Contact: Mike Myslinski at 650-552-5324
SACRAMENTO – New independent research shows that the kinds of proven reforms provided by a CTA-backed state school turnaround program is helping hundreds of at-risk California schools improve and innovate, CTA President Dean E. Vogel announced today in a news conference at a successful elementary school in the program here.
The high-poverty school, Harmon Johnson Elementary, is flourishing and recently won a high-profile national award for excellence. It’s receiving extra resources from the state’s Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) of 2006. The QEIA law targets low-income schools, like Harmon Johnson in the Twin Rivers Unified School District. Parental involvement and volunteering have soared at the school as well.
“With QEIA, we are finding new and effective ways to help our vulnerable students and to discover practices that all teachers can learn from,” said Vogel, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. “New research shows that these proven reforms are leading to positive impacts in achievement, school reputation, school climate and parent engagement. This is exciting to see and watch.”
Twin Rivers Superintendent Steven Martinez praised the promise of QEIA. “Harmon Johnson is the perfect example of utilizing additional QEIA resources appropriately -- by identifying students by name and by need, and aligning financial resources along with the human resources, where they really make a difference and significantly impact student achievement."
CTA sponsored the law, SB 1133, that created QEIA to settle a CTA lawsuit against former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger about funds owed to public schools. Over eight years, the program now targets about 400 at-risk schools with nearly $3 billion in proven reforms, such as smaller class sizes, better training for teachers and principals, quality professional development, more collaboration time, and more counselors in high schools. Several QEIA schools have won academic awards, and the turnaround program received international acclaim last year in a book by education reform researchers.
The new research is the first of five reports to be issued over the next year by Vital Research of Los Angeles and is based on in-depth case studies of dozens of QEIA schools. The highlights of the report, titled “Cultivating Change in Schools: A Deeper Look at QEIA Implementation,” are online here. The full report is here.
Some key findings from the new research on QEIA:
Smaller Classes Work: The reduction of class sizes mandated by QEIA across grades K-12 resulted in “better learning environments for students, more instructional time, and decreased workload for teachers.” Educators used freed up time to innovate and experiment with new strategies, and to assess students and review data more frequently. When smaller classes caused changes in practice, teachers reported “greater awareness of student needs, and higher quality instruction.”
Teacher Collaboration Matters: When the commitment to successful collaboration was present at QEIA schools, they were able to “cultivate stronger professional communities, greater collective accountability, increased cohesion among teachers, and more effective data use.”
Professional Development Is Key: QEIA requires better professional development training. The training that was “chosen by teachers and tightly aligned to school goals was viewed as both influential and relevant. Teachers were “grateful for professional development that was actionable and offered immediate results in the classroom.”
Improved School Performance: While raising test scores is not the only benefit of QEIA, the targeted schools are making gains in the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) scores. The state’s goal is an API score of 800 for all public schools. Harmon Johnson’s API score last year was 782 – despite 70 percent of students being English learners and nearly all being low-income enough to qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Research found the most gains are at QEIA elementary schools, which had surpassed the median API of their similar schools by 5 points in Year 5 of the QEIA program.
Parent Involvement Grows: Parent involvement increased at many QEIA schools. Involvement increased 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.”
Parent involvement soared at Harmon Johnson Elementary, where QEIA funding bought computers for two new computer labs that parents also use to take classes and upgrade skills, said Marc Moorehead, a student learning coach whose position is funded by QEIA. Parents serve as bilingual instructors in parenting classes for adults, and take nutrition and cooking classes on campus. “The investment we are making with the parents will continue to pay off once QEIA funding stops. Once you grow these parent connections, they keep going. We can sustain them.”
Located in a high-poverty neighborhood plagued by drug crime, Harmon Johnson is a safe haven and community hub where parents can take classes and feel part of the team working together for their children. The school serves only grades 3-6. Three years ago, parent pressure saved the former K-6 Harmon Johnson school students from being dispersed districtwide when a natural gas storage facility posed a danger.
Principal David Nevarez notes proudly that the school was one of only three in the U.S. to receive a National Award for Excellence from the respected Coalition for Community Schools in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.
“Our kids and parents take ownership of what’s happening in this school,” Nevarez said. “We’ve created a school that reaches beyond the school walls and into the community.”
The 325,000-member CTA is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.