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

by Patricia Bauer, Program volunteer

Los Angeles Unified School District administrators have informed teachers that LAUSD’s effective and popular Family Literacy Program must close at the end of this school year.  Parents and teachers are organizing to save it.

LAUSD administrators recently advised teachers that budget problems will force the imminent shutdown of the district’s highly successful, nationally recognized Family Literacy program, which educates low-income preschool students alongside their parents. Parents and teachers have launched a lobbying and letter-writing campaign to save it.

The LAUSD Family Literacy Program has gained national recognition for 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.

Parents say the program is a lifeline, and weep when they talk about the way it has changed their lives. It opens doors for people to become contributing members of society, they say.

About the program 

The program, which has been in operation for more than 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 approximately 300 parents and pre-kindergarten students 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.

Exemplary research findings

Recent research demonstrated that elementary school children who attended LAUSD Family Literacy Program classes before kindergarten did better than demographically 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 consistently lower absenteeism than comparable students from other LAUSD preschools.

Researchers also found that the program continued to bring benefits to parents for years after their child completed preschool. Parents continued to participate in literacy-based activities with their kids for years afterward, assumed leadership roles in school organizations, and pursued further education for themselves.

Budget problems

Despite its well-documented success, LAUSD’s Family Literacy Program seems to be falling through the cracks.

First 5 LA 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 has been working steadily to defund 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 the adult divisions of K-12 school districts — which would zero out the state’s share of parent ed funding for LAUSD Family Literacy.

Supt. Deasy has often stated his philosophy that K-12’s scarce resources should be spent serving children, not adults. But Family Literacy benefits children because it supports adults, teaching parents how to best guide their children and reinforce their learning. The Family Literacy Program actually reduces social costs by helping families build bridges to productive lives. It deserves to be expanded, not eliminated.

The Family Literacy Program Works. Please help!

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 and to get involved, please contact:

SaveFamilyLiteracy@gmail.com

________

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT

LAUSD’S FAMILY LITERACY PROGRAM

What is the mission of the LAUSD Family Literacy Program? 

The LAUSD Family Literacy Program is dedicated to assisting vulnerable children and parents by promoting shared academic achievement, strengthening parenting skills, and helping families develop confidence and competence in supporting literacy, positive family relations and a trusting home-school partnership. LAUSD’s family literacy program is based on the philosophy that “literate families tend to be stronger families.” Education is provided to whole families as parents and children participate in intensive, frequent and long-term high quality educational activities together.

Which families are served by the Family Literacy Program?

The Family Literacy Program serves low-income families with children 0-5 years of age who are interested and available to participate in all four components of the family literacy model. Most of the participating families are at the poverty level; the overwhelming majority are native speakers of Spanish, but many other languages and cultures are also represented. All the LAUSD Family Literacy sites have active waiting lists.

What are the four components of the program?

— Early Childhood Education

— Parent Education

— Adult Education

— Parents and Children Interacting in Literacy Activities (PCILA)

Attachment: Research Brief, American Institutes for Research. Parrish, Quick, Manship.

http://www.first5la.org/files/F5LA_researchbrief_AIR_single_page.pdf

The full program analysis is here:

http://www.first5la.org/files/07096_FL_Final_Comprehensive_Evaluation_Report_final_011211.pdf

 

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