Compact’s priority strategies, and we are excited to work alongside our partners to make this happen. We have started the year strong with the region’s first community schools convening, co-hosted by The Greater L.A. Education Foundation and the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and the launch of the selection process to identify L.A. Unified’s second cohort of community schools.
On Jan. 29, The Greater L.A. Education Foundation and the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) held its first of several virtual convenings to elevate and expand opportunities for community schools work across L.A. County. The title of the convening - Meeting the Moment: Advancing Equity Through Community Schools - emphasized the important role that community schools play in addressing systemic inequities. L.A. Unified and the L.A. Compact were invited to inform the development of the convening.
Dr. Debra Duardo, L.A. Superintendent of Schools, and Genethia Hudley-Hayes, Education and Social Services Deputy with the Office of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, kicked off the convening with a conversation around the history and future of community schools in the region. Hudley-Hayes shared that she first learned about the value of community schools, especially for marginalized communities, when she was a preschool teacher. She supports a community schools model that focuses on integrated student supports, expanded and enriched learning time, active parent and community engagement and collaborative leadership and practice. She believes we have a shared responsibility to help our students succeed and thrive and pledged to garner the support of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to expand and sustain the community schools movement. Following Duardo’s and Hudley-Hayes’ one-on-one, convening participants learned about leading community school efforts already underway in the region, such as LACOE’s and L.A. Unified’s Community Schools Initiatives.
A few days following the convening, L.A. Unified, with support from UTLA and UNITE-LA, opened its application process for the second cohort of community schools. Schools interested in becoming a community school can apply here until April 9. The district’s Community Schools Steering Committee, which UNITE-LA co-facilitates, will select up to 13 community schools by the end of April. Each school will receive $150,000 for the 2021-22 school year to hire a school coordinator who will work with the school community to conduct a needs assessment and develop an implementation plan. In the following school year, the schools will receive $250,000 to implement the plan developed in year one. The second cohort of schools will join the 17 schools from cohort one in transforming the way they work with families and community partners to provide well-rounded educational opportunities and support for student success. In a few weeks, we will also learn whether L.A. Unified will be a grant recipient of the California Community Schools Partnership Program offered through the California Department of Education. These additional resources would help extend the Community Schools Initiative for another year.
For more information on the L.A. Compact’s Community Schools partnership with L.A. Unified, please contact Carrie Lemmon, Sr. Director of Systems Change Strategy, at [email protected].
The L.A. Compact has long championed the importance of youth jobs programs in providing young adults with early skill- and resume-building work experiences to successfully launch them into the labor force. Now that we are facing the worst economic recession in a century, subsidized jobs will serve as a life-line for thousands of young adults who have been laid off, who live in families who are ineligible for federal relief benefits, and who are struggling to maintain connections to school. At least 14,500 young adults in L.A. County will access a paid work experience this year thanks to budget motions passed recently by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and L.A. City Council that were strongly supported by L.A. Compact partners.
On July 7, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion championed by Supervisors Hilda L. Solis and Kathryn Barger to invest $20.7 million in the 2020-21 Fiscal Year for the [email protected] program. The program will provide virtual career exploration and on-site work experiences for at least 10,000 youth ages 14-24. On July 1, the L.A. City Council approved Councilman Curren Price’s plan to reduce the LAPD budget by $150 million and redirect $100 million into communities of color, including an additional $10 million for the annual Hire LA’s Youth program. The city funding augments a previous investment of $2.8 million for the 2020-21 Fiscal Year, enabling at least 4,500 young Angelenos to access subsidized work experiences this year.
When the County’s [email protected] program was slated for severe cuts in May, L.A. Compact partners from the L.A. Workforce Systems Collaborative and the L.A. Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC) rallied to protect investments in youth who have been disproportionately impacted by layoffs due to COVID-19 and will find it even harder to enter the workforce as the economy begins to reopen. Several current and former foster youth who participate in the OYC Young Leaders Program provided public comment at the County Board of Supervisors meeting, speaking to the critical importance of programs like [email protected] that often serve as a young person’s first work experience.
UNITE-LA, convener of the L.A. Compact, and the Alliance for Children’s Rights, convener of the L.A. OYC, have been working closely with City and County partners since May to reimagine the annual summer jobs program in response to COVID-19. In the City of L.A., youth participants will have opportunities to participate in paid virtual activities exploring careers in entrepreneurship through a partnership with L.A. Unified, as well as in STEAM fields through a partnership with UNITE-LA. Most youth will participate in an extended virtual training program utilizing the trauma-informed Transition-Age Youth World of Work curriculum that was developed, piloted and championed by OYC partners. For the first time through a new partnership with ZipRecruiter, youth will receive specialized training in online job search strategies.
