Teacher-Driven Education Reform That Works
This guest post was written by Lynne Formigli, a middle school science teacher in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area. Lynne is a National Board Certified Teacher and an active teacher leader both in ACT and in the California Teachers Association.
Tired of hearing how teachers and our unions are obstacles to “real” education reform? The accusation comes because we have the nerve to stand up to stupid ideas like paying and evaluating teachers based on student test scores, firing the majority of a school’s teachers and staff or turning over our public schools to private companies which are not held accountable for their results. When we mention how the education reform being jammed down our throats has no supporting research on its effectiveness, we hear “all you want is to throw money at the problem and that doesn’t work.”
So let me tell you about real reform by teachers. I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear what teachers choose to do when given additional funding: reduce class size, add time for quality professional development which supports and promotes collaboration, and offer intervention programs designed to help us teach the struggling students teachers see in our classrooms. I also suspect you won’t be surprised to hear the preliminary independent analysis showing these strategies work.
Senate Bill 1133, the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA), provided $3 billion in additional funding to 488 schools in the lowest two deciles over 7 years starting with the 2008-2009 school year. Oddly enough, this money wasn’t provided out of the goodness of our elected politician’s hearts. Turns out this bill was passed to settle a lawsuit, CTA vs. Schwarzenegger, which was pursued to address Schwarzenegger reneging on his agreement to fund CA schools at the levels written into statute during the budget process. Since the courts agreed with the teachers, QEIA was as the result.
After three years we are getting the preliminary results. CTA funded an evaluation of how the money has been used and the results, conducted by an independent company, Vital Research, LLC, which analyzed API scores and an action research project. Here’s what they found.
Comparing API scores between QEIA schools and a comparable group of non-QEIA schools, the QEIA schools had API gains of 62.7 points compared to 49.3 points for non-QEIA schools since the start of the program. Significantly, QEIA schools had greater gains in API scores in the sub groups of African American, Hispanic, English Language Learners and socio-economically disadvantaged students.
The results of the action research project resulted in 10 lessons learned:
- School goals for QEIA were consistent with the purpose and intent of the legislation
- School implementation plans were largely focused on class size reduction (CSR), professional development, collaboration time, and the adoption of curricular interventions.
- Although somewhat challenging to implement and maintain, class size reduction enabled teachers to focus on classroom instruction.
- Professional development decisions in higher API growth schools were made in collaborative teams with teacher input, leading to greater satisfaction among stakeholders.
- Higher API growth schools had more focused professional development in core content areas.
- Higher API growth schools used student data to guide professional development decisions.
- Higher API growth schools engaged in more teacher collaboration to develop lesson plans, create common assessments, and analyze student data.
- School site councils in QEIA schools are approving school budgets; influence on other decisions and stakeholder involvement varies considerably by school.
- The exemplary administrator requirement has not been fully realized in QEIA schools.
- QEIA has provided valuable resources during the state budget crisis, but schools are still facing financial challenges.
It’s not news to any educator that lower class size allows teachers to improve focus on instruction. It’s not news that collaboration improves student learning. It’s not news that collaboration and teacher input into professional development increases satisfaction among the participants. It’s not news that interventions created by teachers, collaboration and lower class size are good for all of our students. And it’s certainly not news that schools are facing “financial challenges”.
It’s great to have research which supports our ideas of how to improve our schools. It also shows a small part of what we can accomplish with more money.
For more information, or f you’d like to read the entire report, go to CTA’s QEIA page.