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'A Banner Year for National Awards'

By Chris Steinhauser Superintendent of Schools I could not be more thankful that the Long Beach Unified School District--America's Best Urban Schools--have earned an unprecedented number of national honors in 2003. Any school district would be fortunate to receive just one of these honors. But to earn so many top awards in just a few months is an incredible testament to the outstanding work being done in our schools every day. Despite these national awards, we know our work is not done. We believe these accolades recognize a good school system that's getting even better. Consider a few recent signs of tremendous progress: The Broad Foundation named our district as the top national winner of the 2003 Broad Prize for Urban Education. The prize and $500,000 in scholarships recognize the best urban school system in the nation, based on an exhaustive review by national education experts. Eli Broad, Founder of the Broad Foundation, said our district is "leading the nation in overall student achievement while closing achievement gaps." Millikan High School teacher Nader Twal received a $25,000 surprise award from the Milken Family Foundation. The Milken National Educator Award, dubbed by Teacher Magazine as the "Oscar of Teaching," recognizes America's best educators. This superb English and philosophy teacher earned national recognition as a highly talented, inspirational educator whose classroom practices are among the best in the U.S. Long Beach Unified School District Head Start earned the highest of U.S. honors by meeting or exceeding all 700 federal requirements during an independent evaluation and exhaustive week-long review. A national expert called Long Beach Head Start the best she'd ever seen. This early childhood education is crucial to our success as a school system. Brilliant Harvard and UCLA professor, social commentator, prolific writer and Long Beach Jordan High School graduate James Q. Wilson received the nation's highest civilian honor from President George Bush, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Bush said Professor Wilson "may be the most influential political scientist in America since the White House was home to Professor Woodrow Wilson." Newsweek's ranking of "America's Best High Schools" lists Wilson Classical High School and Polytechnic High School among the top 4 percent of U.S. high schools. Schools ranked by Newsweek have the greatest number of students taking Advanced Placement tests, compared to the number of graduating seniors. Graduates of these high schools save millions of dollars in college tuition each year by earning college credit on the difficult AP exams. Seven district schools were recently named outstanding 2003 No Child Left Behind Title I Achieving Schools. Addams, Emerson, Gompers, MacArthur, Mann, Signal Hill and Robinson elementary schools earned the honor as high-achieving schools. Of 4,936 California schools receiving Title I funds, only 115 were selected as winners. King-Edison Elementary School was honored as one of the 14 highest performing Edison Schools in the U.S. The school won the double Four-Star Achievement Award from the New York-based company. Vice principal Shivaun Stanton credited the success to "highly dedicated and focused teachers . . . strong support from our district and the support of our parents." The Education Trust honored high-performing, high-improving and gap-closing schools and districts--the best in the nation--with its first annual Dispelling the Myth Awards. The district was honored for "helping to dispel the devastating myth that poor and minority children cannot learn to high academic levels," and for "fulfilling the true promise of American education for all of this nation's public school children." These are all wonderful honors, and our students are the real winners. Congratulations to all who have made 2003 the most nationally recognized year in our school district's history.