Keeping Long Beach’s Promise

K-12, CSU, City College work in sync
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Long Beach Unified, Long Beach City College and Cal State University Long Beach are all straining under budget cuts. But today, the three will announce they will deepen their commitment to the Long Beach College Promise, a joint effort to encourage more students to enroll in college and to better prepare them to succeed in it.

Now entering its third year, the College Promise is a unique cooperative arrangement between a K-12 district and higher ed institutions. It’s a combination of financial rewards (a semester of free community college tuition) and admission preferences for Long Beach Unified students, college education classes for parents, and college preparation courses for Long Beach Unified seniors. Soon, it will include a new assessment of college readiness.

College Promise is based on the recognition that K-12 and higher ed must work together to increase college completion and reduce the need for remediation classes for college freshmen. Statewide, only 30 percent of students graduate with a two- or four-year degree after six years. Three-quarters of community college students and more than 50 percent of California State University students arrive on campus unprepared for college level math and/or English. Long Beach Unified’s ambitious goal, says Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser, is to reduce to zero the need for remediation – at least for those students headed to CSULB. Long Beach is the third largest district in California, with 86,000 students, 52 percent Latino and 16 percent African American.

California State University has created a college readiness exam – an addendum to the state standardized tests in English and math for high school juniors – called the Early Assessment Program (EAP). Those who pass are deemed college ready; those who don’t can take online remediation courses or CSU-designed English classes in those high schools that offer them. EAP and CSU’s outreach to high schools have been praised as a national model, but there are limitations. Only those juniors taking Algebra II – a requirement for CSU schools – take the math portion of the EAP. Also, the exam and extra courses have been voluntary, and there is no follow-up test for seniors to measure their progress before they arrive as college freshmen. (Starting in the summer of 2012, CSU will require non-proficient students to show they have started  remediation before enrolling at a CSU campus.)

CSULB, LBCC, and LB Unified are connecting the missing links. Steinhauser said that starting next year, all juniors will take the English portion of the EAP, regardless of whether they plan to attend a CSU school. One reason is that many of those who are going directly to LBCC plan to transfer to CSULB.

Students who don’t pass the EAP will be required to attend remediation classes as seniors, in place of an elective. They will then be given a new assessment that all three institutions are creating. Those who pass it (they will have three chances) will be exempt from taking entrance exams at LBCC. They also will get priority status for course enrollment at LBCC – a huge advantage for entering students at a time of cutbacks in offerings. Steinhauser hopes that CSULB eventually will accept the results of the assessment as well.

When they signed the Promise in March 2008, Steinhauser and the two college presidents, Eloy Oakley of LBCC and King Alexander of CSULB, agreed that students would receive a free first semester at LBCC, and that those with the minimum CSU requirements would be guaranteed admission at CSULB. The community began fundraising immediately. Last year, 500 students took advantage of the free semester, worth about $400; next year, the offer will be extended to all who attend – probably about 1,800 freshmen from Long Beach Unified. Many might qualify for a fee waiver anyway, but many will benefit, Steinhauser said.

Other elements of the Promise include a four-week course for high school parents on how to prepare their kids for college, as well as field trips to college campuses for elementary students (LBCC for fourth graders, CSULB for fifth graders, and, starting next year for sixth graders, trips to private colleges like the University of Southern California and to University of California campuses). In addition, LBCC and CSULB have been working with LB Unified teachers on improving algebra instruction.

It’s too early for definitive results, but early results are promising.

  • The percentage of LB Unified graduates going on to higher education rose from 68 percent in 2007 to 74 percent in 2009, Steinhauser said.
  • Of 5,600 graduates last June, 1,800 – about a third – enrolled in LBCC.
  • Two thirds of LB Unified grads from the Class of 2008 remained enrolled at LBCC a year later – a retention rate twice the average for students from other high schools attending LBCC.
  • CSULB enrolled 650 LB Unified graduates this year, compared with 450 the year before. Notwithstanding the admission guarantee, Steinhauser said that Long Beach Unified freshmen enter with an above-average grade point average. Hispanics comprised the largest group.

