Berkeley Study Praises Exemplary Progress

A study by UC Berkeley-based Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) praises the Long Beach Unified School District’s successful efforts to boost high school achievement, especially the district’s use of student performance data to improve instruction. LBUSD is one of only three school districts statewide featured in the October report, "Snapshots of Reform: District Efforts to Raise Student Achievement Across Diverse Communities in California." The report states that "LBUSD’s data system is unique in its comprehensiveness and sophistication," and that "LBUSD serves as an exemplar of how data can be used effectively in closing the achievement gap." The full report is available at the PACE websiteExternal Link. While many other school districts also analyze student data, Long Beach’s approach is one of the most thorough, according to the report: "First, for LBUSD, unlike most districts, data does not simply mean test scores: it also includes a range of surveys, teacher and principal observations, essays, etc. Second, the data is never treated in isolation; rather it permeates almost all of the discussions and decisions at the district level. How data is collected, disseminated, and used speaks volumes to the degree to which data is used in shaping decision-making. Most importantly, their approach has resulted in success." The PACE study grew out of earlier work by PACE to examine teachers’, principals’ and administrators’ responses to state and federal accountability policies. One of the most important findings from that research was the critical role that the district can play in supporting school efforts to improve achievement. Also highlighted in the study are the Lemon Grove and Ceres school districts. The districts included in the research were selected from a pool that met the following criteria: • Significant diversity of student populations (each district had at least five student subgroups); • Substantial growth on California’s Academic Performance Index for each subgroup over a three-year period (2002-05); and • Substantial narrowing of gaps in achievement across subgroups. Long Beach was chosen to exemplify a district using data to drive district-wide decisions in an effort to close achievement gaps between low- and high-performing students. The success of Long Beach’s data operations is attributed to the hiring of an expert on assessment as the Assistant Superintendent of Research, Planning and Evaluation a decade ago, and since then to the expansion of the district’s research department. "Closer attention to student performance led to increased attention on instruction and student achievement," the study states. Most of the data is presented online through the district’s intranet system. The research department reports student test results through electronic "research notebooks" that can be accessed by all teachers and administrators. Teachers can also disaggregate the data so as to identify the particular needs of the students in their classes and make requests to the research department for more specific reports. PACE was founded in 1983 as a cooperative venture between Stanford University and the University of California (Berkeley and Davis). It is an independent policy research center whose primary aim is to enrich education policy debate with sound analysis and hard evidence. PACE provides assistance to California policymakers, education professionals and the general public.