In an effort to assist students who are struggling, or who are at risk of failing core curriculum classes, LAUSD middle and high schools implemented four “acceleration days” this school year to help supplement time lost during the academic day. With many students still falling behind after the pandemic disrupted their educational journeys, these acceleration days were a last minute effort to spend COVID-19 relief money and aid the district’s most vulnerable students. The acceleration days, while met with mixed feedback from the students and staff who participated in them, are gaining attention from the community who are questioning the large, and inconsistent, cost of these four days.
The four acceleration days, coordinated by the district, were spread out during students’ winter and spring breaks with two days per vacation. Students who could benefit from extra curriculum support were invited to participate and go to school on their days off. During the acceleration day, students were able to meet with teachers in a smaller classroom environment and engage in other extracurricular activities. While the extra academic time sounds beneficial, students and teachers who participated in the accelerations days told the LA Times that the extra time was used more for tutoring or other activities instead of actually focusing on core concepts the students were struggling with. Furthermore, the small class sizes seen during these days, that are instrumental in helping students not fall between the cracks, were unintentional and caused by poor attendance from students who were invited.
Along with mixed reviews from students and staff, LAUSD has been inconsistent in how much money was allocated for the four extra curriculum days. The district used COVID-relief money that must be spent by September 2024 to fund the days. During a January board meeting, school officials said the first two days had cost $36 million. Later LAUSD Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, announced that the cost was actually $11.6 million instead. There has been no documentation released to show how much money was actually spent and what the funds were used for. With LA’s teacher union striking just months earlier for better wages and other negotiations, it is unclear why this money was spent in a way that did not prove to be beneficial for the majority of students who either didn’t show up, or did, and received minimal educational support.
Students who had positive remarks to say about the acceleration days highlighted the smaller class sizes and extracurricular activities, like gardening. Taking the time to find ways that will improve the education of these students during the typical school day is needed to prevent them from falling behind in the first place. Being able to feel more comfortable around teachers and feel that they are approachable is necessary for a healthy learning environment. Breaks throughout the day are also important to not make them seem like they are dragging on and having students lose focus.
Regardless of the controversy surrounding the funds of the acceleration days, it is apparent that four extra supplemental days are not going to fully aid students who are on the brink of failing. Instead of trying to create more work for them on vacation days, where they would rather be resting or spending time with friends and family, a larger institutional change is needed. Educational systems are rapidly developing after most students struggled during COVID-19 online learning and school districts are trying to see how they can best help their students. Reaching positive negotiations with school staff and teachers unions is key to making changes that will actually aid the well-fare of the students instead of bandaid solutions like these.