California Educator

APRIL 2010

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CTA Quality Education Investment Act pays off Miraloma is one of 501 lower-performing story and photos by Mike Myslinski Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Howard re- members when Miraloma Elementary in San Francisco was not such a successful “school in demand.” Four or five years ago, classes were crowded and supplies and professional development lacking, the nine-year veteran educator says. When parent Leslie Acosta-Bhattacharya moved nearby seven years ago, neighbors told her Miraloma “had problems” and that she should look at other options. Today, there is a waiting list to get in, the teachers and the principal are collaborating in creative ways that have caused test scores to soar, and parents are thrilled with the inven- tive learning and smaller class sizes. After winning a lottery of sorts to get her son into kindergarten, Acosta-Bhattacharya, an attorney, is overjoyed she chose Miraloma for her boy, now a first-grader. “The teachers are fabulous,” she says. “They work together. It was the best decision I ever made.” Many Miraloma stakeholders point to a CTA-sponsored law for sparking much of the positive transformation at this 370-student campus, where about 20 percent of students meet federal poverty guidelines to receive free or reduced-priced lunches. BELOW: Fifth-grade teacher Yukendra Harris at Miraloma Elementary. public schools receiving extra state funding from the Quality Education Investment Act of 2006, authored by Assembly Member Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch). QEIA schools will share nearly $3 billion over eight years for proven reforms such as smaller class sizes, ex- tra teachers, more counselors, and better staff training. Miraloma gets about $210,000 a year from QEIA to invest in students and teachers. “It’s making such a difference here,” teacher Jennifer Howard says of the positive impacts of the landmark law. “The school has changed tremendously since I’ve been here.” Parental involvement Parent Acosta-Bhattacharya co-chairs the Miraloma School Site Council of parents, teachers and administrators, which oversees QEIA funding, making sure the requirements of the law, such as smaller classes, are met. “It’s a platform for people to feel comfortable,” she says of the council’s camaraderie. “Our focus remains on taking each individual student and giving them the resources to take them wher- ever they can go.” Of the QEIA-enriched schools in Califor- nia, Miraloma had the highest state Academic Performance Index score for the 2008-09 school year at 851. It was one of seven QEIA schools that exceeded the 800 API benchmark score recommended for all public schools by the California Department of Education. Many factors go into a school’s success, but on average, QEIA schools scored five points high- er on the API than similar schools last school year, the first full year of extra QEIA funding. As many schools face severe cutbacks, QE- IA funding — and devoted parents who raised about $165,000 for the school last year — mean that Miraloma enjoys many extra re- sources. They include two half-time academic intervention teachers, cutting-edge profes- sional development training for teachers, indi- vidualized math and reading programs, high- tech Internet-connected whiteboards in class- rooms, a poetry instructor, a garden expert, 22 California Educator | APRIL 2010 ABOVE: Fourth-grade teacher Rebecca Stewart at Miraloma Elementary, a school that benefits from Quality Education Investment Act funding. and a hands-on garden where students raise and study vegetables. Fourth-grade teacher Rebecca Stewart raves about the small class sizes — with only 23 students in her classroom. “It’s made a huge difference,” she says. “When you have a smaller class size, children get more attention from the teacher. Studies show kids work better in small groups. With 23 students we actually have enough space to move around, to have diverse instruction. I can diversify my teaching a lot more because I have a little bit more time with each child.” More attention builds confidence, Stewart noted. “Inevitably, they feel more important when they get more attention, and they get more attention when there are fewer students in the class.” Time to collaborate She treasures the half day a month that her colleagues get to meet and collaborate, finding ways to be more creative and effective. “Teaching is a very lonely job if you don’t have that time to collaborate. You get in the classroom and often you don’t see another teacher again, it seems. We’ve managed to share some of the burdens.” Fifth-grade teacher Yukendra Harris has only 21 students in her classes, and uses that wonderful situation to build relationships with students. “I feel very, very lucky,” Harris says of the

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