Tuesday, May 6, 2014

LA School District Set to Dismantle Successful and Popular Family Literacy Program

a message from Pat Bauer, Program Volunteer, Santa Monica...

Los Angeles Unified School District administrators have informed teachers that LAUSD's popular and effective Family Literacy Program will close at the end of this school year. 

The LAUSD Family Literacy Program is a successful, nationally recognized program that educates low-income preschool students alongside their parents, boosting children's achievement with gains that persist throughout their elementary school years. The program typically serves families whose home language is not English, with parents who have low incomes and low education levels. Most are Latino, although other cultures are also represented.

The program, which has been in operation for a dozen years, uses an innovative approach that gives parents the tools they need to reinforce their kids' learning at home and in the community. The program currently serves about 300 parents and pre-kindergarten kids at six sites around the school district, and maintains an active waiting list. 

In order for a child to qualify to attend, at least one of his/her parents must attend simultaneously. Adults study parenting, ESL, leadership skills and workplace skills, and work on literacy tasks with the children. Parents often give up wages to participate.

This is a proven program that works. Recent research found that elementary school children who attended LAUSD Family Literacy Program classes before kindergarten did better than comparable students in other LAUSD preschools in many ways, and the gains held through grade 5 (the last year studied). Among other things, the Family Literacy preschool students scored higher in language arts and math throughout elementary school, and had lower absenteeism than students from other LAUSD preschools.

Researchers also found that parents maintained or increased their participation in their child's schooling after completing the Family Literacy Program.

Parents love this program. They weep when they talk about the way it has changed their lives. It opens doors for people to become contributing members of society. It works.

Sadly, the LAUSD has told teachers it will close down the Family Literacy Program completely at the end of this school year.  The Family Literacy Program is falling through the cracks, unrecognized and unappreciated by those who should know it best. 

First 5 LA incubated the Family Literacy Program, and has ended its funding commitment after a dozen years. The rationale seems to be that it's time for LAUSD to step up. But LAUSD's budget is tight, and Supt. John Deasy is intent on defunding the district’s adult education division (which houses the Family Literacy Program). 

Complicating matters are statewide school restructuring efforts. Gov. Jerry Brown is working to  move parent ed classes out of K-12 school districts -- which would zero out the state's share of parent ed funding for LAUSD Family Literacy. 

Supt. John Deasy has often stated his philosophy that K-12's scarce resources should be spent serving children, not adults. This philosophy doesn't seem to provide support for a hybrid program like Family Literacy, which benefits children because it also provides support to adults. The fact that the Family Literacy Program actually reduces social costs by helping kids build bridges to productive lives seems to have been overlooked here.

Closing LAUSD's Family Literacy Program would impose immense and unnecessary hardships on hard-working families. But often the people who are most in need are those who are least able to organize and work through our very complicated political process. A group of families, teachers and friends is working to try to save the LAUSD Family Literacy Program. For more information, write to:


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  2. Thanks for this important piece. I am amazed that Family Literacy's value is ever questioned--especially with how clearly the evidence shows educational gains when parents receive education alongside their children.
    What a shame that First 5 stopped its support at just the time when LAUSD was sure NOT to step up. One wonders what other avenues for funding were pursued. National Centers for Families Learning (NCFL renamed) is an organization that advocates for these programs. Maybe you should consider putting a link to your blog post on their FB page? https://www.facebook.com/FamiliesLearning