South LA schools follow state-wide graduation trends

Crenshaw HS

Crenshaw High School

Nearly a dozen South L.A. high schools have followed a positive statewide trend of rising graduation rates while simultaneously lowering the percentage of dropouts, according to data from the California Department of Education.

Schools with the highest graduation rates for the 2013-14 school year include Thirty-Second Street USC Performing Arts with a 100 percent graduation rate; Foshay Learning Center and Middle College High, each with 99 percent; King/Drew Medical Magnet with 96 percent and the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies with 95 percent.

Of the South L.A. high schools, even those with the lowest percentage of graduates recorded graduation rates that were only 10 percent below the LAUSD district-wide graduation rate of 70.4 percent, with a majority of them on an upward trend. [Read more…]

Opinion:  Many Dorsey High School members united to stop reconstitution

By Taylor Broom (Dorsey Alumni class of 2011, Community Organizer with Coalition for Educational Justice—CEJ), Sharonne Hapuarachy (Dorsey Teacher and English Dept. Chair), Hilda Daily (Dorsey parent) and Noah Lippe-Klein (Dorsey teacher and UTLA Chapter Chair)

Last Spring, Superintendent Deasy rejected Dorsey High School’s PSC (Public School Choice) plan and said if our upcoming re-write was not to his liking, then he would reconstitute Dorsey.

Upon hearing this, parents and alumni started meeting weekly to discuss a two-pronged approach to prevent reconstitution: (1) learn how students and community have been impacted by reconstitutions at other schools, and (2) unite a broad coalition of Dorsey community, Crenshaw community and the people throughout South LA, around the idea that reconstituting a school with such a committed faculty and strong programs would hurt students.

imageTaylor Broom, a co-author of this story and a Dorsey High School alum.

So, what is the Dorsey community doing to fight back?

• Dorsey parents and students have been speaking at School Board meetings to tell Deasy and the LAUSD Board members all the reasons that reconstitution would harm the school. (See videos of these powerful presentations and “like” us at .)
• Dorsey parents, alumni and teachers hosted a workshop at a major South LA conference this summer to raise awareness about reconstitution among community members and elected officials.
• Dorsey and Crenshaw teachers and alumni began working with a group of respected black community leaders and organizations in South LA (Ma’at Institute for Community Change, African American Cultural Center, CEJ) who have been advocating to improve schools. This coalition is prioritizing fighting institutionally racist policies in LAUSD, like the disproportionate suspension rates of black students, preventing reconstitution, AND supporting the struggles around Dorsey and Crenshaw school improvement.
• Dorsey stakeholders are in dialogue with Crenshaw teachers and community members and the entire Dorsey/Crenshaw feeder system. We see our struggle as one and the same because over the summer Crenshaw had to push back against Deasy’s threats to end its nationally recognized extended learning school reform model. Both schools are working closely with the community to prevent reconstitution and implement a plan rooted in culturally relevant, research-based strategies to meet the needs of our students.
• Dorsey’s staff and community are working closely with our principal to write a high-quality plan.  Implementing a reform plan that works for Dorsey’s students is a key priority.

NOW DORSEY NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT: On September 27, Dorsey’s parents, alumni, community and students are planning a major community event with the theme of “Celebrating, Improving and Fighting for Dorsey.” 

The event will celebrate Dorsey’s:
• teachers and faculty who have impacted lives
• programs that serve students
• role in the community

Celebrating Dorsey’s strengths is a way of saying, “Our school should not be reconstituted.” 

Why is it so critical to prevent the reconstitution of Dorsey? 

If sponsoring teachers lost their positions, key programs (like the Dorsey Ivy League College Preparation program, the prestigious Culinary Arts program, the rising Academic Decathlon team, the Annual Student Film Festival, the nationally recognized Theater Department, the 20thCentury Fox Partnership, and so much more) would be lost. Other reconstituted schools have already experienced this hemorrhaging and Dorsey would be at risk for this as well.

We also worry about the loss of faculty who support the disproportionately high number of Dorsey students in foster care and group homes. Many of these students rely on their teachers and counselors to provide stability in their lives.

Reconstitution would bring a newer faculty with less understanding of how to build upon some of Dorsey’s strengths:
• The number of committed teacher-alumni and teachers living in the community. Often, teachers with strong ties to community are pushed out of a reconstituted school.
• Strong ties that Dorsey has with black institutions in the community who support Dorsey’s students, the connections with historically black colleges and the growing number of ivy league schools that recruit Dorsey’s students.
• The gains made by the growing number of English Language Learner students—Dorsey has made huge strides in re-designating these students through focused support.

Are we merely trying to stop reconstitution? No, we are serious about improvements at Dorsey too — for example, improvements in pedagogy, personalization, community ties, internships, and the career and college readiness of students.

This fight won’t be won on Sept 27th, but if you care about Dorsey, the Dorsey/Crenshaw community, South LA, and public education in general, then mark your calendars and attend this critical event.

Location:  100 feet from Dorsey’s campus at the Rancho Cienega Gym. 5001 Rodeo, Los Angeles. at 5:30 pm  Click here for a map of the location.