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New Harvard Book Touts Long Beach

The first book to detail examples of successful large-scale reform in the nation's most improved urban districts is now available from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s publishing group, and it features the Long Beach Unified School District.

Bringing School Reform to Scale: Five Award-Winning School Districts, from Harvard Education Press, describes specific district-wide reform strategies that author and researcher Heather Zavadsky shows led Broad Prize-winning school districts to outpace their peers in raising student achievement – not just in individual schools – but in numerous schools districtwide.

The annual $2 million Broad Prize honors the five large urban school districts that demonstrate the strongest student achievement and improvement while narrowing achievement gaps between income and ethnic groups.

Of particular use to educators seeking federal funds under Race to the Top, the new book describes sustained efforts undertaken by Broad Prize-winning school districts in Long Beach, Boston, Garden Grove, Norfolk (Va.) and Aldine (Houston) to improve instruction.

For superintendents, chief academic officers, education school professors, school board members and elected officials or advocacy organizations looking to produce large-scale, dramatic student achievement gains, this book shows what systemic districtwide improvement looks like “on the ground, warts and all, and the outcomes that are possible,” according to a statement from The Broad Foundation.

Among the book’s important lessons for policy makers:  1) the single most important contributor to the success of these districts  was their effort to put in place a clear, direct and rigorous curriculum aligned with high standards and supported at various layers throughout the system, 2) data-driven teaching and testing empowered teachers and led to student gains, and 3) stable school district governance, in the form of mayoral control or a unified school board, was critical to success.

"This book offers an unusually detailed look inside some of our best run school districts.  Heather Zavadsky offers honest assessments, highlighting not only the inspiring successes, but also the many daunting challenges that remain. Very enlightening!" said Ronald F. Ferguson, faculty co-chair and director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard.

The book’s author, Zavadsky, is director of policy and communications for the Institute for Public School Initiatives for the University of Texas system.  She led research teams through site visits and analysis of Broad Prize districts from 2002 to 2006.

To order the book, visit www.hepg.org.