A highlight of CTA’s Nov. 30 QEIA symposium in Sacramento was a panel discussion with teachers and a principal from successful QEIA schools across the state about the power of collaboration, smaller class sizes and targeted intervention.
A sampling of the panel’s insights:
Mylene Keipp, instructional coach, Wilson Senior High School, Los Angeles Unified: “QEIA provides us with funding and structures for collaboration.”
Thanks to QEIA funding, her school’s 2,200 students share eight counselors, meeting a QEIA requirement that each counselor must have a caseload of 300 or fewer students. Compare that to California’s average ratio of 945 students to one counselor, the highest in the country. The national average is 477 to 1.
Jesse Aguilar, teacher, East Bakersfield High School, Kern High School District: “We have more time to collaborate. It makes a big difference.”
His high-poverty school, where two-thirds of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, used the flexibility of QEIA funding to hire math and English literacy coaches, hold workshops for teachers, and launch a “cultures and expectations committee” to look at how to inspire students. “We are re-culturizing the school so kids want to do well.” Parents are excited. A recent school site council election saw 12 parents campaigning for four seats.
Small class sizes help all students learn. “Once the class sizes get so large, mostly you’re dealing with behavior issues, and you’re no longer teaching,” Aguilar said. And getting teachers involved in designing professional developing is a “bottom-up” approach that empowers and inspires. “I think there’s more buy-in.”
Julie Palacios, teacher, New Highland Academy, Oakland Unified: “We have retained teachers because of the quality of the working environment, and the quality is because of QEIA.”
While other inner-city Oakland schools are losing teachers, New Highland is not, Palacios said. Teachers at her K-5 campus get 90 minutes of collaboration time each week, and a full day every six weeks, with QEIA paying for substitute teachers while educators share strategies and analyze student data. Also, the school still provides music and art for a well-rounded education.
Laura Serrano-Duran, principal, Harborside Elementary, Chula Vista Elementary School District: QEIA success has “brought our community closer together, and our parents have become more involved because they are seeing the results.”
She discussed the power of teamwork that QEIA harnesses. It’s working. Her school’s API growth was 55 points the past two years, for a current outstanding API score of 838.
Maria Euyoque-Garcia, teacher, Felton Elementary, Lennox School District, Los Angeles: “With QEIA, we get to do so many extra things at our school. It’s really made all the difference for our students.”
Felton’s API score is 797 — after a sharp increase of 86 points the past two years. The emphasis is on making decisions based on student data, which is easier to collect with the smaller class sizes that QEIA funds, Euyoque-Garcia said. “We can use the information we have gathered in our classrooms,” and from more one-on-one interactions with students.