“Trust us. Believe in us.”

That was the broader message from Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who appeared on KTLA 5 Morning News on Wednesday to discuss the district’s priorities for the upcoming school year.

LAUSD is the nation’s second-largest public school district and serves more than 500,000 students. Classes resume on Monday, Aug. 14.

“We’re dealing with three elements that are impacting the well-being of kids,” Carvalho said. “No. 1, academic performance continues to lag. We’re about six or seven years behind the appropriate grade level proficiency for students as a result of the [COVID-19] pandemic.”

Alberto Carvalho
LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho (right) on KTLA 5 Morning News. Aug. 9, 2023.

District-wide test results show proficiency in mathematics has fallen significantly since the start of the pandemic.

In the 2018-19 school year, 33.5% of students met or exceeded standards. In 2021-2022, the most recent data available, the percentage dropped five points to 28.5%.

To address this challenge, Carvalho says the district is rolling out new curriculum, new tutoring options and a new mobile app to help students and parents track their academic progress.  

The second-biggest challenge, he said, is attendance. Chronic absenteeism was as high as 50% last year.

“We’re going to take to the streets, myself included … to knock on doors and speak with parents, speak with kids. Understand the root cause of the problem and bring them back.”

The third-biggest issue is the social, emotional and mental well-being of children, which has been “significantly compromised,” Carvalho said.

“The safest place in our communities for kids to be in, where they can actually boost academic performance, where they can get the medical services they need, is school,” the superintendent told KTLA’s Jessica Holmes and Eric Spillman.

Carvalho also addressed the political climate surrounding LGBTQ issues that have put public schools in the crosshairs.

Pride protest fight
A fight breaks out among protestors and supporters of a Pride event at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, California. June 2, 2023. (KTLA)

In June, violence erupted between protestors and counter-protestors outside Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood over the school’s decision to host a Pride event that included teachers reading from Mary Hoffman’s “The Great Big Book of Families.”

“It is sad that every single issue in America has become politically polarizing … At the end of the day, we’re going to double down on our promise of protecting and elevating the dignity and the humanity of every single child and every single employee. Period,” he said.