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'LBUSD is preparing students for success'

Long Beach Press-Telegram, May 27, 2007. In just a few days, 5,000 high school seniors throughout our school district will step across the stage to accept their diplomas. The true measure of our schools is whether these students are prepared for success in college and the working world. We believe that our graduates are more prepared than ever. We also know that we can do more to prepare students for a wider array of possibilities upon graduation. The Long Beach Unified School District continues to increase its college preparatory offerings. At the same time, we are expanding career and technical education, with an emphasis on the trades and the development of a highly skilled workforce. In the past, college readiness and career-tech training were seen by many educators as mutually exclusive, but times have changed. Today, we offer career-tech in conjunction with a rigorous, traditional academic curriculum so that students may participate in both simultaneously. We've expanded our commitment to career and technical education in a number of ways. Jordan High School will offer students the opportunity to prepare for careers in architecture, construction and engineering as part of a new academy being launched in cooperation with the City of Long Beach and Mayor Bob Foster. The Jordan Architecture, Construction and Engineering Academy will serve about 60 students in tenth grade this fall. By the 2010-11 school year, as many as 400 students will participate. Already, 150 students have expressed interest. Earlier this month, our Board of Education unanimously approved the creation of a charter high school opening this fall catering to youngsters interested in the building and construction trades. The Rosie the Riveter Charter High School will provide construction-related math and technology courses in addition to the regular high school curriculum. Our school district is working with Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach on the creation of an Early College Academic and Technical School that would provide academic and technical experiences tied to statewide, local and regional economic needs and job availability. Students will take ROP and college-level courses while in high school. Business and industry partners will be included in the development of internship opportunities. As we expand these career-tech opportunities, we continue to earn national recognition on the traditional academic front. We are among the top five finalists for the National Broad Prize for Urban Education. The criteria for that award, which recognizes America's best urban school system, include SAT and Advanced Placement participation rates. In another sign of success, the percentage of our graduates earning admission to nearby Cal State Long Beach has grown by more than 41 percent since 2003. Our AVID college prep program has expanded to a record 29 middle and high schools. Record numbers of students are enrolling in Advanced Placement courses that help them earn college credit while still in high school. Once again, Newsweek's list of the top 5 percent of high schools in the nation this month includes four high schools in our school district. Despite these academic successes, we are not complacent. This year we began an important conversation with our employees, students, parents, higher education partners, business people and community leaders regarding our graduation requirements. The University of California and California State University systems require what are known as the A through G courses for admission. In some cases, our current graduation standards in LBUSD exceed these requirements. For instance, we require an additional year of history, for a total of three years. With other courses, such as math, we are just shy of the A-G requirement. We require two years of math, not three. After gathering input from all sides, our Board of Education will decide whether to increase our graduation requirements. The discussion on A-G is a healthy one. We look forward to continuing this dialogue, and our board will receive staff recommendations in the coming months. The ultimate aim of all of these efforts is to make certain that when our students earn a diploma, they have a bright future awaiting them either at a community college, in the armed services, at a trade school or apprenticeship, or at a four-year university.