Los Angeles County's only indigenous charter school was successful today in a bid to remain open.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school board met this afternoon to decide whether or not to approve the charter for Anahuacalmecac International Preparatory High School. The school, which first received its charter in 2008, had been facing a potential shutdown after issues such as low test scores prompted the Los Angeles Superintendent of Schools to recommend that this year's charter petition be denied. The superintendent's office reversed this recommendation on Nov. 21, citing improving test scores. Four school board members had not agreed support the charter's renewal prior to this afternoon's meeting and all declined to comment on their reasoning.
Dee Dee Manzanares Yabarra, assistant director of the Southern California Chapter of The American Indian Movement, said that the school’s unique indigenous curriculum is vital to the survival of local native identity.
“In my generation, it was not good to be native,” said Yabarra. “We got blended in with other cultures and so we lost a lot. So we’re trying to make that up and make sure that our children and grandchildren know who they are.”
This is the second time in the last decade that the school’s future has been in question. In 2013, LAUSD refused to renew the school’s charter. Anahuacalmecac experienced a brief shut down before a successful appeal to the California State Board of Education allowed them to reopen in 2014.
As now, standards for evaluating student’s performance under the school’s indigenous curriculum were at the heart of the debate. According to LAUSD, Anahuacalmecac’s students scored approximately 6 percent lower on English language arts and 18 percent lower on math than other schools in a two-mile radius last year.
Marcos Aguliar, principal at Anahuacalmecac, pointed to measures such as the school’s 100 percent graduation rate and improving rates for English learner reclassification as indicators of its success. He said that school district concerns about low standardized test scores were misguided.
“The question about whether or not we’re achieving those standards is really off base,” said Aguliar. “It doesn’t account for the design of the school and that’s preparation for a college education which has very little to do with what’s measured on high-stakes tests.”
The curriculum at Anahuacalmecac includes subjects such as the indigenous Nahuatl language, Native American mathematics systems, and indigenous culture and history. Students at Anahuacalmecac said that they are glad to be able to learn topics which would not be available in a traditional U.S. school environment.
Kimberly Chairez, a seventh-grader at the Anahuacalmecac, said that she is glad to be able to learn Nahuatl, which is not taught in any other American school. Kimberly has a little sister who is just starting at Anahuacalmecac and a brother who is an alumni of the school. She hopes that her sister is able to continue on at Anahuacalmecac as she has.
“Since she’s beginning from kinder[garten], I think it will be a great opportunity to let her see what I’ve seen, to fight and to make her strong.”
The subhead of this article was changed on December 12, 2018 to more accurately reflect the The L.A. Superintendent of Schools' decision to reverse the recommendation of the charter. More changes were made to the first paragraph to include further detail on the the charter's renewal.