Steinhauser grew up in Long Beach and graduated from both LBCC and CSULB; his wife and his son teach in the district. The long-term hope of all three presidents is to strengthen Long Beach’s workforce by enticing its talented native sons and daughters to stick closer to home.

4 Comments

  1. This is lovely, but as with all government preference schemes, it creates distortions. Guaranteed admission for these students means that some graduates of other school districts, potentially with equal or better qualifications, are being denied admission. I guess I’m tired of the hand-holding involved in these college-readiness programs.
     
    I’m also tired of subsidized remedial instruction in our public universities. Get it right in high school, or pay the full cost of your remedial courses. Graduates of California high schools who require remediation should be deemed inadmissible to university. One way to accomplish this would be to use the CSU test as an admissions test, and to require a fairly high minimum SAT score.

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  2. Pablo, I agree with you 100%. The Long Beach Promise is a political scheme to make LBUSD appear more successful academically than it naturally would be without these incentives. These incentives are not fair to those who view Cal State Long Beach as a prestigious institution where students working hard through their high school careers dream to attend as it is their school of choice. Knowing that others are guaranteed entrance based on geographical location of their residence and school attendance is another form of discrimination and is a strategic way of providing a selected group of students of defined traits to enter CSULB over qualified applicants. I attended a teaching program as well as my masters in education that does not represent anything I hoped for a career in education, and knowing that students are able to enter without being distinguished in a manner like others not attending a public school of LBUSD seriously degrades what I’ve heard and makes me understand the true spectrum of absolute political bureaucratic agendas set by certain individuals or organizations with personal goals to be achieve that are unethical and degrades a system viewed as “academically rigorous” and “prestigious.”
    The idea of mandating a specific test to an institution that may not be preferred by all to 11th graders in high school is inappropriate and unnecessary. The truth it that although the LB Promise has intentions to increase the admissions and attendance of its graduating, qualified high school students, the reality still reflects that the majority of public school high school students graduate but are not eligible upon graduation entrance to a 4 year university, thus why should an entire population be required to take a test that is catered to benefit only the qualifying candidates of the Long Beach Promise? 
    On the surface, the LB Promise is rather promising in its intentions to increase students attending college, but it represents an example of creating systems which allow one group of people to be preferred over others when as Pablo mentioned, as just as qualified, yet denied based on impaction of a major or a spot into the school unethically filled. 
    Learning about these programs infuriates me because I attended a public school, worked my butt off despite schools receiving decreased funding each year and through a far selection process I was accepted to UC and CSU across the state the fair way. I was very lucky to have a good English teacher my junior year of high school who helped hone my writing skills and I began to improve and write at much higher levels, but as I only began to write at the college level in my junior year, when I tested into UCSB, I was required to take one quarter of a remedial English class to fully be considered a proficient writing at the college level. Students believe to be the top of their class at graduation and when accepted only to realize how low they are compared to the highest achieving students at schools across our state.
    I understand that the Long Beach Promise is one theory into closing the achievement gap, but although the surface sounds suitable, it is not the correct solution. Instead of slapping bandaids on to stop the leaks, let’s work towards fixing the real problem which is the unequal distribution of resources to our schools due to fixed property income tax which vary from one geological location to all, if our state offer a free and appropriate education to all than all schools no matter its geographical location nor its socioeconomic majority should all be provided with equal resources and curriculum for all students of diverse background to achieve. That would close the academic gap and more students would feel more to apply as they were able to attain a level of competency at the time of college admission deadlines. The majority of public school students defeats the odds despite lack of resources, but for our state to truly provide FAPE, it needs to restructure its means of funding schools. The inequality of education and detrimental decreased quality in our high schools is a direct result from the state not providing adequate resources for its students to achieve than  areas where wealth is not an issue.

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