By Mike Myslinski
Critics agree that The Global Fourth Way: The Quest for Educational Excellence is a must-read for anyone interested in education, “especially so for those currently involved in any form of teaching and learning, as well as those responsible for developing and implementing education policy.”
Authors and education researchers Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley praise the QEIA program, noting that CTA showed itself to be a “morally centered union” by sponsoring the landmark Quality Education Investment Act.
The 2006 reform law helps hundreds of at-risk California schools get extra resources needed to succeed. It invests nearly $3 billion in schools of greatest need over eight years for proven reforms such as smaller class sizes, better training for teachers and administrators, and more high school counselors. QEIA is one of six case studies examined in the book.
The sustainable, teacher-driven changes that occur at QEIA schools show that CTA is willing to “shift from an industrial to professional model of unionism” that reaches into the “heart of classroom practice.” From their research of bold QEIA improvements and their ripple effects for stakeholders, the authors find that “young teachers become inspired and feel that this more professionally oriented and morally centered union is the right place for them and their activism.”
They define “fourth way” educational change as going beyond earlier reforms, dating to the 1960s, that showed how “standards turned into standardization” and evolved into an obsession with data-driven testing processes. Today, to be high-achieving, educators need “a strengthened professionalism that propels them forward, and a cultural and structural coherence that holds them together.”
The QEIA program is the only U.S. school turnaround project featured in the book, which also reviews school reform innovations in Finland, Singapore, Alberta, Ontario and England. The origins of QEIA, the settlement of a CTA school funding lawsuit filed against then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, are fully discussed.
In this sequel to The Fourth Way, their earlier book about educational change, the authors find that QEIA, the largest school reform effort of its kind in the nation, succeeds because it truly empowers teachers at the local level to collaborate to meet local student needs. CTA President Dean E. Vogel, Vice President Eric Heins and CTA Board member Mary Rose Ortega — a member of the QEIA Workgroup, which Heins chaired — are quoted in the book explaining why CTA supported the QEIA approach to helping schools.
“We have to give teachers an authentic role in determining the pedagogical needs of students,” Vogel tells the researchers. “Don't rest that in Washington, D.C., or the state Capitol. Rest it at the school site. Give the teachers an authentic role. That's the real issue.”
Heins says in the book: “We had to be able to reach into the schools in a different way.”
And Ortega, a former Los Angeles Unified educator, says that way must focus on California's Hispanic students, who make up half the student population. She favors “getting the community into the schools,” which QEIA fosters by stressing the hands-on role of school site councils of parents and teachers. Ortega likes the new book and says it does not shy from discussing the obstacles faced by students at QEIA schools, such as poverty and language barriers.
The authors note that the “disruptive innovation” of QEIA is yielding consistent improvements in API scores, especially at elementary schools in the QEIA network. (See more QEIA progress reports at www.cta.org/qeiaprogress.)
Hargreaves has authored or edited more than 30 books and is the Thomas More Brennan Chair in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. Shirley is professor of education at Boston College, is researching new education technologies, and has been a visiting professor at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, the University of Barcelona, and Harvard, where he earned his doctoral degree.
They consider QEIA to be “inside-out innovation that builds a platform of professional capital where classroom teachers become the dynamos of change themselves, not in this school or that school, but across hundreds of schools in one of the world's largest systems.”