October 04, 2002
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Broad Foundation founder Eli Broad announced this week that the Long Beach Unified School District is one of the five best large school districts in the nation. As a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, Long Beach will receive $125,000 in scholarships.
The Houston Independent School District was named America's top performing school district and the winner of the inaugural Broad Prize for Urban Education, which includes $500,000 in scholarships. The achievements of Long Beach, Houston and three other finalists will be showcased by Broad to other school districts throughout the year.
"Achievement in America's urban public schools is the most important civil rights issue of the new century," said Eli Broad. "Long Beach's remarkable improvements in increasing student achievement are a model for the nation. The future looks better and brighter for Long Beach's public school children."
The five winning districts were chosen from an initial field of 108 of the nation’s most successful large urban school districts after a rigorous selection process and visits by leading researchers and practitioners.
"Long Beach deserves a high level of praise for getting results," said Ross Santy, leader of an evaluation team from the National Center for Excellence and Accountability. His team visited Long Beach schools in May during the selection process. Most schools in Long Beach have continued to exceed academic growth targets set by the state, even surpassing the gains that the reviewers observed in May.
"The finalists did not wait for federal legislation to force them into bold, commonsense policies and practices to help their students achieve," the judges wrote. "These districts understand that progress develops over time and with great effort. These districts are offering more of the right learning tools for their students than their big-city peers. They deserve to be praised and, more important, emulated."
In all, Broad gave $1 million this week to school districts, including $125,000 awards to Long Beach, Atlanta, Boston and Garden Grove school districts. The awards honor each of these successful urban school districts for making the greatest overall improvement in student achievement and significantly closing achievement gaps across ethnic groups and between high and low income students.
"This award validates all the hard work our teachers, staff and parents have been doing over the past 10 years," said Chris Steinhauser, superintendent of schools of the Long Beach Unified School District. "We’re thrilled to be named one of the top five school districts in the nation," he said.
"Anyone familiar with the selection process for this award knows that it is a high honor to make it to this group of finalists," he said. "It means that America’s top education experts have declared our schools to be models for the nation. It’s our Pulitzer. It’s our Nobel Prize. And it inspires us to work even harder."
Steinhauser flew to Washington, D.C. for the award announcement at the U.S. Capitol, joined by Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education President Bobbie Smith, Board Member Jim Choura and Teachers Association of Long Beach President Cliff Kusaba.
Paige and Broad were joined at the news conference by Senators Edward Kennedy, Judd Gregg, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Paul Sarbanes, Barbara Boxer and Representatives Dick Armey, John Boehner, George Miller, Nancy Pelosi, John Lewis, Nita Lowey, Jane Harman, Tom Petri, Ed Royce and Johnny Isakson.
The Educational Testing Service and Hispanic Scholarship Fund will jointly manage scholarship selection and disbursement, in cooperation with Long Beach schools. High school seniors from Long Beach, Lakewood, Signal Hill and Avalon will be eligible for two-year or four-year scholarships depending on the type of institution in which they choose to enroll. Students who enroll in four-year institutions will each receive $10,000 scholarships paid out over four years at $2,500 per year. Students who enroll in two-year institutions will receive $2,000 scholarships paid out over two years at $1,000 per year. Scholarships will go to students with exemplary academic achievement and financial need. More specific selection criteria will be announced before the first group of scholars is selected in spring 2003.
After conferring with Long Beach school administrators in May, an evaluation team spent a day visiting Jackie Robinson Academy and Poly High School, two of the school district’s urban success stories. Evaluators toured the unique dual immersion language magnets at Robinson Academy, where students learn French, Japanese and Spanish. The school is one of only five California schools to win the Title I Distinguished School Award. Robinson has excelled in academic achievement for students of all backgrounds and abilities. The school’s total Academic Performance Index grew from 562 to 720 between 1999 and 2002.
Visitors to Poly said they were impressed, too. From turmoil and racial strife in the 1960s, the school has been transformed into the number one school in the U.S. in admissions to Stanford University, the University of California and other top universities.