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Long Beach Among 'Data-Savvy' Systems

1/24/13

A feature story in this month’s national School Administrator magazine names the Long Beach Unified School District among five “data-savvy districts” where collecting sound data on students was the starting point for improving instruction and raising academic achievement.

In the magazine, published by the American Association of School Administrators, writer Heather Zavadsky praises Long Beach’s use of data to create effective interventions, or specialized programs for students who need extra help.  Zavadsky also is the author of the book School Turnarounds: The Essential Role of Districts.

In this month’s article, Zavadsky writes:

“Long Beach Unified School District is known for long-term stability in leadership and performance.  Already quite data savvy, the district continues to improve its data systems and data use to push those schools that perform below the district average.  When Long Beach leaders found a uniform performance drop between fifth and sixth grades in its eight targeted, low-performing K-8 schools, district leaders moved all sixth graders from those schools (approximately 2,000 kids) into a self-contained 6th-grade academy.

“This unique approach put the students under one roof and provided flexibility to address student needs all day long.  With no bells or defined class periods, students could spend a half day or full day in reading with a literacy specialist if needed.

“Using data to refine student interventions, academy leaders used formative assessment results to match student needs with teacher strengths.  If a student were struggling with fractions, he or she was paired with a teacher whose classroom work yielded high assessment scores in fractions.  After a few weeks, students were reassessed and regrouped as needed.

“In 2010-11, the math proficiency rate of sixth graders in Long Beach’s target schools moved from 32 percent to 46 percent, just a few percentage points below the district and state averages.  With the success of this intervention, the district’s leaders are considering which aspects of the model might be scaled to other schools.”

Zavadsky’s article also examines successful use of data in Denver, Garden Grove, Sacramento, and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo in Texas.  She details the essential characteristics that are common to each of these successful systems, including:

Comprehensive Data Systems.  A user-friendly one-stop shop provides detailed information on the instructional and operational needs of students, teachers, schools and central office;

Culture of Data Trust and Transparency.  Data are not useful without a culture that trusts, desires, shares and displays data.  This culture must be nurtured at all levels and reflected in conversations and actions.  Data should be used as a flashlight, not a hammer, Zavadsky writes.

“Several school districts have pulled together these elements effectively and incorporated them across the central-office, school-leadership and classroom levels to improve teaching and learning,” Zavadsky states.  “The proof is in their outcome data – they all have yielded increased student achievement.”

View the full article at aasa.org.  Find “The School Administrator” magazine under the Resources tab.

Long Beach Unified School District • 1515 Hughes Way, Long Beach CA 90810 • (562) 997-8000 • www.lbschools.net