Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teachers, administrators and staff deserve our congratulations and support. Despite significant budget cutbacks, LAUSD students achieved a 19-point Academic Performance Index (API) percentage gain for the 2010-11 school year. This increase in performance exceeded the State average for the second year in a row and was the highest gain among urban school districts in California. 

Since 2002-3, LAUSD has increased its API every year, from 595 in 2002-3 to 728 in 2010-11, for a cumulative growth of 133 points. A persistent challenge however, has been its minimal progress in closing the achievement gap between Caucasian and Asian students, and Latino and African American youth. But this year, with API increases of 21 percent for Latino and 15 percent for African American students, versus 13 percent for Caucasian and 9 percent for Asian students, this gap started to narrow. Sixty percent of LAUSD schools met all API targets.

To their credit, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and his predecessor Ramon C. Cortines navigated the State budget crisis by dramatically reducing the central office staff and allocating a much greater proportion of resources to schools. We applaud their laser-like focus on student achievement and Deasy’s innovative performance scorecard that sets clear goals for student improvement.

We also applaud the initiative shown by the district in conducting an internal investigation of cheating at Short Avenue Elementary School and reporting the irregularities to the State. That school’s performance was then excluded from the district’s API score. 

While these gains are encouraging, LAUSD at 728 API still lags the State at 778 and the average of 12 large urban districts at 752. And while the ethnic gap has closed a bit, African American and Latino students still lag more than 150 points behind their Caucasian and Asian peers. 

Success requires that the community join the school district in this important work. Three years ago the L.A. Area Chamber and UNITE-LA convened the L.A. Compact to work with LAUSD to focus on improving student achievement. Other Compact partners include Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the L.A. City Council, local institutions of higher education, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. 

We urge the entire community to join with the Chamber and our L.A. Compact partners in a long-term commitment to ensure that all kids in L.A. graduate from high school and have access to post-secondary education and fulfilling careers. It’s a step we can all take to prepare the future civic leaders and workforce of our State.