Contact: Mike Myslinski at 650-552-5324.
Cesar Chavez Elementary Making Great Strides
SAN JOSE – High-poverty Cesar Chavez Elementary in Alum Rock Union School District is worth watching for its strong academic gains after struggles in the past – progress that’s come with the help of proven reforms funded by the state’s Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) of 2006, stakeholders said at a news conference today.
The noon event was one of several CTA events held as part of a national day of awareness today about public school needs in America – and about solutions that are working. QEIA uses reforms like smaller class sizes and better training to target low-income students. The acclaimed reform law was sponsored by the California Teachers Association, and funded by $3 billion won in the settlement of a CTA lawsuit against former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger over money owed to schools. Now, new research is showing that QEIA – the largest turnaround program of its kind in the nation, currently helping some 400 at-risk California schools, including 60 in the Bay Area – is also offering ideas about reforms that all schools can use to change practices.
“QEIA funding has provided Cesar Chavez Elementary with resources needed to provide an optimal learning environment where students are challenged through the use of innovative technology and rigorous instruction,” said Rene Sanchez, the director of state and federal programs for the Alum Rock district and former principal of the school. “Structured collaboration and professional development opportunities for teachers, provided by the instructional coach, were essential in creating an environment where there was a clear focus in addressing learning gaps and accelerating student achievement. It truly has been a collaborative effort in maximizing our students’ potential through good teaching.”
Laura Solis Mora, a teacher at Chavez for 14 years, said smaller class sizes from QEIA have made a huge difference. QEIA-supported schools must have no more than 20 students in K-3 classrooms, and an average of 25 in the 4-12 grades. “Before QEIA, I had 42 fourth-graders in my classroom,” Mora said. “After QEIA, I had 25. Smaller class sizes helped our students to learn, and now teachers can also assess and collaborate.”
Smaller class sizes and better teacher training mandated by QEIA have helped student learning, said Principal Linda C. Rodriguez, but so has the dedication of teachers here who took advantage of changes allowed by QEIA. “Other factors such as the quality of teaching are also essential for schools like Chavez Elementary to continue to succeed. QEIA funding allows continuous professional development to inspire and inform teachers. At Chavez, teachers learn from each other during grade-level collaboration. With their grade-level partners, teachers set goals, plan, deliver lessons, assess the learning and look at data in order to make adjustments and set new goals.”
The business community has also assisted Alum Rock and Cesar Chavez.
Outstanding academic progress in the Alum Rock district and at Cesar Chavez is drawing Bay Area media coverage – as when Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren paid a visit in 2012. The state’s goal for all schools is an Academic Performance Index (API) score of 800. The API score at Cesar Chavez is 823, an increase of 200 points since 2006, the year that QEIA was enacted.
The legislation enacting QEIA was carried by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who spoke at a Nov. 7 CTA symposium in Sacramento about the promise and progress of the reform law. Torlakson praised its effectiveness. “As evidence continues to show that the reforms we enabled with QEIA have been successful, it’s time for the next step – spreading those successes to more and more schools,” Torlakson said. “Every student in California deserves to graduate with the experience, knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers.”
Read highlights of the new QEIA research report titled “Pathways to Change: Learning From Exemplary QEIA Schools” and see news about award-winning QEIA schools at www.cta.org/qeia. Another Bay Area QEIA-supported school with an outstanding record is Marylin Avenue Elementary in Livermore. The first research report was titled “Cultivating Change in Schools” about QEIA implementation. A total of five independent research reports will be done over the next year by the firm Vital Research of Los Angeles.
The latest research report, based on data from stakeholders at 10 QEIA-supported schools, reveals several key pathways to change. These include smaller class sizes, leveraging collaboration time, responding to student needs by changing school structures, building accountability among all stakeholders, publicly rewarding student gains, using student data to intervene, and strengthening school leadership.
The QEIA law demonstrates CTA’s support for our students of greatest need, and that discoveries at QEIA schools can offer ideas for Local Control Funding Formula spending by school districts that must target the same at-risk students, CTA President Dean Vogel has noted.
Other speakers at the CTA news conference today at Cesar Chavez included Alum Rock Educators’ Association (AREA) President Jocelyn Merz and Greg Bonaccorsi, a Fremont Unified educator who represents Bay Area educators for CTA on the National Education Association board.
“CTA believes, as I am sure all of you here today do, that public schools are community institutions that benefit most from locally-driven reforms that stress collaboration,” Bonaccorsi told Cesar Chavez educators gathered in the school library. “That’s why CTA crafted a solution -- and sponsored the school reform law called the Quality Education Investment Act of 2006.”
Added Merz of the AREA teachers union about today’s national day of awareness sponsored by NEA and other unions and community groups: “Today, we are saying yes to investing in our children’s future, yes to community collaboration and partnerships, and yes to education solutions that work.”
The 325,000-member CTA is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.