Breakthrough Year for College Promise

The nationally recognized Long Beach College Promise strives to improve three key experiences for students:  college preparation, college access and college success.  While the effort has produced encouraging results since the program’s inception five years ago, the latest student achievement data reveal a true breakthrough, according to a report released this week by the Long Beach Unified School District, Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach.

The rate of student progress has increased much more dramatically in the last year, states “A Breakthrough in Student Achievement,” a five-year progress report on the College Promise.  For example, the number of LBUSD graduates completing college-level (non-remedial) English at LBCC increased by 500 percent over the previous year.  The number of LBUSD students completing college-level math (again, non-remedial) at LBCC jumped by 200 percent over the same period.

The College Promise has aimed to improve college access by providing key incentives and services, including tuition-free semesters for 4,000 students at LBCC, guaranteed admission at CSULB for local students who qualify, and college preparation and guidance as early as elementary school to help children understand that college is within reach.

“We had a hunch that more of our students could successfully complete college courses, if only we gave them the chance,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser.  “That hunch is now confirmed, and the College Promise is giving more students that chance.”

Five years ago, leaders from LBUSD, LBCC and CSULB signed the College Promise, committing the three institutions to providing local students with greater opportunities to complete their higher education.  Today, more high school graduates are enrolling in college, and many more of those students are prepared for rigorous college-level classes.  The College Promise is the legacy of the Seamless Education Partnership, which began in 1994.

In addition to the significant progress seen at LBCC this year, under the College Promise, the number of new CSULB freshmen from LBUSD has increased from 519 in fall 2008 to 743 in fall 2012.  That’s an increase of more than 43 percent.  The increase in LBUSD students came despite the fact that CSULB enrolled 2,000 fewer students for two consecutive years (2009-10 and 2010-11) because of cuts in state support.

The LBUSD graduates who attend CSULB are achieving success.  While the number and proportion of freshmen from LBUSD has grown, the percentage of those students requiring math and English remediation has decreased due to targeted advising and initiatives such as CSU Early Start.  Since the College Promise was enacted, freshmen from LBUSD and transfers from LBCC have remained enrolled, or persisted, at a higher rate than non-local California students, who are admitted to the university with more rigorous criteria.

This year’s big increase in college course completions at LBCC is attributed to The Promise Pathways, the college’s signature initiative in support of the College Promise.  The Promise Pathways launched in the fall of 2012 and implemented two key innovations: predictive placement and prescriptive scheduling.  Participating LBUSD graduates were placed into English and math courses based on their high school grades, rather than the traditional method, which relies heavily upon standardized assessment tests.  These students are also required to enroll in these foundational courses beginning in their first semester at LBCC.

The College Promise effort includes field trips to LBCC and CSULB for fourth and fifth graders.  Local middle schoolers sign a pledge that sets clear expectations for what students must do to prepare for college.  More than 57,000 students have signed the pledge.

The latest results of the College Promise have the potential to help transform California’s public colleges and universities, which are seeking ways to trim spending on costly remediation courses while increasing student retention and graduation rates.

View the full report.

REPORT SHOWS PROGRESS – The report, "A Breakthrough in Student Achievement," was released this week during a fifth anniversary celebration of the Long Beach College Promise, held at Long Beach City College.  During the event, nearly 30 scholarships of up to $250 each went to eighth graders who had shown academic improvement.