By Christopher J. Steinhauser
Superintendent of Schools
When we were children, the start of a new school year always brought a mix of trepidation and excitement. Wearing our stiff new clothes and carrying our freshly sharpened pencils, we tentatively embarked upon another year of learning.
On my first day of school in Mrs. Condie’s kindergarten class at Bryant Elementary School here in Long Beach, I was reprimanded for bringing M&M's to class. Despite that rocky start, I soon found that school was the greatest place in the world. My back-to-school misgivings quickly gave way to an overriding sense of possibility and opportunity.
Thanks to the hard work of our employees, students and parents like you, we’re keeping alive that sense of possibility for today’s students. Despite huge challenges, we’re seeing tremendous growth in our students’ college and career readiness. The latest information from the state confirms that our students made impressive gains last year, even amid unprecedented cuts in state funding for our schools. Consider a few examples:
- We just learned that a record 82 percent of our schools met the state’s schoolwide targets on the Academic Performance Index (API) for the 2010-11 school year.
- Our elementary students now perform above the state average in math in all grade levels. In English, they also perform above the state average in most grade levels.
- Our middle schools posted some of LBUSD's largest gains in achievement last year, with many schools increasing their APIs by more than 40 and 50 points, progressing ever closer to the state’s ultimate goal of 800 on a scale of 1,000. Our emphasis on eighth grade algebra is paying off, as 200 more eighth graders attained proficiency in algebra last year compared to the prior year.
- Our high school graduation rate is now higher than the state’s, and our dropout rate is lower. Four high school programs here have now attained the prestigious Linked Learning certification. The certification effort, headed by educational nonprofit ConnectEd, assures that our high schools are combining rigorous academics with real world experiences that prepare students not only for college, but also for high-paying, high-demand jobs. Our certified programs include the California Academy of Mathematics and Science, the ACE Academy at Jordan High School, and the COMPASS and PEACE academies at Millikan High School.
We have achieved these successes, and so much more, by working together toward the common goal of providing all children an equal chance at a great education, no matter their color, language, disability or station in life. This year we’ll build on these successes through our College Promise partnership with Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach, our North Long Beach Initiative and many other efforts. Our work will be difficult. We all know that we start the school year with hundreds fewer employees, mostly teachers, and we will miss them dearly. But as we continue to give our best to our children, I am confident that we will continue to see gains in student achievement.
Thank you for your vital support of our schools, where our children continue to achieve amazing results. About 84,000 students will enter our classrooms this week. Because of your dedication, volunteerism and can-do spirit, together we can still assure our children that the possibilities are endless.
With deepest appreciation, I wish you a safe and successful school year.