Something is missing from America’s ongoing debate about education, says national education writer Jeff Bryant in the first of a series of upcoming articles on the Long Beach Unified School District. Why do school districts like Long Beach succeed despite tough challenges?
“Where both sides in the policy debate start is with the assumption that real progress can’t come from schools themselves but must be imposed from outside by folks who aren’t professional educators,” Bryant writes. “What if that assumption is wrong? What if there are school districts that are bucking the ‘failure’ narrative? What could our policy leaders and think tank ‘experts’ learn from them? Recently, I traveled to a school district in search of answers to those questions.”
In the article, “Yes, schools can improve; Here’s how,” Bryant calls Long Beach “an unlikely success story” and notes that LBUSD outperforms other California school districts that have similar challenges, including significant numbers of students living in poverty and many children learning English as a second language.
“So how did Long Beach get here?” Bryant says. “When I posed that question to former California State Superintendent Bill Honig, who encouraged me to come see these schools, he replied, ‘Long Beach could do it because it has a long history of people who put curriculum and instruction first and who were willing to put into place the supports for that.’ Honig maintains that any school district can do this, ‘but you have to have the clear belief to keep curriculum and instruction first.’”
Bryant is the editor of the Education Opportunity Network website and has written extensively about public education policy. He says that educators throughout LBUSD spoke of “The Long Beach Way” during his visit here.
“The Long Beach Way, I learned, is a relentless devotion to the process of ‘doing school’ that puts the essentials of good education – curriculum and instruction and an intense devotion to the well-being of students – at the heart of the work rather than technocratic changes meant to solve problems quickly or disrupt the system.”