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Long Beach Unified Wins $500,000

District is awarded the Broad Prize for Urban Education for academic achievements. Garden Grove system is finalist.

September 23, 2003|Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

The Long Beach Unified School District on Monday received the $500,000 Broad Prize for Urban Education, an award created last year by Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist Eli Broad to recognize urban school systems that have closed achievement gaps.

"We hope that Long Beach will be an inspiration to all of the Southern California urban districts," Broad said, adding that the district had been chosen from more than 100 reviewed.

The money from Broad's foundation will go toward college scholarships for at least 50 district students.

Orange County's Garden Grove Unified School District was one of four finalists for the national award. Each received $125,000 for college aid.

The award was presented to Long Beach Unified during a ceremony in New York also attended by U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein.

The prize was created to honor districts that are improving test scores and providing quality education to students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and income levels, Broad said. Its purpose is also to create competition among school districts, and to share the best educational practices with others, he said. "We want districts to say we want to win the Broad prize," he said.

Long Beach schools Supt. Christopher Steinhauser said: "This is just a huge, huge honor. What this says is that all of the hard work that staff, teachers and parents put forth over the last decade is paying off."

A review board of 20 education leaders from across the country analyzed data on test scores, dropout rates, Advanced Placement classes and demographics to determine the finalists and the winner

The 96,488-student Long Beach Unified School District stood out, they said, because of steady progress in its standardized test scores and in the learning environment.

Several years ago, Long Beach schools began holding back students who were not performing well in the first, third, fifth and eighth grades, and instituted extra tutoring programs for those students. The district, in which 36% of students are English-language learners and 69% are poor, requires youngsters to wear uniforms.

It frequently reviews its data and performance at school and administrative levels under a system called the Baldridge National Quality Program, which was funded by grants from Broad's foundation.

Long Beach Unified was selected from five national finalists. The other four were Garden Grove, Boston Public Schools, Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky and Norfolk Public Schools in Virginia.

"This award is validation that what we're doing is making a difference," said Garden Grove school board President Bob Harden, who traveled to New York City to receive the award. "We're a finalist because we have results."

The Houston Independent School District was awarded the first Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2002. Garden Grove and Long Beach schools were finalists for the prize that year, along with Atlanta and Boston public schools.

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Times staff writer Claire Luna contributed to this report.

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