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PERCEIVED IMPACTS

IMPROVED SCHOOL PERFORMANCE

One of the primary impacts noted by stakeholders in highly effective schools was increased test scores. One principal simply stated: “Well, obviously, we’ve had a lot of improvement in our test scores, and I know that’s what everybody’s really looking for when it comes right down to it.” Another principal celebrated the achievement of meeting both API and AYP targets for all subgroups: “As a matter of fact, we were the only school in the entire [district] and there are 18 of them just like us, the only school that met all state and federal requirements last year, the only school. And that meant we met the AYP and API score, [for] all subgroups.” Moreover, stakeholders in a few schools mentioned exiting Program Improvement as a significant achievement.

An examination of the API scores of QEIA schools remaining in the program (as of March 2013) reveals that schools, on average, have made gains in API. In California, schools receive a similar schools ranking; this ranking shows where schools rank on a scale of 1 to 10 compared to 100 schools of similar demographic characteristics. As seen in Figure 10, prior to QEIA funding, current QEIA schools (N=355)8 were, on average, about 26 points from the median API of their similar schools. By 2011/12, QEIA schools had reached and slightly surpassed the median API of similar schools by 1 point.

Figure 11 provides a breakdown of API gains by school type. The gains have been greatest for elementary schools: prior to QEIA, elementary schools were about 31 points from the median API of their similar schools. At the end of Year 5, elementary schools had surpassed the median API of their similar schools by 5 points. Gains for other QEIA schools were more modest; however, all schools reduced the average distance from the median API of similar schools, with middle and Regular Program high schools nearly closing the gap (-5 and -4, respectively).

As noted on page 9, all QEIA schools qualified for the program because they were in the bottom two deciles on the state’s API index. On average, over the five years of implementation, current QEIA schools (as of March 2013) moved up two deciles in the state rankings. As seen in Table 6, consistent with the results above, elementary schools observed the greatest gains, moving up, on average, nearly three deciles in the state rank and two deciles in the similar schools rank. The state ranks of Alternative Application schools, on average, were unchanged; however, schools observed an average increase of one decile on the similar schools ranking. Middle and Regular Program high schools moved up, on average, about one decile in state rankings.

TABLE 6 CHANGES IN DECILE RANKS (2005 TO 2011)

SCHOOL TYPE

AVERAGE CHANGE IN STATE RANKING

AVERAGE CHANGE IN SIMILAR SCHOOLS RANKING

Elementary

+2.8 (N=235)

+1.7 (N=241)

Middle

+1.4 (N=97)

+.72 (N=97)

Alternative High

+.07 (N=15)

+1.1 (N=15)

Regular High

+1.2 (N=20)

+.86 (N=20)

OVERALL

+2.2 (N=369)

+1.4 (N=376)

IMPROVED REPUTATION OF SCHOOLS

As a result of QEIA, many stakeholders indicated that their school’s reputation had improved largely due to the smaller class sizes, having extra resources, and making strides in student achievement. Overall, stakeholders commented on the improved opinions of colleagues, parents, and the greater community. Several case study schools had also become model schools in the district and even outside the district due to the prominent gains in student achievement. For example:

Making such huge gains has really brought our school into light for my colleagues and people even outside of our district who’ve wanted to come and tour our school and that’s always a positive for me, because I’m willing and happy to show off all the terrific things that we’re doing here…So it’s kind of made us a model in our district and for surrounding districts as well.

We increased our test scores, and I think that behavior as a site is getting better, and the community recognizes that our school’s improving. It used to be like nobody wanted to come to our school. Parents would try to keep their kids at a different school, but now people want to come [here.]

In another example, one higher performing elementary school was invited to attend prestigious conferences and forums to showcase best practices and lessons learned and was even approached to be the subject of a documentary highlighting the school’s success. Other commendations specified by schools included becoming an International Baccalaureate school and being identified as a model school for their district.

IMPROVED SCHOOL CLIMATE

As a result of QEIA, many stakeholders witnessed an improvement in morale, greater sense of community and teamwork, and deeper personal relationships with students due to CSR. One principal noted a significant change in attitude and commitment among students and staff: “The kids want to come to this school. The staff wants to be here. It’s a happy place to be.” Another principal commented:

Our school is just like a great big family, from the kids, to the teachers, to the support staff, to the classified staff, to the families. And I’m outside every morning to greet my kids, open up the gate and let them in, and greet the parents and that kind of thing. We just have a really nice community, school and family community.

Explaining how smaller class sizes resulted in deeper student relationships, one principal remarked: “Just being able to know kids on a more personal level, being able to form a positive relationship with them, to be a positive influence on them, teaching them, giving them the tools that they need to be able to do that…It’s a difference. It’s a big difference!”

QEIA also helped to facilitate closer relationships among faculty. One teacher said: “I really believe that from the time that I started until now, we are much closer as faculty, and also the relationships with our students, and that has a lot to do with small learning communities that we have established, which again, I believe is possible because of our QEIA numbers.”

Moreover, stakeholders emphasized the enhanced commitment and dedication to helping students achieve and be successful:

Our staff cares about our students to the highest. They really do go above and beyond. If they need things outside of school, we’re willing to get it for them. We’re willing to spend our own time in order to help them or bring in their parents. We do whatever it takes for our students, and I think that’s the biggest key, too, because if you’re not willing to go above and beyond, they’re only going to make success to a certain degree.

IMPROVED PARENT INVOLVEMENT

While engaging parents in schools continued to be an ongoing struggle for many, several stakeholders commented on overall increases in parent involvement since QEIA began.

We’ve had a lot better parent involvement, especially since they see a lot of the programs and things that we’ve tried to do to bring the families into the school and make them more involved, and then they become more involved in certain fundraisers and even social things like talent shows and stuff like that, that has brought the community together.

A deeper level of commitment was described in some schools, as parents developed a greater understanding of how a school functions, how to apply their knowledge, and ask the right questions to best support their children academically and overall. One principal commented:

Parents have become more involved and more interested in the academic performance of their kids, because what we’ve also done is we’ve created a college pathway for parents to see…So now we have parents who ask more questions about high school post offerings, who ask more questions about specific high schools, and they know what questions and what discussions to have with counselor here and at the high school.

According to principals and teachers, the increase in parent involvement observed can largely be attributed to the improvements made to school climate. One teacher noted: “It’s a positive and fun place to be. Parents feel supported because their kids are happy. Parents are seeing their kids achieve in ways that wasn’t possible with how the school was before.”

Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

© 1999- California Teachers Association