3 OC Schools Escape No Child Left Behind Sanctions, CTA Crows

California Teachers Association (CTA) is taking credit for three elementary schools in Orange County improving enough academically to escape vulnerability to sanctions or forced conversion to charter schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Melrose Elementary School in Placentia, Martin Elementary School in Santa Ana and Kinoshita Elementary School in San Juan Capistrano are among eight California schools where significant Academic Performance Index (API) growth has allowed them to exit their federal “Program Improvement” status for the school year.

Once identified as low performing under No Child Left Behind, schools essentially get five years to turn things around lest they face sanctions or conversion to charter schools.

All eight schools identified by CTA were targeted with extra resources under state Senate
Bill 1133, the so-called Quality Education Investment Act of 2006 that
the teacher union sponsored. The legislation sought to improve 499 state schools that were in the bottom two decibels for performance by pumping nearly $3 billion into over eight years for smaller class sizes, extra teachers, more counselors and better staff training.

On average, all QEIA schools scored five points higher than similar schools in last school year's API. Seven schools exceeded the target API of 800 for all California public schools, although none are located in Orange County. However, the graphic below shows other local, low-performing campuses have made huge strides thanks to the funding infusion.

“What teachers said about the value of the CTA-sponsored Quality Education Investment Act three years ago is coming true today,” says David A. Sanchez, president of the 340,000-member teacher union, in a statement titled, “New Data Shows Early Success for
CTA-Backed QEIA Law.” “Proven reforms work, and the increased achievement by students in QEIA schools is a testament to the value of funding proven reforms.”

Unfortunately, when state senators voted on these proven reforms in August 2006, only one member of Orange County's delegation voted for the QEIA, which was sponsored by Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Contra Costa). Then-Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana), whose district included Martin Elementary, indicated aye for QEIA.

Then Sen. Bob Margett (R-Glendora) voted no even though his district included Melrose Elementary. Kinoshita Elementary was within the district of Sen. Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside), who did not vote. Sens. Dick Ackerman (R-Fullerton) and Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) voted against the QEIA.

Over in the Assembly, Lynn Daucher (R-Brea) was the only Orange County Republican to vote for the bill that same day, joining Democrat Tom Umberg of Santa Ana. Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel) and Todd Spitzer (R-Fullerton) voted against it.

The CTA reads its preliminary data as a condemnation of cutting $375 million from the districts these once low-performing schools are located, a possibility amid the confusion from last summer's state budget negotiations. A Senate bill that would have protected the vulnerable schools from the budget ax was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week, but mirror legislation in the Assembly is pending, as are negotiations aimed at getting Arnie to sign the thing.

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