A National and International Leader of School Reform
The Long Beach Unified School District has earned a reputation as one of America's finest school systems, winning many awards as a national and international model of excellence. The Global Education Study by the nonprofit Battelle for Kids organization lists LBUSD among five of the world's highest performing school systems. LBUSD also is one of the world's top 20 school systems -- and one of the top three in the U.S. -- in terms of sustained and significant improvements, according to a report described as the most comprehensive analysis of global school system reform ever assembled. The study was conducted by McKinsey & Company, a trusted advisor and counselor to many of the most influential businesses and institutions in the world. McKinsey serves more than 70 percent of Fortune magazine's most admired companies. The school district was named a national winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education, recognizing America's best urban school system for increasing student achievement. LBUSD also is a five-time finalist for the prize.
Established in 1885 with fewer than a dozen students meeting in a borrowed tent, LBUSD now educates about 79,000 students in 85 public schools in the cities of Long Beach, Lakewood, Signal Hill, and Avalon on Catalina Island. With a team of more than 12,000 full-time and part-time employees, the school district is the largest employer in Long Beach. The third largest school district in California, LBUSD serves one of the most diverse large cities in the United States, and dozens of languages are spoken by local students. About 14 percent of students here are African American, 11 percent Asian, 55 percent Hispanic, 14 percent white, less than 2 percent Pacific Islander, less than 1 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native, and about 4 percent other. Approximately 23 percent of students are English Language Learners, and 68 percent are socioeconomically disadvantaged.
The school district has won widespread recognition for establishing high standards of dress, behavior and achievement. Its successes have been featured on Good Morning America, NBC's Today Show, CBS's This Morning, CNN Headline News and in Newsweek, Time, U.S. News and World Report, Parade, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and other national news media.
LBUSD was the first public school system in the U.S. to require uniforms in kindergarten through eighth grade; the first to require any third grader reading below grade level to attend mandatory summer school; and the first to end social promotion. LBUSD's reforms have paid off with record attendance and low absenteeism, more students taking college preparatory courses, and safer schools. Local schools continue to post significant gains in student achievement.
Long before the strategy became common among U.S. schools, Long Beach developed clear expectations for what children should know and be able to do as a result of their schooling at each grade level. The district in the early 1990s looked to teachers, business leaders, university experts and parents to develop new, rigorous academic standards. Since then, attainment of those high standards has attracted the increased interest and involvement of civic leaders, community partners, parents and teachers. The school district's Academic and Career Success Initiative, approved by the Board of Education in 2008, built upon nearly two decades of steady improvement. The initiative reaffirms LBUSD's commitment to serving every student, every day. This initiative was aligned with the school district's strategic plan and, more recently, the Local Control Accountability Plan required by the state.
Key to the district's success is its work with business people, volunteers, colleges and universities. The Long Beach Unified School District, California State University Long Beach and Long Beach City College have worked in collaboration with local, regional and national partners to create seamless, pre-kindergarten to postgraduate-school education. This partnership aligns academic standards, teaching methods and student assessment from preschool through masters and doctoral degree. The partnership also includes the Long Beach College Promise, which provides additional support to help more students prepare for and succeed in college. LBUSD has also established educational partnerships with more than 1,200 local businesses, which recognize the district's role in developing a well-educated, highly skilled work force. Thousands of Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) assist teachers and students in classrooms. Long Beach schools have been visited and praised by the nation's president, attorney general, four secretaries of education, former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell and other high level officials seeking to replicate LBUSD's successes. Local schools have won numerous California Distinguished, National Blue Ribbon and National Green Ribbon awards.
These are the hallmarks of one of America's finest school systems. A total commitment to continuous improvement is what makes the Long Beach Unified School District a national and international leader in preparing young men and women for success.