National education writer Jeff Bryant, in the second of a continuing series of articles on Long Beach schools, highlights “the structural supports that make it more likely the talents of teachers come out.” He credits such support for Long Beach’s ability to retain teachers and “perform above average in the perpetually difficult work of educating students who struggle the hardest in school.”
Bryant is the editor of the Education Opportunity Network website and has written extensively about public education policy. His latest work, “A Southern California District Resists Bad Education Policy,” appeared recently in The Progressive, a Wisconsin-based magazine that has published since 1909.
Bryant visited Millikan High School, where he spoke with teachers and learned that they are constantly working to improve their practice.
“To this end, the district has committed to providing ample opportunities and resources… The teachers in Long Beach are showing that when given sufficient resources and supports to meet the needs and interests of students, they can get the job done,” Bryant states, noting that LBUSD has steadily improved its graduation rate and surpasses the rest of the state on key measures such as attendance, percentage of high school graduates meeting state college level requirements, and percentage of nonwhite students taking Advanced Placement courses in high school.
At Millikan, teachers have helped to customize curricular pathways for students. For example, the school’s PEACE pathway, which focuses on social justice, was conceived by teachers who wanted students to become more invested in their studies.
“District staff nurtured the idea, but teachers led the way,” Bryant states. “The Long Beach district’s stellar support of its teaching staff is reflected in its low teacher attrition rate of 7 percent, much lower than the national average for urban school districts.”
Bryant also describes teachers’ implementation of Common Core Standards and the Linked Learning initiative that creates career-oriented pathways to major California industries while linking various course subjects.
“Millikan teachers have clearly embraced Linked Learning. But not because they were forced to. Linked Learning was not mandated by the district.”
Bryant cites the example of teacher Michele Mize, whose ninth graders performed “nonfiction narratives” where they presented stories conveying the results of interviews they had conducted, incorporating lesson material from other classes they’ve taken. Mize focuses on the critical thinking and creativity that the standards emphasize.
“I’m very confident of what I’m doing in the classroom,” she said.