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As the third-largest school district in state, Long Beach now thinking smaller

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Juniors Ashlee Priestley, left, and Tema Sapoi-Finau share a laugh as they walk to their class on the first day of school at the California Academy of Math and Science on Tuesday in Carson. JEFF GRITCHEN , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

ABC goes back to school

Classes start: Tuesday

Schools: 29

Enrollment last year: More than 20,000 students

Online: www.abcusd.k12.ca.us/

Back-to-school tips

Free haircuts: Students in kindergarten through eighth grade can receive a free haircut at Mr. Baker's Style Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. The barbershop is teaming up with the Office of Councilman Dee Andrews to provide the haircuts.

Finding uniforms: Kids in kindergarten-grade 8 in Long Beach schools must wear uniforms. Millikan and Wilson high schools require them, too. BJ Clothes on Seventh Street, Long Beach Boulevard and Willow Street sell uniforms. The Assistance League of Long Beach provides free uniforms to those in need. Call the league at 562-627-5650.

Free or reduced-price meals: Families who qualify can apply for free or reduced-price meals through the district. Forms to qualify should have reached households with enrolled children, or they can be picked up at the school's main office, cafeteria or the Nutrition Services Branch at 3333 Airport Way. Until a student qualifies, he needs to attend school with a lunch from home or buy meals at full price.

City buses: They now accept TAP cards, or plastic reusable cards. Students will soon need a K-12 Student TAP card to ride the buses. For more information or an application, call 562-591-2301.

Homework help: Having trouble with homework? Between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, students can call the homework hotline to work with a tutor. Students who call frequently receive prizes. For tutoring help, call 562-437-2859.

LBUSD by the numbers

4,497

Students were enrolled in Poly High School last year. Poly is the district's largest high school.

Students were enrolled in McBride High School last year. The students made up the school's inaugural freshman class.

42

The combined number of industry pathways at all Long Beach high schools combined.

50

The expected number of pathways in Long Beach high schools by 2018.

St. Anthony High renovations

St. Anthony's 500 high school students returned to a renovated campus Monday. In a project that cost about $2 million, the private Catholic school renovated the science building and created three state-of-the-art labs for chemistry, biology, physics and technology.

The school also spruced up its chapel, faculty lounge and theater, installed solar panels and improved its baseball field, according to school spokeswoman Laura Romero. The improvements are part of a plan to accommodate growing enrollment numbers and changes in curriculum. St. Anthony High School was established in Long Beach in 1920.

The days of students feeling lost in the crowd at Long Beach’s giant high schools are numbered.

As students file in for the first day of school Wednesday in the Long Beach Unified School District, more will find themselves at smaller schools and matched with close-knit learning communities as the district works to reinvent its campuses and curriculum.

With about 80,000 students, Long Beach Unified is the third-largest school district in the state and has six large, comprehensive high schools – enrollment tops out at 4,500 at Poly High. But the district is creating half a dozen small high schools that link textbook knowledge with real-world know-how and job skills.

By connecting students with large employers and industry leaders in the city, students are simultaneously preparing for college and the workforce.

Last year, the district opened its first new small high school, McBride in East Long Beach, which has an emphasis on medical, law enforcement and engineering careers.

Next year, the district is poised to open a small high school near the Cal State Long Beach campus that emphasizes biomedical and engineering fields, and others across the city will open through at least 2017. Large high schools also have themed areas of study, called pathways, that are linked to industry fields, creating small learning communities on big campuses.

“The whole idea in the pathways is that kids learn why their studies, their core subjects, are related to a field of study,” said LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser. “It just helps them understand the connections between what we call ‘real work issues.’”

That approach has resonated with students in programs throughout California, who have shown gains in graduation rates, attendance, earned more credits toward graduation and are more likely to be on track for completing per-requisite courses to attend a public university, according to research on the programs.

Linked Learning, as the program is called, goes back no more than 10 years and is rooted in California schools, said Jared Stallones, who is a professor of education at Cal State Long Beach and manages the single-subject credential program that licenses teachers.

Such teaching reaches students who previously may have felt their studies had no practical application and rewards talent.

“I think it really does have the potential to engage students who haven’t been excited to go to school every day,” Stallones said. “I think it has a lot of potential to sort of level the playing field of education inequity.”

Long Beach City College drafting professor Adrian Erb has seen this firsthand. She has students from Long Beach high schools who didn’t enjoy math class but in using machinery realize its importance.

“When we do the 3D printing, the hands-on, that’s when they take off,” Erb said. “They really get enthusiastic when they get to do something. They really understand why they’re learning. It’s meaningful. It’s applied.”

The connections students make in careers are real and lasting by providing students with internships and working with industry professionals while still at the high school level.

“The thing that makes Linked Learning unique is it’s not just sort of ‘Let’s make believe we’re NASA scientists.’ They make real-world connections in the industry,” Stallones said.

Though some parents balk at the idea of their child choosing a career path at the high school level, school officials say students aren’t asked to make a permanent life decision and are given tools to relate schoolwork to real-world situations. Students also are given the chance to change their pathway, but fewer than 1 percent actually do, Steinhauser said.

Students who are in a pathway in high school report more confidence in working in a professional setting, making presentations, communicating with adults and being able to make better decisions, and they also say they are more discerning judges of research done online, according to a study of Linked Learning and its effectiveness performed by SRI International, a nonprofit research insitute based in Northern California.

“I think the vision for Linked Learning is to be prepared for college and career,” said Roneeta Guha, a senior researcher with SRI International’s Center for Education Policy.

Just because students choose a pathway in high school doesn’t mean they will pursue the same field in college. Steinhauser gave an example of a former student at Renaissance School for the Arts who chose to study political science when he graduated and attended UC Irvine. Studying at a school emphasizing the arts pulled the future lawyer out of his shell, he said.

Long Beach is looking to expand the number of small high schools available to students in the next few years through the Measure K bond measure and is working with area business leaders and Long Beach City College to provide them with opportunities.

“Every time they build a new high school, they invite us to the table,” said LBCC Superintendent-President Eloy Oakley at an event last week examining the partnership between LBUSD and the college.

The school set to replace Hill Middle School near the campus of Cal State Long Beach will replicate the district’s success at the California Academy of Mathematics and Science and emphasize biomedical and engineering fields. CAMS, which is at CSU Dominguez Hills and was the district’s first venture into small schools, is continually ranked as one of the best high schools in the state.

At Browning High School, set to open in September 2016, students will be connected to hospitality, tourism and recreation. Students at Renaissance one day will be able to enroll in both LBCC and at the high school, earning a diploma and associate’s degree when they graduate. Such an approach has worked well for students at CAMS, Steinhauser said.

“They all walk in as sophomores when they go to college because of dual enrollment,” he said.

Contact the writer: 562-243-3419 or lwilliams@lbregister.com

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