California Educator

APRIL 2010

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CTA Principles for Reauthorization ESEA Instead of continuing to pursue simplistic, mechanical solutions to the complex issues of education reform, we need to “Reach for the STARS” with a more balanced approach. CTA offers a fi ve-point outline of principles to guide ESEA reauthorization: schools of greatest need. QEIA, passed in 2006 with CTA’s spon- sorship, provides nearly $3 billion over eight years to bring extra resources to 501 schools in the lowest deciles of the Aca- demic Performance Index. QEIA lowers class sizes, provides a credentialed coun- selor for every 300 high school students, and funds professional development and collaboration time for teachers to develop lesson plans, analyze student data and mentor new educators. Research shows that, on average, QEIA schools scored 5 API points higher than similar schools, and that 351 of them met schoolwide tar- gets set by the state’s accountability system. Several made such significant progress af- ter one year that they exited from Program Improvement status under No Child Left Behind. “QEIA schools have the resources that should be available to all schools,” says Education has created a list of “Ten Elements Every High School Should Have in Place”: 1 Strong leaders 2 A safe learning environment 3 Extra help for those who need it 4 Having students be involved in activities that connect school to the rest of the world 5 Family and community involvement 6 Personal attention for all students 7 Skilled teachers 8 Challenging classes 9 Necessary resources 10 User-friendly information 10 9 8 7 Students The federal role in education should be one of “A good school has supportive teachers and an overall safe feeling on campus. A good school feels like home.” Patrick Chung, junior, Valencia High School partnership with, and support of, the states in ensuring that all children receive a quality education in a safe, secure school. Practices promoted by federal policy, including ESEA, should foster consistently high and rigorous expectations for students by all educators. Outcomes for students must be focused on equitable access to high-quality teaching and learning — not on minimum profi ciency and capacity — so that our state schools produce a graduating pool of college and career ready students. Teachers The federal defi nition of teacher quality lowers rigor and relevance of California’s teacher preparation and induction standards. Federal defi nitions need to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive, of the types of multiple measures and appropriate practices to identify effectiveness. CTA President David A. Sanchez, who de- scribes a good school as having “lots of pa- rental involvement, a highly qualified teacher in the classroom, resources and support personal, and a highly qualified principal.” CTA’s nonprofit organization, the In- The Alliance for Excellent stitute for Teaching (IFT), has been look- ing at successful public schools since 1967. Instead of studying what’s not working in our schools, IFT is more interested in ob- serving and asking questions about pro- grams, policies and learning strategies that do work. The IFT is currently in- volved with programs to reform high schools, reduce the high school dropout rate, and support universal preschool, as well as provide “mini-grants” of $5,000 to teachers. “A good school continues to grow based on what is happening positively and build- ing on strengths,” says Jim Rogers, a CTA Board member who serves on the IFT board. “There are politicians and other people not involved in day-to-day teach- ing of our students who want to make quick fixes to our schools. But only con- tinuous, ongoing change based on what is actually working will keep schools contin- uously growing and improving.” Accountability In its most basic aspect, educational accountability is conceived as a process designed to ensure that anyone can determine if the schools are producing the results required. Assessment and testing policies have a profound infl uence on the ways in which schools function. This infl uence is particularly strong with respect to the kinds of educational programs they offer. ESEA should allow school improvement efforts to be locally developed to meet specifi c student needs and community contexts, based on a needs analysis that includes all stakeholders. Resources and Innovation Proven reforms such as small class sizes and improved teacher training, and years of hard work by dedicated educators, are producing real results in many schools and school districts. Funding available through ESEA must be adequate to give students the opportunity to meet the expectations set for them. These funds must also be distributed equitably, based on the needs of students in those schools and not on the wealth of the school district. Mandates set by ESEA must be fully funded. Systems The program of sanctions and interventions under earlier reauthorizations has not worked to improve persistently low-performing schools. For example, school choice as currently implemented under ESEA does not address or improve the pervasive problems at the school of residence. Flexibility for schools means considering the needs of all student abilities in order to develop programs that match the local context. To read the full text of CTA’s recommendations, visit ESEA-NCLB/Principles. Also, look for CTA radio ads in April and May that show how Washington and Sacramento’s ideas about reforming public schools are just not working for California students. You can also listen to them at About-CTA/News-Room/Media-Center/ Audio/2010/Top-Down-English. APRIL 2010 | 17

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