In a reminder that it's pure fallacy when teachers and pols claim that tough, urban schools filled with poor kids cannot produce high grades and academic achievement, the tough, urban Long Beach Unified School District was today named one of four finalists for “most improved” urban schools in the nation by the Broad Foundation.

The overall Broad Prize winner, beating Long Beach, was a downtrodden school district filled with even poorer kids, the Brownsville Independent School District on the Texas border with Mexico. That little district got a $2 million check today from former U.S. Secretaries of Education Rod Paige and Richard Riley and the actual money-man, LA billionaire Eli Broad, in a big to-do at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Where was Los Angeles Unified School District in this competition? Nowhere. LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer has made no academic mark since the Weekly's Patrick McDonald explained, ten long months ago, how overwhelmed Brewer is by a job that former Superintendent Roy Romer handled with aplomb.

Before Romer left, many public education wags had expected LAUSD to follow the clear path laid by Long Beach, which along with Boston is the only big, troubled urban district to win a Broad prize twice, for which Long Beach today got a $250,000 check.

Much more than that, Long Beach has bragging rights for measurable, real reform of schools in the gang-troubled seaside city. This is thanks to a really tough academic program that emphasizes serious math, science, reading and writing skills — instead of dumbed-down subjects. Romer was clearly on the same path as Long Beach Unified when he sadly retired and the untried and inexperienced Brewer got his job.

Today in New York, Long Beach was able to boast:

In 2007, Long Beach's low-income, African-American and Hispanic students outperformed their peers in similar districts in reading and math at all grade levels.

In 2007, Long Beach's Hispanic and low-income students achieved higher average proficiency rates than their state counterparts in reading and math at all grade levels. In addition, African-American students achieved higher average proficiency rates than their state counterparts in math at all levels and in reading in elementary and middle school.

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