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Recommitting to the College Promise

Leaders of the Long Beach Unified School District and partnering agencies announced a recommitment to The Long Beach College Promise this week with a renewed focus on racial equity.

Since its inception in 2008, The Promise has earned national recognition for increasing educational and employment opportunity for young people. LBUSD’s partners on the Promise include Long Beach City College, Cal State Long Beach, the City of Long Beach and the Port of Long Beach.

Elements of The Promise have included increased access to early childhood education; college tours for 4th and 5th graders; a middle school pledge by students and parents committing to college readiness; a tuition-free first and second year at Long Beach City College; and guaranteed admission to Cal State Long Beach for qualifying students.

This year saw a transition in Long Beach public education leaders with LBCC’s Board of Trustees appointing Lou Anne Bynum as Interim Superintendent-President, and LBUSD’s Board of Education selecting Jill Baker as superintendent. This transition coupled with the implementation of an equity lens marks a new era for The Promise.

“As I begin my work as Superintendent, I want to assure our communities that LBUSD is firmly committed to building upon the progress we’ve made with our Promise partners,” Superintendent Baker said. “Working together, we will build upon our hard-fought gains in college and career readiness, with a greater focus on racial equity.”

Baker participated in a virtual news conference about The Promise this week with Bynum, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, and Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close-Conoley.

The Promise and related LBUSD programs such as the Urban Math Collaborative, Male and Female Leadership Academies, and open access to Advanced Placement courses and exams, have helped Black students to see significant gains. The graduation rate among LBUSD’s African American students is 85.6 percent, compared to the statewide rate of 76.8 percent for the same demographic group. The college participation rate among graduating African American students is 70.2 percent, compared to 59.7 percent for their counterparts statewide. LBUSD ranks first nationally on the percentage of African American male students who took one or more Advanced Placement courses.

In anticipation of formalizing a policy on equity, LBUSD’s Board of Education last month directed staff to develop a district equity leadership team consisting of students and other stakeholders such as parents, employees and community partners such as The Promise partners. This equity leadership team will make recommendations for policy, practices, funding and future initiatives.

CSULB’s President Conoley said that while The Promise has transformed the lives of students and the city, “the next step in The Promise’s evolution must include a focus on diversity, equity and opportunity for all.” She discussed expansion of outreach to underrepresented students, and building upon several of the university's programs designed to help students graduate in a timely manner.

At LBCC, Bynum noted that the college’s trustees recently adopted a Framework for Reconciliation resolution. LBCC plans to strengthen current equity programs, increase college-wide input and scrutinize data with “with a clear eye on racial inequities.”

Mayor Garcia, who is an educator and a CSULB alum, said, “I know that access to a quality education is transformational for young people and their families. The Long Beach College Promise must be a promise for all, and we must ensure that our Black and students of color succeed at the same rates as other students.”

PROMISE SCHOLAR – Student Jazelle Green accepts a Long Beach College Promise Scholarship during a 2018 celebration.