By Mike Myslinski
Educators get involved at a QEIA training session on April 22 in Emeryville in the Bay Area.
One school in Riverside County is showing promise for students targeted by the landmark CTA-sponsored Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) of 2006.
Test scores are edging up and class sizes are going down at Susan B. Coombs Intermediate School in Banning, creating the kind of enhanced learning environment that QEIA was meant to foster, says Yvonne Lanthripp, a dedicated teacher at the school.
"I am so glad that we have QEIA," she says. "I think it is making a difference. It also helps us focus. We have smaller class sizes now and can provide more individual attention. I think the law is working."
It's working because of the ongoing commitment by CTA members, staff, parents and administrators to build on the momentum of each year. The Quality Education Investment Act (SB 1133) — which grew out of a court settlement of a CTA lawsuit against the governor over funding owed to schools from 2004-05 under Proposition 98 — provides nearly $3 billion in extra resources over seven years to 487 K-12 schools of greatest need. All of the selected schools had Academic Performance Index scores in the bottom two deciles.
Not even the state's current financial crisis is affecting the resources made available to these schools.
The law, unique in the nation, provides funding to reduce class sizes, improve teacher and principal training, hire more counselors, and launch programs that best fit the needs of local students. It stresses collaboration among educators and the fair distribution of experienced teachers at all QEIA schools. Community colleges also receive a portion of the funding to expand career and vocational education.
The estimated 500,000 California students benefitting from the extra QEIA resources are mostly minorities from lower-income families.
That is the case at Susan B. Coombs School, where nearly 55 percent of students are Hispanic and 83 percent are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The QEIA school in the Banning Unified School District serves about 700 students in only two grades — fifth and sixth — says Lanthripp, who is also vice president of the Banning Teachers Association. "Over the last two years, our students have shown much growth in their test scores."
For 2006-07, Susan B. Coombs met both its state Academic Performance Index (API) target and federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirement under No Child Left Behind. For 2007-08, the school met its API goal but not its AYP target. The school is in its fifth year of Program Improvement status under NCLB. Still, English learner students had the largest test score growth over two years.
Smaller classes helped students make progress, says Lanthripp. Sizes fell from 30 students per classroom to an average now of 26.4 for grade 5 and 24.8 for grade 6. The school's target class size average is a manageable 24.7 students.
"Modernization projects on our campus have resulted in more classrooms being built so that we did not have to spend QEIA dollars on this," she says. "The extra planning dollars are being banked for use during years 6 and 7 [of QEIA] so that we may get our class size even lower than our required average."
Thanks in part to QEIA, all educators at the school have completed 40 hours of professional development, receive extra training about writing and instruction protocols, and enjoy the help received from new curriculum coaches like Lanthripp. She spends half her time teaching language arts and social studies to sixth-graders, and the other half as a coach, demonstrating model lesson plans to colleagues, observing classes and fostering more collaboration.
She took CTA training as well to become a school site contact, one of 335 now trained and working at one of the 487 QEIA schools. She attended the April 2 CTA site contact training in Pomona, while hundreds of other educators took part in the trainings on April 22 in Emeryville in the Bay Area and on April 30 in Santa Ana.
Sheila Jo Himes, site rep for Mare Island Elementary School in Vallejo, says about her experience at the Emeryville QEIA event, "I interacted with teachers from Redding, Oakland and Salinas. It was great to get ideas to take back to my school."
Site contacts are building an online community to exchange ideas on the new www.qeia.org website.
More resources are available on the QEIA section of www.cta.org, where educators can listen to podcasts of QEIA briefings, look at research that shows the characteristics of successful schools, or read the professional development requirements for QEIA spelled out in the legislation that launched this program, SB 1133.
The 43-member CTA QEIA Workgroup, including site educators, CTA Board members and staff, met May 26 to assess the program. The workgroup urged educators to sign up for the popular QEIA training at CTA's Summer Institute in August. This year, educators from NCLB Program Improvement schools are invited as well. Online registration is available at www.cta.org. The workgroup also discussed progress being made at schools like Susan B. Coombs, where district administrators and the Riverside County Office of Education Achievement Team have also provided vital support.
"We are lucky to have QEIA," Lanthripp says of the law's potential for helping her students achieve. "Our students are making some progress. That's what matters."
Secretary of Education impressed with San Francisco QEIA site
When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came to visit Paul Revere Elementary School in San Francisco recently, he was impressed with the high-quality programs he saw at the pre-K–8 campus.
The school has a Spanish immersion program and offers foreign language enrichment and the opportunity for students to learn a second or third language. The staff includes a librarian. The school has an after-school enrichment program including art, music, dance, PE and homework help. The school also offers an extended school day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for students in grades K-8.
"He was impressed with the things that he saw going on at Paul Revere School, but we had to remind him that it had a price tag, and that because of QEIA funding the school received money above and beyond regular funding," said CTA Vice President Dean Vogel, who was joined by United Educators of San Francisco President Dennis Kelly for a meeting that also included school employees, administrators and parents.
It was the secretary of education's first visit to California since joining the Obama cabinet and was part of a 15-state "listening tour" that will influence federal policy on education.
"Arne Duncan talked about the need for schools to do something different and embrace reform in order to qualify for the billions of dollars he controlled," said Kelly, who traveled with the education secretary on several stops. "He was impressed with the way that the union, the district and the city all worked together and said it was not something that was seen in other locales. I tried to give examples of things we did that worked — elements of our parcel tax with its alternative compensation and teacher accountability aspects — and commented to him that reform was something he could do with us, but should not be done to us."
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