January 12, 2007
Some of you may recall that we started the school year with an inspiring cover story in Parade, the nation’s best read magazine with 79 million readers. Long Beach’s Stevenson-YMCA Community School earned praise for its exemplary partnerships, high level of parental involvement and impressive gains in student achievement. Depicted on the cover, which is usually reserved for movie stars, was a smiling Stevenson first grader, Eric Brooks.
"Thanks to a community that refused to give up on education, Eric has a future," the magazine cover stated. I now have Eric’s autograph displayed prominently in my office.
Parade recognized what the federal government has not. After this once-in-a-lifetime recognition, we recently learned that according to the federal government, Stevenson is a so-called "program improvement" school because it did not meet all of its academic targets. Yet Stevenson was named the top elementary community school in the United States by the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition for Community Schools.
What’s wrong with this picture?
The reality is that Stevenson met all federal targets except one, which it missed by one student, a student who is still learning English.
Stevenson is fortunate. Parade and the Coalition for Community Schools knew a great school when they saw it, and they were wise enough to hold Stevenson up as a beacon for the nation. Other schools aren’t so fortunate. Their teachers and students work just as hard, and sometimes they miss one target by one or two students. Instead of being celebrated, their schools are unfairly labeled as failures.
Fear not. There are many more youngsters here in the Long Beach Unified School District, who, like Eric, have a future thanks to the patience and persistence of our employees, parents and community supporters, even if they didn’t make the cover of a national magazine, and there are plenty of people taking notice. Consider some of the state and national recognition that our schools, employees and students earned in the first half of this school year:
• An independent report by Standard and Poor’s showed that more schools in the Long Beach Unified School District are significantly closing achievement gaps than in any other California school district.
• A study by UC Berkeley-based Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) praised our schools for using student performance data to improve instruction. LBUSD was one of only three school districts statewide featured in the report, which called our district "an exemplar of how data can be used effectively in closing the achievement gap."
• A Harvard Business Review report, "How to Manage Urban School Districts," described successful management efforts in school systems nationwide, including in the Long Beach Unified School District. Schools here have developed a "culture of collaboration and accountability for improving student performance," the study reported.
• Hill Classical Middle School, which only six years ago was threatened with state takeover if it didn’t improve student achievement, won the highly coveted National Blue Ribbon Award.
• Long Beach Unified School District Head Start earned high national honors by meeting or exceeding more than 900 compliance items during an independent and exhaustive federal review.
• Robinson Academy and Millikan High School were named National Demonstration Schools by a visiting validation team representing the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college readiness center.
• The California Academy of Mathematics and Science, Alvarado Elementary School and Naples Bayside Academy are among 304 Honor Roll Schools in the state honored for closing achievement gaps by the California Business for Education Excellence Foundation and Just for the Kids.
• The American Scholastic Press Association named Poly High School’s Acacia as the Most Outstanding High School Literary-Art Magazine for 2006.
• Gregory Fisher, teacher at California Academy of Mathematics and Science, won the Teacher of the Year award from the Global Association of Teachers of Economics. Only one award was given nationally to a high school teacher.
Despite these honors, we are not complacent. That’s why we convinced the state Legislature to pass Assembly Bill 2989, which will allow the Long Beach Unified School District to require struggling students to participate in supplemental instruction such as tutoring and summer school, beginning this year.
Our job is to nurture more students like Eric, the Stevenson first grader whose future is brighter than ever because he is learning to read, calculate and think for himself. It is a job that I know we all take seriously. We will not let our students down.
Best wishes for a safe and successful 2007.