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Determination, Dedication Pay Off

Students and schools in the Long Beach Unified School District faced many serious challenges this year but amassed impressive new achievements, national honors and major awards.

State and national leaders must understand that excellent education like this contributes to economic recovery.  Meanwhile we can take great pride in the fact that, with the strong support of parents and community partners, we’re maintaining our firm commitment to students, no matter what.  The result is that we continue to improve, and we continue to outpace other school districts.  Consider just a few examples from this school year:

• For a record-tying fifth time, we are competing as one of five finalists for The Broad Prize for Urban Education.  Our staying power on the list of America’s top urban school systems is a testament to your dedication, year in and year out.

• Voters approved Measure K school bonds by a an overwhelming 71.34 percent yes vote, providing for $1.2 billion, and the possibility of hundreds of millions of dollars of state matching funds, to upgrade classrooms and construct new school buildings.

• Our students earned more than $40 million in scholarships, a massive amount that dwarfs the $18 million earned just two years ago.  These numbers are music to the ears of students and parents, especially during these challenging economic times.

• The California Academy of Mathematics and Science, and Hill Classical Middle School won 2009 California Distinguished School Awards.

• A report from the nationally renowned Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute showed LBUSD has improved the most compared to other large, urban districts statewide.  The study further showed the district’s improvement ranking fourth nationwide.

• The number of business partners in our schools grew to a record 1,220.

• Wilson Classical High School was one of only 16 schools nationwide recognized in the College Board’s fifth annual AP Report to the nation for increasing access to Advanced Placement among traditionally underserved students.

• Cabrillo High School joined an elite group of Advancement Via Individual Determination schools recently by becoming a National Demonstration Site.  AVID is an in-school academic support program that prepares students for college eligibility and success.

• A report by the National Center for Educational Achievement highlighted effective math and science practices in the Long Beach Unified School District, including instructional methods at Hill Classical Middle School and International Elementary School.

• After achieving significant gains in student performance, Tincher Preparatory School became the first Long Beach school, and the first K-8 school in the state, to be named a “School to Watch” by the California Middle Grades Alliance.

• Local business owner and celebrity Jesse James recently donated and raised more than $100,000 for the Long Beach Education Foundation.

• The number of Long Beach students applying for federal student aid increased by 49 percent over last year, the result of a goal set by the Latino FAFSA Initiative in Long Beach, a pilot program spearheaded by Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, and supported by the Long Beach Unified School District, community-based organizations, City of Long Beach and local colleges.

• Fifteen more teachers in the Long Beach Unified School District earned the highest professional distinction in teaching, National Board Certification.  The newest certifications brought the total number of nationally certified teachers in the school district to a record high of 129.

• Our high school students improved their performance on California physical fitness tests and surpassed students throughout Los Angeles County and statewide.

• Our Volunteers in Public Schools celebrated 40 years, with the number of volunteers growing to a record 8,600.

• CAMS was selected as one of the top 100 high schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.  Poly High School also made the prestigious national ranking as a Silver Medalist, placing among the top 604 schools in the country.

• Seven exemplary schools in the Long Beach Unified School District were recognized by the business community for their outstanding success in raising student achievement and closing achievement gaps among all groups of students. 
Named as California Business for Education Excellence/Just for the Kids California Honor Roll Schools for 2008 were Keller, Inter-national, Fremont, Lowell and Naples elementary schools, Emerson Parkside Academy and the California Academy of Mathematics and Science.

• Our new Teleparent automatic calling system completed hundreds of thousands of household calls.  Both the district and schools can use the system to notify parents.

• A report by UC Berkeley-based Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) praised the Long Beach Unified School District for its effective, systematic efforts to boost student performance.

• The Chinese government’s Education Ministry presented Minqi Zhu, teacher of Chinese at Poly, with a worldwide award, the International Chinese Educators Curriculum Design Award, in Beijing.

• Long Beach City College awarded 50 Rotary scholarships to launch an effort to eventually provide free first-semester tuition to all Long Beach-area high school students who don’t qualify for sufficient financial aid. 

The scholarships were part of our Long Beach College Promise, a joint effort by LBCC, LBUSD and Cal State Long Beach to make college degrees accessible to local students.  The Long Beach College Promise is part of the Academic and Career Success For All Initiative approved by the Board of Education.

• The Long Beach Unified School District’s Summer Enrichment Program won the prestigious Golden Bell Award, the highest honor from the California School Boards Association.  Summer Enrichment, developed in 2001 by the Long Beach School for Adults, serves first through eighth grade students.

• Nine seniors from Poly and Wilson high schools were recognized as some of America’s best student writers by the National Council of Teachers of English.  The students were among 525 seniors to receive the NCTE’s Achievement Awards in Writing.

• A cover story on “L.A.’s Best High Schools” in Los Angeles magazine included Poly and CAMS.  The magazine noted that CAMS enables students to take the equivalent of five years of science as well as courses in logic, university-level calculus, digital electronics and computer design.  Poly was praised for its “national reputation for producing scholars, artists and athletes.”

• An extensive cover story in The Learning System, a National Staff Development Council newsletter, detailed LBUSD’s successful professional development programs for teachers.

Thank you to each of you who has contributed to these and many other successes.  Your work speaks for itself, and you continue to serve as an inspiration to educators throughout the nation and the world.

Have a wonderful summer!