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U.S. Education Alliance Praises LBUSD

A recent visit to the Long Beach Unified School District by a representative of a Washington, D.C.-based national education policy organization prompted a glowing review on the group’s website.

Ace Parsi, a policy and advocacy associate with the Alliance for Excellent Education, authored a blog entry this month titled, “The Long Beach Way: A Systemic Approach to Educating Every Child in Every School.”

The Alliance works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can graduate from high school ready for success in college, work and citizenship.  The group focuses on America’s most at-risk secondary school students who are most likely to leave school without a diploma or to graduate unprepared for a productive future.

Following are excerpts from Parsi’s review of LBUSD.  Read the full article at here (search for “The Long Beach Way”).

“Last week I did a site visit at Long Beach Unified and was reminded of what is really possible in urban education.  When we hear of great, transformative superintendents, we often hear names like Michelle Rhee (Washington, D.C. schools) or Joel Klein (New York schools).  While I wouldn't take away anything from other leaders, to me, Chris Steinhauser and the LBUSD staff should be at the fore of any conversation on great district leadership and the types of district systems to which the nation should aspire.

“The district has not been short on honors over the years... Yet, it's not awards or numbers that make Long Beach great.  At Long Beach, it's all about the system… The five LBUSD school board members are all former educators who provide the district advice without being a barrier to key innovation.  Similarly, teachers seem proactive about taking bold steps that will help students in the long-run.  Unlike most districts in the country, LBUSD district leaders have come through the system with relatively little turnover.  Steinhauser himself started out as an elementary school principal and then moved to the district staff before becoming superintendent in 2002.  Long Beach also has the deep support of businesses, postsecondary partners, the mayor, and others…

“The board and teachers are treated as partners rather than obstacles to innovation.  In order to ensure buy-in, they are brought in long before an initiative is about to take off.  All stakeholders know that the district is not going to pursue the flavor of the month in school innovation.  LBUSD has a clear vision and approach and, regardless of what the fiscal climate is, it pursues that approach with as much fidelity as possible.  For example, as the district works to implement the districtwide strategy, Linked Learning, stakeholders are aware that this work dovetails with the district's previous smaller learning communities and college and career readiness initiatives…

“The district is almost fanatical about data… The district not only collects in-depth student data, but also has mechanisms to gather teacher feedback which district staff use to support teachers and site leaders …

“Through various long-standing advisory committees, LBUSD creates trusting, honest and mutually beneficial relationships with the business, postsecondary and political communities in the region.  These relationships are not about attending a meeting or writing a check.  They are about creating opportunities for long-term active engagement in how education is delivered to students districtwide…

“The district has redefined equity and access to a high-quality education by saying, we're not going to have a good school here or there where some students can get a high-quality education.  Instead, we're going to have a high-quality system where all students benefit from this education regardless of the school they choose to attend…

“Taking a page out of ‘the Long Beach way’ can provide huge benefits to students in other schools and districts across the nation.”