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Students Improve Despite State Cuts

By Christopher J. Steinhauser
Superintendent of Schools

Much has happened since I last wrote here in June.

Most importantly, we learned that the latest student performance results for 2010 show a continuing upward trend in almost all grade levels and subject areas.  The results include double-digit growth in proficiency.  In some cases the growth is extraordinary.

The number of fifth graders achieving proficiency or advanced proficiency in math and science, for instance, has increased by 38 percent and 39 percent respectively since 2003, based upon the new numbers.  That’s a significant increase.

Many more students are taking and passing algebra in eighth grade, and hundreds more students are taking and passing rigorous Advanced Placement courses and exams.

These results are even more extraordinary considering that we’ve made huge cuts to our budget during seven of the last eight years, including more than $100 million in cuts during the past three years alone.  Despite the worst economic downturn in decades, we’re still finding a way to get the job done thanks to your heroic efforts.

At the same time, we all know that times are tough for California’s public schools.  Our state still hasn’t passed a budget.  California missed out on federal Race to the Top funds this summer, and unfortunately the state legislation we sponsored to allow us greater spending flexibility has stalled in the Assembly.  But there is some good news.  Congress this summer passed a jobs bill that promises to bring significant funding to our schools.  While this funding will not solve our ongoing fiscal challenges, it may help considerably.  We’ll keep you posted as we learn more details.

We’ve received major grants this summer for leadership training and other professional development, including a Teaching American History Grant, and we have established important partnerships with organizations such as the Boeing and GE foundations.

We’re also encouraged that our Academic and Career Success Initiative continues full speed ahead, with more students enrolling in college and taking advantage of our College Promise, including guaranteed admission to Cal State Long Beach and a free first semester starting this fall at Long Beach City College.

I acknowledge that we start this school year with hundreds fewer teachers and other vital employees than last year – the direct result of the state’s chronic under funding of education.  I also recognize that many of our remaining employees are making sacrifices this year, including five unpaid furlough days.  Now more than ever, your continued best efforts on behalf of our students are appreciated not only by me, but also by our Board of Education and thousands of grateful parents and students.

We must not be discouraged.  Our work is too important.  Through it all, we continue to have a positive, lasting impact upon thousands of students and their families.

With deepest appreciation for all that you do, I wish you a safe and successful year.