By Jill Baker, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
It’s great to be here virtually with our Long Beach College Promise partners today. I especially want to thank Mayor Garcia for continuing to make the Promise a top priority despite all of the challenges that he and the City of Long Beach are facing right now as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Similarly, each of the other partnering institutions represented here today is deeply affected by the extraordinary times that we live in. The fact that we’re all here today for the common cause of furthering our work on the Promise is a testament to the high value that Long Beach places on the education of its young people.
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. Working together, we can build upon our gains in college and career readiness, with a greater focus on racial equity.
While my first official day as superintendent was August 1st, I’m not new to Long Beach or the school district. Issues of racial equity have long been important to me and my colleagues, and to our community partners, but our work in this area has taken on much greater urgency this year.
I’ve been fortunate to work with our schools for 28 years, and in my capacity as Deputy Superintendent in recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with community groups such as Californians for Justice and the California Conference for Equality and Justice to include student voices in the development of programs and policies that focus on excellence, equity and inclusion. I’ve also led efforts to help improve racial equity through leadership development within our organization.
I’m well acquainted with the significant progress we’ve seen since the inception of the Promise back in 2008. I won’t dwell on those successes, because they are well documented nationally, and today is more about the future than the past. But I’d like to share just a few brief examples of the progress we’ve made together.
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 now 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 here 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.
Those are just a few examples, and our Promise partners have more. But we all know that we have more work to do.
In anticipation of formalizing a policy on equity, our Board of Education last month directed staff to develop a district equity leadership team consisting of students and other stakeholders including parents, employees and community partners such as the Promise partners. This equity leadership team will make recommendations for policy, practices, funding and future initiatives. We plan to tie this work directly into the College Promise and ensure that we focus our collective efforts through a lens of racial equity. And we plan to make sure that we amplify student voices during this work. We have heard from students for whom our schools and the Promise have changed their lives dramatically for the better. And we have heard from others who have not had the same experience. Students know their experiences best, and we will be listening to them carefully.
Our local public schools, and our beloved community college and university are storied places of excellence. Much like our nation’s founding, our daily work is founded on a big idea. We firmly believe in the innate talents and abilities of all our students. We know that our nation still has much work to do if we are to live up to our founding ideals about equity. We in Long Beach also have a lot of work to do. But I know for a fact that our students can do great things if we just give them the chance and the support they need to overcome their unique challenges.
We are committed to giving more students that chance, and it’s a privilege to be a part of this important work.