Would you put your child in this school?

Long Beach, CA. Bay Area News Group file photo, from MCT.

That’s the mantra in the Long Beach school district, according to a new McKinsey report that named the school district — and the Oakland-based charter management organization, Aspire Public Schools — among the 20 most-improved school systems in the world.

Long Beach is an ethnically diverse, high-poverty school district in a California port city, just like Oakland. Unlike Oakland, it’s had stable leadership for years, under a superintendent — in his ninth year — who once attended school in the district and later returned to be a teacher, principal and administrator.

If you have a chance to read McKinsey’s two-page case study on the Long Beach school district’s teacher preparation, training and coaching strategies, I’d love to hear how they compare to your experience in Oakland. It’s on pages 48-50 (link here).

Two things that caught my attention:

1) Long Beach recruits 80 percent of its teachers from the education school at Cal State Long Beach. To prepare them for “the Long Beach way,” administrators from the curriculum department actually teach the method classes.

2) An elementary school math teacher, inspired by his aunt’s experience teaching in Singapore, structured his lessons in a similar way, yielding huge test score gains. The district noticed and piloted his strategy in other classrooms. It reminded me of Si Swun math, a method used in Oakland that has produced similarly strong results.

Hey, wait! That teacher was Si Swun! The implementation of his strategy cost OUSD more than $2 million. I wonder how Long Beach’s bill compared, and if there are any Si Swuns in Oakland right now, whose masterful teaching strategies have — so far — remained in one classroom.

Do you know of any?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Ms C

    The Si Swun success story exemplifies a model of school reform that I think should be implemented nationwide. When teachers and administrators take notice of homegrown talent, you get teacher buy-in , a low cost alternative to hiring an outside consultant, and the spreading of best practices. Imagine if all principals, all teachers, and the union took on the mentality that each of us is on the look out for exceptionally great teaching talent so we can change our education system from the inside.

  • Ms. J.

    But it’s somewhat ironic that the implementation of Si Swun in Oakland has been anything but home grown–and the implementation, especially in terms of “training,” has been pretty pathetic. In the trainings I attended the woman in charge seemed to be doing her best to impersonate the OCR police from back in the day–not accepting any variation from the script, and not allowing that some classrooms/students/teachers might need or benefit from other techniques.

  • winnipeg nancy

    I disagree that the SiSwun training has been pathetic. It’s also not comparable to the SiSwun phenomenon in Long Beach because SiSwun is not from OUSD. Si is home grown in the former and a consultant in the latter.

    I really agree with #1 that finding home grown success in any district, and then leveraging that talent district wide is a great idea for reform.

    I wonder, though: if the recipe for successful Oakland teaching came from an excellent OEA teacher’s practice–I wonder if OUSD could scale this from one classroom to district-wide with great results.

    It is a great idea to develop a strategy from within. But implementing an idea is a lot harder than having one.

    LBUSD has had their supe for 9 years, eh? And this supe comes from within LBUSD?

    I think OUSD should follow suit and with the task forces, it’s trying to, right?

  • HistoryMan

    Si Swan training was absolutely pathetic! I don’t understand how you could say otherwise.

    By the way where is Si Swan now….oh yeah….LONG GONE!!!

    Just another 2 M I L L I O N dollars wasted by OUSD.

  • Deborah W

    Current leadership and that prior from D Chacones regime and is not interested in anything ‘home grown’. Individuals who are have been beaten down or let go or forced out! It’s like only current and new OUSD individuals have the only answers to a district that was heavily grass roots and home grown. So different now! Verdict still out!

  • Karen Hamstrom

    Si Swun currently works for Garden Grove Unified School District here in California. Our district treats him like the second coming. I have yet another training in his system tomorrow. Although it works for some kids, the emphasis on rote learning over the development of conceptual learning does a disservice to many.

  • ChloeV

    My son goes to a ggusd school and as a parent I was very much impressed with where my second grade son is at with his math skills.
    I am also a teacher in a neighboring district and wish we had a similar model. Being both familiar with the model as a teacher and a parent I love it and disagree with it possessing a lack of conceptual learning. Rather… I believe it’s a lack of understanding for where to input the conceptual learning with students from certain teachers.
    So much ephasis is put on ELA in elementary….I am very happy ggusd you have chosen to focus on math professional development.