This month’s edition of the American School Board Journal explains why the Long Beach Unified School District continues to see “world class” gains in student achievement despite tough times.
The article, “On the Way to Great,” notes that Fortune 500 Research Firm McKinsey and Co. last year included LBUSD among the world’s 20 leading school systems.
“The district’s performance over the last two decades – as well as the improvement it has posted year to year – has been remarkable,” writer Lawrence Hardy observes. “Why Long Beach? What is it about California’s third-largest district – one still dwarfed in size by Los Angeles Unified to the north – that qualifies it to be measured against the very best in the world?”
The answer, writes Hardy, is that the school district is data-driven and doesn’t succumb to flavor-of-the-month reforms, instead incorporating various initiatives into a cohesive plan to improve student achievement. The school district does all this despite the state’s ongoing budget crisis largely because of a school board that rallies in support of LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser, “to underscore that Steinhauser’s policies are board policies so he couldn’t be singled out as easily for attack.”
The article notes that last year, African American students graduated at “a remarkable 73 percent rate, and their dropout rate was 40 percent below the African-American average for the state,” according to the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Latinos, who had a graduation rate of 75 percent, had the most students of any racial or ethnic group in Advanced Placement classes. The article goes on to chronicle two decades of school reforms and LBUSD’s resulting national accolades.
“That Long Beach has done all this in a state mired in seemingly perpetual economic crisis, its political system marked by mistrust and epic dysfunction, its public sector starved for funds, says a lot about the quality of local leaders and their ability to put aside petty differences and see the big picture,” the article states. “Something is surely clicking.”
As a publication focused on school board leadership, the journal also interviewed LBUSD Board of Education President Felton Williams, who discussed the uniqueness of Long Beach as a city and school system. He elaborated on the school board’s approach of presenting a unified front on educational reforms, and he described the work ethic that allows schools to continue improving.
“One thing I appreciate about this school district – they celebrate,” Williams said. “And then they go back to work.”
Read the full article at asbj.com. Search for “Long Beach Success Story.”