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Local Teachers Praise Reform Results at CTA Pasadena Symposium
PASADENA – In a CTA school reform symposium here today, local teachers at schools supported by an acclaimed state school turnaround law confirmed what ongoing research is showing – California’s highest-performing at-risk schools have reduced class sizes, and added more time for teachers to collaborate and share ideas. They also focus on classroom data to improve student learning.
More than 70 educators attended the symposium here about the CTA-backed Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) of 2006. The largest school turnaround program of its kind in the nation, the acclaimed QEIA law is investing nearly $3 billion over eight years at 400 mostly high-poverty schools for proven reforms like smaller class sizes, more high school counselors, and better teacher training. The legislation creating the QEIA program was authored by Tom Torlakson, now the state superintendent of public instruction.
The QEIA law can offer ideas for Local Control Funding Formula spending by school districts that must target the same at-risk students, said Dean Vogel, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. “Teachers, principals and parents all agree that giving educators more collaboration time, building community accountability, reducing class sizes and using student data to differentiate instruction are pathways to school improvement that many can follow,” Vogel said.
Two of five independent QEIA research reports being done by Vital Research of Los Angeles were discussed at the event, as they were at a November CTA symposium in Sacramento. The research focuses on lessons learned at successful QEIA-supported campuses, and how those lessons could be used to transform other schools. Read highlights of the first research report titled “Cultivating Change in Schools” about QEIA implementation lessons here, or see the full report. Highlights of the second report, “Pathways to Change,” are here. See news about award-winning QEIA schools at www.cta.org/qeia
The second research report, based on data from stakeholders at 10 QEIA-supported schools, offers several key pathways to academic change and success, including:
Reducing Class Sizes: Smaller class sizes “opened the door to instructional opportunities that would not exist otherwise,” the research found. It paves the way for differentiated instruction, more small group teaching and time for re-teaching, and more one-on-one time with students.
Leveraging Collaboration Time: Educators used vital collaboration time to plan together, align instruction and share practice tips that work.
Responding to Student Needs: QEIA program resources showed stakeholders “the significance of changing school structures to find more instructional time for student intervention,” such as adjusting master schedules, providing intensive tutoring and grouping students according to their learning needs for re-teaching.
Building Local Accountability: To improve a school, teachers, administrators, parents and students must all understand they’re “responsible for the effectiveness of teaching and learning.”
Symposium panelists who spoke out today work in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Kern counties. They praised the extra targeted support that QEIA has provided over the years, leading to sustained academic improvement.
Tanisha Taylor, an English Language Arts Academic Coach at Arrowview Middle School in San Bernardino Unified, said, “QEIA funding has resulted in enhanced professional development opportunities and improved teacher collaboration. Most notably, Arrowview Middle School has sustained academic success as we continue to focus on effective first instruction, promoting literacy across content areas, and differentiating to meet the needs of diverse learners.”
Robert Estrada, the principal at Jefferson Elementary in Lennox, said QEIA helped teachers there discover many intervention methods and strategies that have contributed to student success. “While each and every effort has helped to inform and shape the reform process – smaller class size, focus on foundational skills, rigorous engagement strategies – the anchoring feature has been a systematic focus on collaboration and data reflection. The K-5 staff has consistently used data both to inform and guide instruction to support student needs. Collaborative efforts have translated into the creation of systems and structures that allow for the frequent analysis of data, ongoing collaboration, and calibration.”
In Los Angeles Unified, Gulf Avenue Elementary teacher Jeanne Contreras said QEIA resources create an environment that is all about “power with people, not over people.” She says that working with staff and parents all united by the collaboration that QEIA requires “puts our students first. Grade-level collaboration and smaller class size keep our campus focused on student achievement."
In Bakersfield, teacher Cheryl Thompson said QEIA has sparked widespread change at her West High School. “QEIA reform has made an impact at West High School!” she declared. “The reform has allowed us to strengthen our professional learning community, which in turn has given us time for healthy collaboration. It has transformed our campus culture into a climate of success. It has also provided much needed technology upgrades that meet the students’ demands for contemporary proficiency.”
Significantly, the panelists’ schools earned higher Academic Performance Index (API) scores despite high poverty rates (the state’s goal is an API score of 800 for all schools). Here are the panelists’ schools, with latest school API scores and the percentages of students who qualify for free or reduced-priced meals (the poverty rate), one indicator of poverty:
Los Angeles: Gulf Avenue Elementary, Los Angeles Unified, API: 833, 86% poverty rate; Lennox: Jefferson Elementary, Lennox School District, API: 804, 81% poverty rate; El Monte: Columbia School, El Monte City Elementary District, API: 826, 87% poverty rate; San Bernardino: Arrowview Middle School, San Bernardino Unified, API: 756, 96% poverty rate; Bakersfield, West High School, Kern High School District (this innovative QEIA school and others are profiled in the CTA California Educator magazine here); API: 746, 60% poverty rate.
The 325,000-member CTA is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education