California: Bringing Hope, Resources, Results to Lower-Performing Schools
A landmark, teacher-sponsored law in California providing extra funding for proven reforms at hundreds of the state’s schools of greatest need is bringing academic gains after its first full year of funding, an early analysis of school performance data shows.
“These targeted schools are making classroom gains because of proven reforms like smaller class sizes, extra teachers, more counselors and better staff training,” said David A. Sanchez, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. “What teachers said about the value of the CTA-sponsored Quality Education Investment Act three years ago is coming true today. Proven reforms work, and the increased achievement gains by students in QEIA schools is a testament to the value of funding proven reforms.”
California’s Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last month signed a bill into law to ensure ongoing funding for the dynamic program, despite massive state budget deficits. The QEIA law (state Senate Bill 1133) provides nearly $3 billion over eight years to bring extra resources and help close student achievement gaps at 499 lower-performing schools. QEIA helps more than 500,000 students, most of whom are low-income and minority students and English learners.
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.
On average, the 499 QEIA schools scored five points higher than similar schools in the state’s Academic Performance Index for the last school year, the first full year of extra QEIA resources. Also, 351 of the 499 QEIA schools met state schoolwide targets for API academic growth in the 2008-09 school year.
The law stresses the collaboration of administrators, teachers and parents working together to increase student learning. The direct result of CTA’s long-standing commitment to assist the state’s neediest students, the Quality Education Investment Act provides:
- Class size maximums of 20 in K-3 classrooms; class sizes are reduced to an average of 25 in grades 4-12.
- A credentialed counselor for every 300 students in high schools. The law also establishes California’s first teacher quality index to ensure the average teaching experience at these schools is equal to or exceeds the district average.
- High-quality professional development training for all instructional staff and administrators.
This innovative intervention program provides teachers and students with the support they need. It develops exemplary school practices that are creating the working conditions and classroom learning environments needed to attract and retain qualified teachers, administrators, and other staff.
More information about the CTA-sponsored law is available at www.cta.org/issues/current/QEIA.htm.
Across the country, union-led and union-involved innovation is leading the way in turning around struggling schools. The California program was one of several nationwide presented at the launch last month of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, which included a meeting of 150 NEA members and state education agencies from more than 40 states and several top officials of the U.S. Department of Education.
NEA has supported the Obama Administration’s plan to use Title I school improvement grants and fiscal year 2010 funds to target the lowest 5 percent of schools in each state—those schools where student achievement hasn’t improved in years T
The Administration’s $3.5 billion proposal gives districts a choice of four models for turning around their schools, including replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the staff, closing the school and reopening it under the management of a charter or education management organization, closing the school and transferring its students to higher-performing schools in the district, or implementing a comprehensive “transformation” strategy.
Announcing the campaign, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said NEA members should seize the opportunity to dramatically increase teacher quality and student achievement in the nation’s lowest-performing schools. “Plain and simple, the status quo is not acceptable,” Van Roekel said. “We cannot continue to do in America what we’ve been doing to students for the last 20, 30, 50 years. The world has changed and we need a different system.”