By Mike Myslinski
Courtney L. Malloy, Ph.D.
All educators can learn from new classroom practices discovered thanks to the QEIA. An independent firm, Vital Research of Los Angeles, analyzed 34 QEIA-supported schools over a three-year period for a new report, “Cultivating Change in Schools: A Deeper Look at QEIA Implementation.” The report is available at www.cta.org/qeia. We met with lead researcher Courtney Malloy, Ph.D., to talk about the report.
What was the purpose of your research?
Our focus was to take an in-depth look at the implementation of QEIA to learn more about how schools chose to implement this unique reform. We sought to find out more about what strategies were perceived to be the most effective and why.
How were school structures changed by QEIA reforms?
Schools worked to hire new staff and teachers that were especially suited to their unique needs. Additional high-quality staff members were considered by many QEIA stakeholders to be one of the most important factors to school success.
New structures for teacher collaboration — specialized teams, scheduled time during the school day, specific goals and expectations — were often implemented to support data use and the alignment of instruction across and within grades. Other strategies of schools included implementing new curricula, student interventions, instructional frameworks, parent programs, and enrichment programs.
What were the key lessons about smaller class sizes mandated by QEIA across grades K-12?
As part of our research, we talked with teachers in 34 schools about their experiences with class size reduction and the effects they observed on their work and classrooms. Our findings suggest that class size reduction leads to two levels of perceived impacts.
Level I impacts happened as a simple result of class size reduction. We commonly heard that with fewer students in the room, teachers simply had an easier time managing student behavior. And because there were fewer students in each class, students experienced a less chaotic learning environment, resulting in more student engagement. Moreover, teachers had more instructional time, and their workload generally decreased, leading to increased morale.
Level II impacts occurred when teachers capitalized on the better learning environment, additional instructional time, and decreased workload to try something new and build stronger relationships with students. Teachers reported an increase in small group instruction, independent work and dyad instruction. Teachers also experimented more with project-based learning and with student-led lessons because they had the time and the environment to support the innovation.
What did your research show about the benefits from collaboration among QEIA school teachers?
We learned that collaboration was particularly beneficial when it began with certain prerequisites — commitment, willingness, trust, respect, leadership — and was supported by a specific purpose and clear expectations, well-defined teams, scheduled time, and a dedicated leader to help keep everyone on track. When these prerequisites were combined with the right supportive structures, collaboration really took off.
How has QEIA improved California’s public schools?
An examination of the API scores of QEIA schools remaining in the program reveals that schools, on average, made significant gains in API. Those gains were greatest for elementary schools. Through QEIA, many stakeholders also witnessed an improvement in morale, greater sense of community and teamwork, and deeper personal relationships with students due to reduced class sizes. Stakeholders in some schools witnessed increasing parent participation due to the implementation of new parent initiatives.