L.A. Unified seniors who have not yet completed their credits to graduate will have the opportunity to enroll in a “learn and earn” option that pairs credit recovery with paid work experience. Youth over the age of 18 will still have the opportunity for traditional work experiences, with appropriate PPE, focused on rebuild and recovery projects. For a complete summary of the reimagined Hire LA’s Youth program for the summer of 2020, click here.
The idea for the L.A. Compact first began to take hold in 2008, just as the country was entering into the worst economic recession since the 1930s. By 2011, the unemployment rate for 20-24 year-olds in L.A. County was 20 percent - double that of the adult workforce. 16-19 year-olds fared even worse at 40 percent unemployment. It took nearly a decade for young adult unemployment to fall to 10 percent.1 All signs indicate that this progress was completely eviscerated over the last four months. Nearly 30 percent of 20-24 year-olds in California who were working before the COVID-19 pandemic filed for unemployment in March and April.2 L.A. Compact partners are working hard to implement lessons learned from the last Great Recession to ensure that young adults are not left behind as our economy recovers.
1All unemployment statistics in this paragraph taken from U.S. Census Bureau (2011, 2018). Employment Status, 2011-2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Retrieved from https://data.census.gov/
2Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. (May 11, 2020). COVID-19 Economic Implications Briefing [PowerPoint slides]. https://laedc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/LAEDC_Economic-Implications-of-COVID-19_2020.04.06-1.pdf
On June 18, L.A. Unified’s Committee of the Whole heard presentations from six schools participating in the district’s Community School pilot as well as from several members of the Community School Steering Committee to report back on progress from the first year of the pilot. A comprehensive community school model - one that effectively implements four pillars of integrated student supports, expanded and enriched learning time, active parent and community engagement and collaborative leadership and practice - has been effective in districts across the country in improving student achievement and well-being.
Principals, Community School Coordinators and parents shared how they have utilized the Community School Cohort 1 pilot to develop structures for shared decision-making and to collaboratively assess and address the needs of students and families during school closures this spring, resulting in increased connection to school and community resources for L.A. Unified families.
For example, Polytechnic High School has created the Community School Scoop, a weekly e-newsletter that brings together all the best workshops, community events, wellness resources and announcements that are most relevant to their community.
93rd St. Elementary School developed a family needs and asset assessment in response to COVID-19 and school closures. The Community School Coordinator trained all the teachers to utilize the tool in outreach with families, and the school discovered that food and housing insecurity were greater challenges than virtual instruction.
Alta California Elementary School’s Community School Coordinator created a system for teachers to refer students and families to outside resources and has also been regularly sharing academic, social-emotional and COVID-19 resources via school social media platforms and Google Classroom.
UNITE-LA, as co-convener of the L.A. Unified Community School Steering Committee, presented eight recommendations to improve and expand the Community School pilot in L.A. Unified:
- Build on this critical moment for racial justice and community empowerment to engage our community schools in integrating these discussions with students, family and community;
- Increase attention to instruction and improvement science as Cohort 1 moves into the problem-solving phase of the implementation process;
- Adopt a best-practice validated curriculum for Community School Coordinators and co-construct processes to connect schools with specific technical assistance and PD identified as a need by school teams;
- Formalize a collaborative governance structure and shared decision-making for the community schools initiative and build staffing capacity to effectively implement and expand;
- Develop a Community School Partnership Committee to document existing successful partnerships as models for expansion to assist in brokering and streamlining partnerships across multiple schools and to remove administrative burdens to school partnerships;
- Evaluate early successes and lessons learned from the L.A. Unified pilot, as well as from broader community school efforts in the region;
- Develop a 5-year plan for sustainability and expansion; and
- Connect to and support the expansion of a broader community school movement in the L.A. region that includes existing community school sites and LACOE’s pilot.
The Committee of the Whole, chaired by 5th District Board Member Jackie Goldberg, will report back to the full Board on July 7 with recommendations to the district to improve, evaluate and plan for expansion.
For more information on the Community School partnership with L.A. Unified, please contact Sr. Director of Systems Change Strategy, Carrie Lemmon, at [email protected].