November 05, 2004
By Chris Steinhauser
Superintendent of Schools
We have so much to be thankful for this year. All of our high schools recently met the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) criteria for school performance--an outstanding achievement. I have received calls from superintendents of other districts asking how our schools did it.
Not only are our high schools making exemplary progress for record numbers of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Overall, 87 percent of all Long Beach Unified School District schools, in kindergarten through high school, met federal academic benchmarks. We did far better than schools statewide, where only 72 percent of California’s Title I schools attained their AYP goals.
Each school’s AYP score shows the percentage of students who demonstrate proficiency on rigorous standardized tests. Not only do schools have to meet overall targets for proficiency. Each subgroup of students at the school--including racial-ethnic, socioeconomic, English learner and special education subgroups--must meet those same targets, and at least 95 percent of students must be tested. Some schools have up to six subgroups.
Under federal rules, if even one subgroup misses the mark by even one point, the entire school is labeled deficient. All groups must meet these tough standards to satisfy the requirements of No Child Left Behind.
The real story behind our excellent progress is how our schools, teachers and students are making it happen. Despite $2 billion in state budget cuts for California public schools this year, we’ve protected classroom instruction and are working smarter and harder than ever before.
We have better research data and more rapid test results. We are intervening earlier with more assistance, tutoring, academic coaching, better materials and training for teachers and students. We now have 56 nationally certified veteran teachers and provide exemplary support for new teachers. We ask academic departments in schools that excel to share their methods with other schools.
We constantly look for ways to make small, steady improvements that together can make a significant, lasting difference in the quality of education. We have reduced class size this year in fourth and fifth grade.
We have improved our ability to diagnose what each student knows and can do. Areas that need extra help--such as math or English literacy--receive additional instructional time and emphasis. Students are required to master skills before they move on to the next level. Social promotion is a thing of the past.
Many of our schools are now models for other schools throughout the state and nation. They are doing what works and getting better and better results.
What greater gift could we give students in America’s best urban schools here in America’s most diverse city? We’re showing the nation that it can be done.