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CA: Education partnership leads to 'Broad' success

  

Eli Broad surrounded by students from the Long Beach Unified School District. The district won the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2003.


When Long Beach Unified School District won the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2003, and the $500,000 in college scholarships that came with it, judges frequently pointed to the district’s powerful data collection system and research department as key factors.

But those judges also praised another characteristic of the school district: A high level of parental satisfaction.

"One reviewer said he had never seen a happier, more satisfied group of parents," said Nancy Wolfe, a parent who met with evaluators.

"Your school district is a great example of what is right in public education," Eli Broad told the district. "We want you to share your best management practices and instructional practices with other school districts."

One of those practices aims not only to improve success for students while they are enrolled in the district, but long after they have left and gone on to college and into the workplace. The initiative that is making that dream a reality is called the Long Beach Educational Partnership.

Reaching out to higher education

The Partnership was born as a response to difficult times economically for the community in the early 1990s. Municipal leaders seeking a plan of action to improve the

District Characteristics
Name: Long Beach Unified SD
State: CA
Type: Urban
Grades: Pre-k–12
Enrollment: 96,319
Students per teacher: 22

Enrollment Characteristics
Economically disadvantaged: n.a.
English language learners: n.a.
Students with disabilities: n.a.
White: 16.7%
Black: 18.2%
Hispanic: 49.7%
Asian/Pacific Islander: 2.1%
American Indian/Alaska Native: 3.5%
Other: 0.2%
Source: SchoolMatters.com
area’s quality of life amid layoffs and increasing crime gathered feedback from 2,500 community leaders whose signature recommendation was clear: Education must be at the center of economic renewal.

Community and education leaders realized the area’s educators had to work together, at all levels. The primary partners in the Long Beach Education Partnership became Long Beach Unified School District, Long Beach City College, and California State University Long Beach. The Partnership’s signature initiative is called Seamless Education, and is aimed at smoothing the way for students’ education from preschool through college master’s degree level, or "preK-18."

Business partners from the community are involved and active as well, and include such businesses as the Boeing Company, Verizon, and Bank of America, as well as numerous small businesses. That group has provided funding and plenty of input. The vision of the Partnership is to create a world-class, seamless education system in Long Beach.

The partnership also focuses on improved teacher preparation, high school reform, and increased outreach from higher education to Long Beach schools.

"Long Beach is a really a small community, in that there is a sense of ownership from our citizens," Mary Stanton, president of the Long Beach Unified school board. "Each entity works to support each other. We all are there to help each other as well as help our city become a better place to live."

In recent years

The Broad Prize revealed to the school district and the community that together they had achieved a huge turn-around. But the partnership is not resting on its laurels and is continually seeking ways to engage the community and increase academic achievement at all levels.

In 2004, leaders of each of the three education institutions delivered a state of education address, which will become an annual event. The partnership has also recently reorganized its governance structure, rewritten its mission statement, and has begun planning new education initiatives.

The Educational Partnership’s successes have also inspired the district to explore a host of additional community engagement efforts. The school district re-launched Principal for a Day in 2000, an initiative that had faded in recent years. Its first year back it attracted 180 participants, and has since grown to 300. After the event, the district hosts a debriefing reception, where ideas and suggestions are collected from participants. Judy Seal, Executive Director of both the Long Beach Education Foundation and the Long Beach Education Partnership, pointed out that Eli Broad himself requested that the Long Beach celebration of the Broad prize be coordinated with Principal for a Day.

Also in recent years, the total dollars donated to the school district through its local education fund increased from $17,000 to $1.2 million annually. The Education Partnership and the Long Beach Education Foundation coordinate their strategic planning and their communications.

But those dollars of course won’t impact the next big challenge for the school district: the possibility of deep budget cuts. Each participant in the Education Partnership is facing serious financial challenges. But having such strong engagement with each other and with the community at large are crucial to finding budgetary solutions, Seal points out. "One thing we don’t do in Long Beach is turn on each other," she says. "We count on each other. If you don’t believe it, come and see for yourself."

Visit the Long Beach Unified School District web site for more information about the district's programs.

Lessons Learned
  • Collaborating with higher education partners shows the community a school district has a long-term vision for each student, and is focused on the entire preK-18 educational experience. 
  •  Collaboration can become a meaningful and effective way to do business throughout the entire school district. “It is our culture now to collaborate,” says Judy Seal, executive director of the Long Beach Education Foundation and of the Long Beach Education Partnership.
  • School board involvement is important, but it must be judicious. “I believe a school board should support as much as possible, but remain separate so as to keep any hint of political favoritism out of the picture,” says Mary Stanton, school board president.

Contact

Judy Seal
Executive Director, Long Beach Education Foundation
1515 Hughes Way
Long Beach, CA 90810
(562) 997-8054
jseal@lbusd.k12.ca.us


Posted: June 6, 2005

©2005 Center for Public Education

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