United Way Recieves Support to Help Improve College and Career Readiness for LAUSD Students

Mar 05, 2009, 12:00 ET from United Way of Greater Los Angeles

Combined Funding of $1.75 Million from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and James Irvine Foundation Will Further Education Reform in LAUSD

LOS ANGELES, March 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Today United Way of Greater Los Angeles announced that a combined grant of $1.75 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation will be used to advance education reform in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The work to improve college and career readiness throughout LAUSD will be in collaboration with three existing United Way partners - Alliance for a Better Community, Community Coalition and Inner City Struggle - and seek to additional support among local business, civic and philanthropic leaders.

"The demand for an educated workforce is growing, while at the same time only half of our LAUSD students are graduating on time," said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. "Education in Los Angeles County is at a critical crossroads and we're not preparing our younger generation, or our city, for the future. The work starts now to improve our student's educational achievement by preparing them for college and careers for the 21st Century workforce."

In January, LAUSD released its first-ever school Report Card, publishing performance data for all district schools and providing a new level of transparency into student outcomes. These school-level results will provide valuable information to the district as well as the community groups and local stakeholders who have been working to graduate all LAUSD students college- ready.

The collaboration supported by today's investment will help ensure all LAUSD students have access to:

  • a curriculum that adequately prepares them for college and careers in the 21st Century workforce
  • courses required to gain admission to California's public university system

The work will primarily focus on the continued engagement of businesses, parents, community leaders and the LAUSD Board of Education in order to hold LAUSD accountable for the reforms needed to increase the high school graduate rate. This will also entail advocacy efforts so that every LAUSD student will have access to and enroll in classes that align with college entry requirements.

Additionally, United Way will create partnerships between schools, businesses, colleges, and workforce training programs to promote multiple pathways programs in LAUSD. Multiple pathways are comprehensive programs of study that integrate rigorous academic instruction with demanding technical curriculum and work-based learning.

The need for education reform is critical for LAUSD students. According to recent studies:

  • Less than half (47%) of LAUSD high school students graduate high school college-ready
  • More than 90% of LAUSD high schools meet the state's definition of an overcrowded school (the average LAUSD high school has 1,713 students)
  • LAUSD middle schools are three times more likely (compared to the rest of the County) to have large concentrations of low income students and English learners; LAUSD high schools are four times more likely
  • The proportion of LAUSD High School counselors to students is half the national average

"Given the challenges of college and career readiness in LAUSD we are very pleased about the new leadership with Superintendent Ramon Cortines. He both understands reform and has experience implementing reforms that work to improve the educational system for our students, parents and teachers," said Buik.

"I'm very excited to work with United Way of Greater Los Angeles on this project because they bring the business perspective along with community leadership in order to create a unified front to improve our student's educational experience and achievement," states Ramon Cortines, Superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District.

Improving educational achievement is a key objective in United Way of Greater Los Angeles' recently adopted 10-year plan with specific goals designed to tackle the root causes of poverty in the region. As part of this plan United Way has funded 38 organizations across L.A. County to provide over 31,000 youth with academic enrichment programs to help them graduate high school with the skills necessary for a successful future. Also, United Way has been a strong voice in advocating for college prep classes in partnership with parents, students and community leaders and works with parent organizations to help guide them on how to be leaders for their kids' academic success.

About United Way of Greater Los Angeles

United Way of Greater Los Angeles is a nonprofit organization that creates pathways out of poverty by focusing on meeting basic needs, improving educational achievement and increasing financial stability for the most vulnerable in our community. Through its research work, United Way identifies the issues and works in partnership with community leaders and supporters to solve them by funding targeted programs and advocating for change. For more information, visit www.unitedwayla.org.

SOURCE United Way of Greater Los Angeles