When I say, “high performing, high poverty,” what districts come to mind? For many of you, I’m sure the Long Beach Unified School District in California was on that list. Long Beach has long been praised for innovative scheduling to increase student achievement through tutoring, sustaining high performance even through change in leadership, and being one of the few large school districts that has managed to change its culture.
However, new reports from test scores show that some schools have not been keeping up to the standards Long Beach set for itself. Almost two in five of the elementary and K-8 schools saw scores drop between 26 and 63 points, bringing some schools below the 800-point long-term performance goal. The district has seen a budget cut of $300 million over the past four years, resulting in staff lay-offs at all levels and larger class sizes. Many are saying these changes are to blame for the decreases in scores.
We’ve written before about turning around schools in a time of budget cuts, so perhaps Long Beach needs to align its current culture and conditions to these cuts in order to navigate effective spending on a smaller budget. Though the district’s scores did fall, they did not fall enough to sound a true alarm over the defeat of a functioning district. Perhaps next year, the district will have had the time to adjust to a tighter budget and will think strategically about where to put finances and efforts so as to keep student achievement high.