To the Editor:
Despite the previously strong reputation of Culver City Unified School District, key decisions being made by school and district leaders are threatening to undermine our high educational standards. As one of the most diverse school systems in the country, our students benefit from being exposed to diverse backgrounds and experiences as part of their school day. However, as in many parts of the United States, we are failing to sufficiently support our Black and Latino students in terms of graduation rates, test scores, and accessing advanced curriculum, including Honors and Advanced Placement classes. Experts in the field of education such as Dr. John King from the Education Trust recommend a multi-pronged approach to this challenge, including early intervention to provide individualized student support, identification of students who would benefit from advanced classes through unbiased approaches to avoid dependence on teacher recommendation, and, perhaps most importantly, increasing course offerings and availability of advanced coursework to Black and Latino students.*
Instead of following this guidance, our school district has chosen to remove opportunities for advanced courses, and CCUSD leadership has made these decisions unilaterally without seeking community input. The option to take Honors English has been eliminated from both the Culver City Middle and High Schools without offering meaningful opportunities from parents and families. By removing student choice and replacing options for English in 9th and 10th grade with a one-size-fits-all “College Prep” class, we are harming students across a range of readiness levels: The teachers must necessarily teach to the middle so that students who are less prepared receive less individualized instruction, while students who are more prepared do not receive sufficient challenge to keep them engaged in a class. This challenge of increased classroom heterogeneity is exacerbated by the large class sizes in our schools. With over 30 high school students per class, offering truly differentiated instruction for students representing a very broad range of readiness levels is next to impossible, and is a disservice to all students.
According to the Culver City Unified School Board and Superintendent, the goal is to continue eliminating Honors classes and acceleration in mathematics – all in the name of equity. These plans appear to be moving forward without any stated approach for evaluating the impact of removing Honors classes at the middle and high school level. This suggests that these curriculum changes are not truly intended to improve the experience and opportunities for learning for our students. Eroding levels of rigor in our schools will lead to students who are not prepared to take AP classes, not prepared to do well enough on AP tests to earn college credit, and will not be prepared for college after graduation. To add insult to injury, the remaining Honors classes in our high school have not been registered for designation as advanced classes through the University of California (UC) system for over ten years, putting our graduating seniors at a disadvantage in terms of weighted GPAs against other public and charter schools in our region.
The Culver City High School website states “Centaurs Focus on the 4 A’S: Academics, Activities, Arts, and Athletics.” We hope that the Culver City Unified School Board will pledge to an abiding commitment to academics by adopting a resolution to use proactive, data-driven measures to remove barriers to participation of Black and Latino students in advanced classes, restore options for Honors classes and halt the removal of additional advanced classes. They must also commit to the University of California designation of Honors and advanced classes to allow Culver City High School graduates the same access to opportunities that other public school students in our region enjoy.
On Tuesday 2/14, we presented a Resolution to the Culver City Unified School board that urged the school board to take immediate action on all of these points. Our hope is that they heed the concerns of families and students and adopt this resolution at an upcoming board meeting. Please reach out to the CCUSD School Board at [email protected] to express your support to uphold education and equity in our schools.
Our hope is to ensure equity for all learners by maintaining high standards and choice for every student in our district.
Joanna Schaenman and Ashleigh Mattias, Culver City Families for Excellence and Accountability
Crystal Czarnecki Alexander
Aaron Blaisdell and Carol Chan
Brian and Peggy Bottger
Johnny R. Escamilla, CCHS class of 2009
Emma Frigola (9th grader) and Elena Frigola (11th grader)
Joe and Christie Gaynor
Mark Herscovitz and Deanna Newell
Annie C. Kelly & Mark M. Kelly
Sebastien Lemire and Kaori Ono-Lemire
Bonnie Poon and Rick Sasson
Linda and Lenny Rosenberg
Jennifer and Ramsey Salem
Gina and Alfred Tenazas
Barbara Townsley and Doug Townsley
To the Editor: