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Long Beach Unified is a Broad finalist again

By Kevin Butler, Long Beach Press-Telegram Staff Writer Article Launched: 04/02/2008 10:12:30 PM PDT LONG BEACH - The Long Beach Unified School District on Wednesday for the fourth time was named a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, which is given to school districts that have significantly raised student achievement. The LBUSD, which won the honor in 2003, is among five finalists for the award. The Los Angeles-based foundation recognizes urban school districts that show the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among ethnic groups and between high- and low-income students. The winner, which receives $500,000 in scholarships for graduating seniors, will be announced Oct. 14 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Each finalist gets $125,000 in scholarship money. The LBUSD last year became the first former Broad winner to return as a finalist since the award program began in 2002. The district has been a finalist in each year that it has been eligible. Under contest rules, a winning district is ineligible for three years following its victory. LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser said the award is important because it is bestowed by an outside group of experts reviewing student data. "It validates all the hard work that the people have been doing for such a long time," he said. Steinhauser said he hopes that LBUSD can continue closing the achievement gap. "We have a lot of good things going on, but we continue to look at our challenges and see how we can do a better job," he added. Last year, New York City's school district beat out LBUSD for the award, resulting in the LBUSD getting only $125,000 in scholarship money. The other finalists for the 2008 award are: Aldine Independent School District, near Houston; Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Brownsville Independent School District, on the Texas-Mexico border; and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The LBUSD will be judged based on its performance during the past three years. Over the next two months, teams of educational researchers and practitioners will visit each finalist to talk with district administrators, teachers, principals, parents, community leaders, school board members and union representatives. The visitors also will observe classes. The LBUSD was selected from 100 of the largest urban districts nationwide that were eligible for the Broad Prize. A review board of educational researchers, policy leaders, practitioners, executives and other experts determined the five finalists. The board, in making its selections, looked at how each district's academic performance and improvement on state exams stacked up against comparable districts in the home state. It also looked for progress in closing income and ethnic achievement gaps and college readiness indicators such as graduation rates, SAT scores and Advanced Placement test data. This year's finalists each saw gains in academic performance among Hispanic students, foundation officials said. The Broad Foundation was started by billionaire businessman Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe.