By Christopher J. Steinhauser
Superintendent of Schools
It’s been a semester of stark contrasts. Each week brings gloomier news from Sacramento about billions more dollars of deficits and looming cuts to our state’s already decimated education budget. Public agencies everywhere are considering employee furloughs, layoffs and other harsh measures.
Yet somehow, week after week, we quietly and persistently go about our business of educating our students. What’s more, we’re still arguably one of the nation’s best urban school districts – a beacon of hope for our nation and beyond.
Consider just a few recent examples of what others throughout America and the world think of the Long Beach Unified School District.
The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers has called upon our school district to review both K-12 and College and Career Readiness standards. Working with these groups and the U.S. Dept. of Education, Long Beach is taking advantage of historic opportunities to shape common national education standards that will affect U.S. education reform for years.
Elsewhere, a national journal on educator training describes “a deep commitment to professional learning and widespread use of data” in LBUSD. The article, “Let Data Do the Talking,” appears in the fall edition of the Journal of Staff Development. Produced by the National Staff Development Council, the journal is known as America’s authority on professional learning, and it notes that Long Beach schools are widely praised for their success.
A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Center for American Progress and the American Enterprise Institute singles out LBUSD as an effectively managed school system. The report, "Leaders and Laggards," grades the 50 states on their educational systems, and it notes a few promising leaders in educational reform.
"Today, various organizations are addressing stubborn challenges by pursuing familiar notions of good teaching and effective schooling in impressively coherent, disciplined and strategic ways," the report states. "Some are public school districts, such as Long Beach Unified School District."
On the international scene, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the country’s second-most senior officer, recently asked the LBUSD to participate in a roundtable discussion on education reform in Santa Monica. I joined Gillard and a group of educators from Southern California to discuss issues of transparency and accountability in K-12 education. I provided information on LBUSD’s use of student achievement data, its parental and community involvement, and Long Beach’s nationally recognized Seamless Education partnerships with higher education.
Shortly after the Australians asked for our advice, a delegation from Thailand visited our Gompers K-8 School to learn more about our science instruction.
And of course, for a record-tying fifth time, LBUSD was honored among America’s top five school districts during a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C. Our school district was one of the five finalists for the national Broad Prize for Urban Education.
“Long Beach continues to be America's crown jewel of urban school districts, outperforming other urban districts year after year," said Eli Broad, founder of the prize.
Among the reasons we continue to gain such national attention is that our test scores show far more of our students meeting state standards than just a few years ago in all subject areas.
Since 2003, when all California Standards Tests (CSTs) were completely aligned to state standards, the number of LBUSD students meeting standards (by scoring at the proficient or advanced level) has increased steadily.
We’re also seeing hundreds more students taking Advanced Placement courses and going to college.
Considering that we've repeatedly slashed our budget since 2003, these solid gains and resulting accolades speak highly of our employees and everyone in our community who has stood by us during these tough times.
Despite our many challenges, we still have the will to win, and astute observers throughout our nation and the world have noticed.