Noguera to Co-Chair State Task Force on Black Student Achievement

By Brian Soika

October 18, 2021

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond stands behind a podium during a public address

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Image by Gage Skidmore and licensed via Flickr Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

USC Rossier Dean Pedro A. Noguera will co-chair the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Black Student Achievement task force dedicated to improving outcomes for the state’s nearly 325,000 Black students.

In an online announcement, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced the task force’s goal of making policy recommendations with the intent of establishing future legislation. Noguera will be joined by educational experts and co-chairs Desiree Carver-Thomas (Learning Policy Institute), Daniel Lee (CDE), Joseph F. Johnson (National Center for Urban School Transformation), Kelly Lytle Hernandez (UCLA) and Tyrone Howard (UCLA).

Addressing Disparities

In describing the issues the task force will address, Thurmond noted the disparities between Black and White students. In California, Black students are over-represented in areas such as suspensions and chronic absenteeism and under-represented in graduation rates, when compared to their White peers. The disparities mirror broader racial gaps among populations experiencing poverty and health conditions, Thurmond said.

However, while long-standing gaps persist, “there are schools in California that serve Black students well,” said Noguera. These schools offer enriched opportunities for students and high-quality instruction in a supportive environment. The question, Noguera added, is how to apply the model to other schools.

A Holistic Approach

Several members of the task force emphasized that they intend to view the issue of achievement through a wide cultural lens. “Student success is predicated by classroom and environmental factors,” said California State Senator, Sydney Kamlager BS ‘94 who joined Thurmond for the announcement.

Thurmond and the task force will work with the members of the California Legislative Black Caucus to develop and introduce legislation. This may include many components such as restorative justice and the expansion of teacher of color programs. Proposed laws may also aim to provide resources to districts with high percentages of racial segregation and poverty. The legislation will be introduced in the 2022 legislative session.

Addressing the needs of historically marginalized students has been a recurring theme in USC Rossier’s A New Vision for Schools initiative, led by Noguera. Topics from the initiative’s webinars have included advancing equity and improving outcomes for all children after the pandemic, and the school safety net in the COVID age.

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