State test scores for students in the Long Beach Unified School District continued a 10-year upward trend with this week's release of data from the California Department of Education.
LBUSD students made gains in all subject areas tested, including English, math, history and science. In some instances, gains were dramatic.
The improved test scores come despite years of severe budget cuts to public education.
“We achieved these results under some of the toughest circumstances in our school district’s history,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser. “We’re maintaining steady, significant growth in student achievement thanks to our employees, parents, students and many partners in the community.”
In English, the percentage of students proficient or above grew to 53.1 percent, up 2.4 percent over the prior year.
In math, students achieved a half-point gain with 51.2 percent now proficient or above.
In history, students here also saw a half-point gain with 43.8 percent now proficient or above.
In science, LBUSD students improved by 1.3 percent to 53 percent in grades 5, 8 and 10 combined. In addition, students performed 3.6 percent higher on biology, earth science, chemistry and physics exams combined, with nearly 40 percent scoring proficient and above.
Students improved in almost every grade level.
Eighth grade algebra proficiency – key to college readiness – jumped by 5 percent to 69 percent in LBUSD. That’s 20 percentage points above students statewide. Increased algebra proficiency rates have occurred here even as the school district boosted participation in eighth grade algebra from 2,573 students in 2009 to 3,610 last year.
“We have a thousand more eighth graders taking algebra than just two years ago, and yet our proficiency rate continues to climb steadily,” Steinhauser said. “That’s a success story, and it’s linked to a concerted plan to prepare more students for success in college and careers.”
The news on gains in Long Beach schools comes just days after California High School Exit Exam data also showed an upward trend here. For the Class of 2012, pass rates were 94.3 percent in LBUSD, up from 93 percent for the Class of 2011. Districtwide, pass rates for all ethnicities in LBUSD are now at 93 percent or above.
In addition, recently released data on Advanced Placement college preparatory course enrollment showed that 5,062 students took one or more AP courses in LBUSD last year, nearly double the number in 2003. Over the same period, students of all ethnicities saw significant increases in AP course enrollment. Meanwhile pass rates have now increased to 55 percent on AP exams, up 5 percent over the prior year.
The latest numbers depict a school district whose students are competitive with their peers statewide, despite Long Beach’s more challenging demographics. While only 57 percent of students statewide receive reduced-price meals, the figure is 70 percent here. That’s a 13-point difference and illustrates the poverty challenges that LBUSD faces. Yet in grades 2 through 7, the percentage of LBUSD students scoring proficient or advanced is equal to or above the performance of students statewide. The same holds true for all students taking the Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 tests here. LBUSD students also outperformed their peers statewide on earth science and physics exams.
Steinhauser cautioned that Long Beach’s encouraging results cannot be taken for granted, given the state’s precarious budget, much of which is predicated on voters’ approval of taxes in November. Already, the school district has lost more than 1,000 jobs and $300 million since 2008.
“School budgets will be slashed severely if we don’t stabilize funding for public education," Steinhauser said. “We can’t let that happen. We must build upon our hard-fought gains in student achievement.”