Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy on Wednesday assigned every principal, assistant principal, and district-level administrator to personally keep track of one student who was at risk of dropping out of school last year.
Using some dramatic flair in his "state of the schools" address to 1,500 leaders, Deasy ordered each of them to open a sealed envelope that had been taped underneath their seats inside the auditorium of Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. Each envelope contained the name of a district student who, as a freshman in the 2013-14 school year, had exhibited some or all of the hallmarks of a student on the verge of dropping out: chronic absenteeism, discipline issues, poor grades, and low test scores.
While the district's graduation rate was 82 percent in 2013-14—including those students who took more than four years to earn a diploma—nearly 7,000 students dropped out, Deasy said.
He urged the leaders to seek out the struggling student whose name was in their envelope and to "stay with with him or her through graduation."
The superintendent's challenge to administrators to drive down the district's dropout rate is part of Los Angeles' pledge to be part of President Barack Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative. L.A. Unified is one of 60 urban districts that agreed to pursue proven strategies for improving educational outcomes for boys of color, though Deasy made it clear that the district is including at-risk girls in its effort.
Now, how many of these school leaders will take heed of Deasy's appeal to them? Let's make sure he reports back on that at next year's address.