An article in the national Hechinger Report notes that Long Beach Schools “improved dramatically over the past decade,” in part because of a high rate of teacher retention here.
“Teachers are voting with their feet. That is, they’re staying,” wrote Lillian Mongeau of the independent, nonprofit Hechinger news organization. “Long Beach boasts a 94 percent retention rate for new teachers, which is extremely high for an urban district.”
Hechinger focuses on producing in-depth education journalism and distributing it to national media.
The latest report at hechingerreport.org includes a Q&A with Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser. While the title of the piece is, “How one California superintendent changed troubled schools,” the first sentence states that the superintendent “credits his team more than his own leadership for a decade’s worth of improvement.”
The writer, Mongeau, noted that LBUSD’s Academic Performance Index (API) score, a number on a 1,000-point scale based largely on standardized test performance, rose from 648 in 2002, when Steinhauser took office, to 784 in 2012, the last year for which base API scores are available. Graduation rates increased from 75.9 percent in 2010, when California first adjusted how it calculates graduation rates, to 80.6 percent in 2013. “And Long Beach has begun to be recognized in California for its turn-around.”
Asked about the differences a student from 10 years ago would notice in a Long Beach school today, Steinhauser responded:
“Ten years ago, in elementary school, you would not be learning about college as a fourth and fifth grader. Ten years ago, the eighth grade algebra would’ve been very restricted. That’s not the case today. The vast majority of the kids are in algebra and doing well. In high school, you would’ve seen that the demographics of AP (Advanced Placement) classes did not represent the demographic makeup of the system. Fast-forward to today and it’s the complete opposite. It’s truly open access. And the students are doing quite well and the passing rates have done well too.”
Asked whether low staff turnover is important, the superintendent responded:
“The consistency of a school system, especially for big urban districts, is absolutely important,” Steinhauser said, noting a lack of teacher and administrator turnover here. “In fact, I have the reverse. I have thousands of people who apply every year who are highly qualified who want to teach in our school system because they see the support, they see the professional development, they see the ongoing learning that everyone has. Once you have a community that’s built that continuity, you can really achieve anything.”
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