June 01, 2007
National education experts came away impressed after four days of visiting schools and central offices recently to help determine whether the Long Beach Unified School District will win the national Broad Prize for Urban Education.
The school district is one of five finalists for the $1 million Broad Prize, the largest education prize in the nation given to school districts. Long Beach is the first former winner since the prize began in 2002 to return as a finalist.
"That is an incredible story and one that people around the country are watching carefully," said Erica Lepping, Broad Foundation spokesperson and former press secretary for U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley. "Can a former winner of The Broad Prize win again?"
As a finalist, LBUSD will receive at least $125,000 in scholarships for graduating high school seniors and will compete for a total of $500,000 in scholarships. In all, $1 million in scholarships goes to the finalists and top winner. The award honors urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps for poor and minority students.
Lepping, during a tour at Hill Classical Middle School, praised the school district’s "great story of perseverance," which she compared to that of cycling legend Lance Armstrong. Despite significant challenges, Armstrong not only won the top honor in his profession, but repeated the accomplishment several times. She noted the school district’s increased student enrollment in Advanced Placement college prep courses.
"Your AP participation rates are skyrocketing for African American and Hispanic students," Lepping said.
Fellow reviewer Megan Tupa said extensive training is among the greatest contributing factors to improved student achievement here, often in the form of "coaches" and others who provide support to teachers. She and her team interviewed several teachers.
"What we heard from the teachers is that these (coaches) are an ongoing resource to improve teaching," Tupa said.
LBUSD won the prize in 2003 and was a finalist in 2002. The 2007 winner will be announced September 18 in Washington, D.C.