Successful Students

Union-Backed Program Helps Calif. School Boost Student Achievement

By the time John Muir Elementary School finishes redefining itself, people may take to calling it the Miracle in Merced. Just five years ago, John Muir was the lowest-performing elementary school in California’s Merced City School District. Now, thanks to a new focus on professional development and collaboration – and a seven-year grant from a union-backed program – John Muir is now one of Merced’s top-performing elementary schools.

John Muir Elementary was highlighted in a recent article in the Merced Sun-Star. The article praised the school and its educators for a transformation that has been nothing short of remarkable.

Five years ago, John Muir Elementary scored a 650 on California’s Academic Performance Index, making it Merced’s lowest-performing elementary school. The state API target is 800.

The low-income school, where 85 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches, qualified for a seven-year grant through California’s Quality Education Investment Act, a program that devotes extra resources to lower-performing schools. QEIA was passed thanks to extensive advocacy from the California Teachers Association, an NEA affiliate.

CTA has made successful implementation of QEIA a major organizational priority and new data shows the QEIA schools are showing significant academic gains, according to an analysis by the QEIA Technical Assistance Center at the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

QEIA funds allowed John Muir to focus on professional development, reducing class size, and a boot camp where kids who were falling behind could receive additional instruction. The culture at John Muir changed as well, with a new focus on collaboration among teachers, support staff, administrators and the community.

The results are in, and in 2010, John Muir scored an 806 on its API. It was one of only four schools in the district to exceed 800.

To learn more about the John Muir success story, check out the Merced Sun-Star article.

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