Our Long Beach schools are leading many children on the path to success. LBUSD ranks very high compared to other school districts of similar size and demographics. Long Beach teachers deserve a world of praise for the sacrifices they make everyday for their students.
Over the past five years, our teachers, administrators and classified personnel have helped students improve their academic achievement in reading and math and increase their participation in Advanced Placement courses and their success rate in AP tests. Graduation rates and scholarships to pay for college have also increased dramatically.
LBUSD’s mission is “to support the personal and intellectual success of every student, every day.” Every single one of our students deserves to be understood, respected and empowered. In this respect, we can do even better than we are already doing. Here is how:
Engage the Community
Some parents feel left out of the decision-making process. This can be addressed by increasing community involvement when drafting the District Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and the local school improvement plans. The School District is responsible to ensure that parents, students and community members participate in creating District goals and in offering suggestions for ways to allocate the funds to achieve those goals.
For parents and students to have a stronger voice, they need to receive more frequent updates about the school system. The District should collaborate even more with community organizations, school site councils, and neighborhood associations to create monthly workshops for parents. These events should provide language services in Spanish, Khmer, Tagalog and other languages.
Create a Positive School Climate
Students are most motivated to excel academically when their social, emotional, psychological and physical needs are met. Schools with positive climates have fewer student discipline problems, fewer school suspensions, fewer absences, less bullying, higher student academic motivation and engagement, and improvements in academic achievement (Source: NEA).
LBUSD teachers are doing an amazing job at creating a caring environment where a majority of students and parents feel that kids are safe, supported and respected at school (Source: CA School Dashboard). Suspension rates have dropped over the past few years. However, LBUSD can create a more positive school climate by developing a clear discipline plan to reduce suspensions even more. This is especially true for African American students and students with special needs and disabilities who are suspended at higher rates than other students.
Bullying is a barrier to creating a positive school climate. Many parents express frustration about their children feeling threatened or intimidated habitually by other students at school. The District should provide more guidance to administrators and teachers on how to deal with bullying more effectively.
Furthermore, schools should continue to implement programs that engage students in activities that promote collaboration, connectedness and opportunities for meaningful participation. We can take on the culture of bullying by building a culture of healthy interpersonal relationships among students.
The school board, administrators, teachers, students and the community should continue to work together to embrace a culture of positive behavioral interventions. The District must continue to create safe spaces for students to learn and thrive by increasing access to school libraries, music, art, and sports programs, and by investing in more counselors, psychologists, and trauma specialists.
Our District has adopted policies and written resolutions declaring that every student is entitled to a quality education, regardless of their immigration status or sexual orientation. The School District should continue to inform parents and students of their rights within the school system. We must connect parents and students with community organizations that can provide them with legal and financial resources.
Provide Support to Students With Disabilities
Last year, LBUSD students with special needs and disabilities earned higher scores than the previous year in math and English assessments. Even though this growth should be celebrated, our District can and should do more for these students.
Supporting students with special needs and disabilities requires that we involve parents, students, teachers and counselors in the decision-making process. Many parents are not aware of their children’s rights within the school system or they feel they do not have the platform to be heard. LBUSD should do more to connect parents with specialists so that parents can understand their children’s disabilities. Schools must also do better at listening to parents’ and students’ concerns.
Just as importantly, the District should provide teachers and aides with more tools and resources to help students with special needs and disabilities. When prospective teachers go through teacher-preparation programs, they take an average of one or two courses focusing on inclusion or special education (Source: The Atlantic). The District should provide teachers and aides with frequent and relevant professional development focused on special education.
Prepare Our Students For Life After Graduation
The rising cost of college tuition is creating a sense of anxiety in many of our students. After all, students who attend four-year public university will incur on average more than $21,000 in student loans (Source: The Institute For College Access and Success). To alleviate this anxiety, LBUSD should do even more to connect students and parents with scholarship and grant opportunities. Additionally, schools should provide students with financial literacy classes to prepare them for the challenges of a struggling economy.
LBUSD can also help prepare students for the demands of college and the competitive workforce by continuing to invest in Career Technical Education Programs (CTE). CTE provides students with access to general education as well as the academic and technical skills necessary to succeed in future careers. CTE gives students the knowledge and training in the following industries:
- Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Arts, Media, and Entertainment
- Building and Construction Trades
- Business and Finance
- Education, Child Development, and Family Services
- Energy, Environment, and Utilities
- Engineering and Architecture
- Fashion and Interior Design
- Health Science and Medical Technology
- Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Manufacturing and Product Development
- Marketing, Sales, and Service
- Public Services
LBUSD offers academic pathway programs in almost all of those areas. Students who are involved in Career Technical Education are highly engaged in their learning. They are therefore more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, be employed and earn higher wages (Source: Education Writers Association).
Expand Early Childhood Education
Every major developed country in the world offers universal Pre-K Education. Since the United States and California are failing to keep pace with the rest of the world, Long Beach Unified must lead the way. A free, publicly funded, district-wide, high-quality Pre-K program is the most effective way to address many of the issues facing our students.
Teachers’ jobs are especially difficult because they are required to teach new content while supporting students who struggle to keep up with the pace of instruction. We can alleviate this challenge by helping all students develop their cognitive and social skills before they reach kindergarten. The National Education Association supports universal Pre-K Education because:
“Individuals who were enrolled in a quality preschool program ultimately earned up to $2,000 more per month than those who were not. Young people who were in preschool programs are more likely to graduate from high school, to own homes, and have longer marriages…Children in quality preschool programs are less likely to repeat grades, need special education, or get into future trouble with the law.” – Source: NEA
One obstacle to universal Pre-K Education is funding. This issue will require many conversations and difficult decisions, but investing in early childhood education means spending less in later remediation programs.
A first step in moving toward universal Pre-K is to expand our half-day Pre-K programs to full-day programs. Even though the district provides access to Pre-K programs for over 90% of low-income families, many low-income families still don’t have access to full-day programs. This is an important step forward because students who go to seven-hour programs demonstrate higher scores on tests of social-emotional skills, language, math and physical development than children who attended a program for three hours a day (Source: Education Week).