Two of only five California winners of a prestigious national school achievement award are from the Long Beach Unified School District.
Robinson Academy and Signal Hill Elementary School have set the pace for public schools by earning both the California Achieving Schools Award and the National Achieving Schools Award. No other school district in the U.S. had two winners.
They qualified for the honors by having three consecutive years of exemplary API growth.
California Department of Education reviewers visited both schools in March to verify their high standards, to see them taught in the classrooms, to validate academic decisions based on state, district and school test data, to confirm community involvement and to document the exceptional academic growth at these schools through extended learning opportunities.
A total of 181 California schools qualified to apply for the award by making impressive growth on the Academic Performance Index. Contributing to Robinson's success was the fact that 60 to 70 percent of students attend intersession and after-school programs that add the equivalent of 40 days of instruction to the school year. They work six hours a day during the year-round session to increase their basic skills. Robinson ranks as one of the top 10 performing bilingual schools in California.
Robinson was also commended for its ability to bring multiple cultures together in a family-like atmosphere where diversity is a plus.
"The reviewers had never seen another school where diversity has brought the children together like a family," said Beth Flynn, Robinson principal. She pointed out that her cohesive school is the most diverse school located in the most diverse four blocks of the most diverse city in the U.S.
"State evaluators were impressed by how much our children know and what they could do," she said.
Robinson students receive instruction in Spanish, French or Japanese.
Signal Hill is a California State Demon-stration School for Restructuring. It is one of the most rapidly improving elementary schools in the district. Its API scores have risen from 625 in 1999 to 667 in 2000 to 699 in 2001. Last year, Signal Hill surpassed its API growth target of seven with its 32-point increase.
Academic improvement is driven by an extremely strong professional development program. Through the LBUSD Curriculum Office and the privately funded Design for Excellence: Linking Teaching and Achievement (DELTA) professional development initiative, teachers have access to the latest research on best practices. Last year, parents contributed more than 3,000 volunteer hours to the school.