U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had high praise for the Long Beach Unified School District when he met recently with educators, parents and students at LBUSD’s Tincher Preparatory School.
“I’ve studied your school district for a long time, and I think you have so much to be proud of,” Duncan said. “I don’t say this lightly, but more so than the vast majority of other school districts that I visit, this school district has gotten things right for a long time.”
The visit was part of a trip to California to highlight the need for education reform at the federal level.
In a roundtable discussion in the K-8 school’s library, Duncan discussed President Barack Obama’s blueprint for fixing the No Child Left Behind Act. Duncan said he wanted the federal legislation revised before the start of school again in September. He listened to success stories about Tincher’s student performance, curriculum, community partnerships, parent education, college readiness efforts and data-driven decision making. He also heard repeated calls for funding to help ease California’s continued cuts to public education.
“We need funds, because teachers need to want to go into teaching, yet they see class sizes increasing and programs like fine arts being cut,” Tincher Principal Bill Vogel told Duncan. Vogel has helped to lead the school’s diverse student population to achievement levels far exceeding the state’s goals.
Among the roundtable participants were Board of Education President Felton Williams and LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser.
Steinhauser expressed support for President Obama’s blueprint for revising the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The President’s plan would abolish NCLB’s widely criticized Adequate Yearly Progress system, replacing its single snapshot approach with a system that rewards academic gains.
Without major revisions, most schools in the nation will soon be labeled unfairly as failures under the current system, the Education Secretary said.
“This idea of labeling every school a failure is absolutely crazy,” Duncan added.
Obama’s plan would reward academic growth and innovation instead of simply sending more money to troubled school districts. Such a change in the federal law would benefit higher-performing school systems such as Long Beach.
Steinhauser also suggested to Duncan that the federal government provide grants directly to school districts (instead of states), including perhaps the 100 largest school districts in the nation, and then allow greater flexibility as to how school systems can use the funding.