Report: Teacher-Led Reform Helping in California

By Amy Buffenbarger

A new report out today finds a 50 percent better academic growth rate at nearly 500 California schools, and all of it is the result of successful union-led reforms put in place as the result of a lawsuit by the California Teachers Association against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In August 2005, the California Teachers Association filed a lawsuit against the governor, arguing that he did not fully fund public education in accordance with California’s Proposition 98, the law that requires a minimum percentage of the state budget to be spent on K-14 education.

The result of that lawsuit was the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) of 2006.

The act is infusing nearly $3 billion over seven years into 488 low-performing schools in California. The additional funding is targeted toward proven reforms like reducing class sizes, ensuring qualified teachers in all core subjects, increasing the number of high school counselors, quality teacher and principal training, time for collaboration, and promoting parental involvement.

Today’s report, Lessons from the Classroom: Initial Success for At-Risk Students highlights early results from a program evaluation of the law sponsored by CTA. The report — conducted independently by Vital Research of Los Angeles — found that the QEIA schools have recorded 50 percent higher growth in California Academic Performance Index scores than similar schools that are not in the program. QEIA is also helping close student achievement gaps.

“There is a lot of talk and speculation about education reform these days,” said CTA President David A. Sanchez. “With QEIA we have a working model for teacher-led reform with proven results.”

In addition to backing the legislation that made QEIA a reality, CTA has been deeply involved in working with participating schools, offering group and individual training to participating school staff, and assisting with actual program implementation and monitoring. The successes at several of these schools are featured on CTA’s website.

The teacher-led reform efforts proven effective by QEIA are also supported by NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign. John Muir Elementary School, a QEIA school where “teachers often surrender their lunch and prep periods to work together to craft lessons, improve assessments, and share strategies for reaching struggling students,” is just one example of how collaboration achieves positive results. In 2010, John Muir was one of only four schools in the district to exceed 800 on the state API and the school made Adequate Yearly Progress for the first time in eight years.