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LBUSD in Finals for Best Urban District in U.S.

The battle is on. Five school districts nationwide are finalists for the title of best urban school district in America: Long Beach, Garden Grove, Atlanta, Boston and Houston. The $500,000 Broad (pronounced Brode) Prize for Urban Education will go to the district that demonstrates the greatest overall improvement in student achievement. The Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation, endowed with $400 million to improve schools, sent a team of reviewers to interview staff and scrutinize Long Beach schools this week. The researchers are validating examples of success in California's third largest school district. "We're thrilled and extremely grateful to be recognized as a finalist," said Carl A. Cohn, superintendent of schools. "It means a group of top education experts have declared our schools to be a model for the nation." If the district wins the Broad Prize, the $500,000 will be used for student scholarships. The decision will be announced this summer. "Long Beach deserves a high level of praise for getting results," said Ross Santy, leader of the evaluation team from the National Center for Excellence and Accountability He also commended "an incredible team of people who put students at the center." "It's been wonderful to see a big district that revels in the resources of being a big district," he said. After visiting with district administrators, teams of reviewers spent Wednesday visiting Jackie Robinson Academy and Poly High School, two of the outstanding success stories in Long Beach. They toured the unique dual immersion language magnets at Robinson Academy, where students learn French, Japanese and Spanish. The school was one of only five California schools to win the Title I Distinguished School Award. Robinson has excelled in academic achievement for students of all backgrounds and ability levels. The school's total API grew from 562 to 700 between 1999 and 2001. For African-American students, the API increased from 571 to 676; for Hispanic students, from 486 to 667; and for economically disadvantaged students, from 543 to 681. Visitors to Poly High School were also impressed. The flagship high school has produced more nationally-ranked scholars and athletic champions than any other high school in America. From turmoil and racial strife in the 1960s, the school has been transformed into the number one school in the U.S. in admissions to Stanford University, the University of California and other top universities. The Broad Prize for Urban Education honors educational innovation and improvement. Finalists were chosen from 100 of the nation's best large school districts. "Ensuring achievement in America's urban public schools is the most important civil rights issue of the new century," said Eli Broad, founder of The Broad Foundation. "Long Beach's remarkable improvements in increasing student achievement are a model for the nation." The Broad Prize will go to the urban school district that has made the greatest overall improvement in student achievement while simultaneously reducing the achievement gap across ethnic lines and between high and low income students. The Broad Foundation is a Los Angeles-based entrepreneurial grant-making organization, established in 1999 by Eli and Edythe Broad. The Foundation was started with an initial investment of $100 million that was recently increased by the Broad family to $400 million. Their mission is to dramatically improve urban public education through better governance, management and labor relations.