CTA: Reform programs helped underperforming schools

November 30, 2010 6:47:08 PM PST
The California's Teachers Association is crediting a reform program with helping to improve scores at the lowest performing schools in the state. The reform program is called California's Quality Education Investment Act. This is not new money -- these are funds that were owed to California schools by the state.

The report was put out by the California Teachers Association and it found there has been progress in helping at-risk students, but ABC7 found it isn't working as well as they say it is.

Nearly 500 California schools will end up sharing $3 billion dollars in state funds over seven years. It stems from a lawsuit from the California Teachers Association, the CTA, which argued kids were being denied their right to a high quality education.

"As a result, these dollars were then sent back to the schools specifically to the lowest achieving schools in California with the idea this would help close the achievement gap and give access to a better schooling," Carrie Hahnel from the Education Trust-West said.

The monies have been rolling in since 2007 and now a new report says there has been progress. Tom Torlakson, the newly elected superintendent of schools, helped get the funds through the Legislature.

"They have lower class sizes. They have more counseling in the schools and that allows the teachers to know each student better and to differentiate the learning strategy for every student and that has helped the scores skyrocket," he said.

Overall, the underperforming schools that received the funds showed a higher growth on the California Academic Performance Index, the API, than schools that did not get the extra help. The CTA says having the money to keep small class sizes was instrumental.

"They get so much more individual attention I can give them so much more instruction that is at their level than I used to be able to," teacher Dicharry said.

But San Francisco Unified didn't match the trends seen statewide. Only half of the schools that got the extra funds showed API growth. Those schools that did not get the extra resources did better.

"Two years is a short amount of time to turn around a school. We think that it takes at least three years to start to see that move and sometimes five years before you might see that it is something that is going to hold," Gentle Blythe from San Francisco Unified Schools said.

"I think the question is, are we spending it in the smartest possible way and are we spending it in a way that reaches every child in California," Hahnel said.

In San Francisco, 14 schools are receiving the extra funds. That money represents $500 extra for each student in elementary school, $900 for students 4th through 8th grade and then $1,000 for each high school student.


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