Education / 2013
Padres Creando Exito: Effective educators in every classroom every school
The Alliance for a Better Community (ABC) is proposing to elevate the public dialogue regarding equity and access to high quality instruction delivered by highly effective educators to all students in every classroom, every school. By partnering with the parents and families, students, teachers and administrators served by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), ABC will implement an education and awareness campaign, with a particular focus on media, to discuss and define the critical role parents and families must play in identifying, supporting and retaining effective educators. Public education in Los Angeles and California is fundamentally failing our children. For decades it has underserved and tracked students of color into separate academic and vocational programs, thereby perpetuating the inequities of race, gender and socio-economic status in our society. ABC believes that in order for schools to provide the quality education children deserve and need, parents and families must serve as meaningful partners at the school and district levels. To increase student learning, excellent teachers are needed in every classroom. Research has found teachers to be the most important school-related factor in student achievement. According to a report on the LAUSD, the National Center on Teacher Quality found that, “of the 11,000 LAUSD teachers evaluated in the 2009-2010 school year, 79 percent met the standard in all 27 indicators, signaling that they did not need any improvement. Contrast teachers’ apparent extraordinary level of performance with student performance: only 41% of students scored proficient on the state language arts exam and only 39% scored proficient in mathematics.” There are specific educational disparities that inequitably impact Latinos and African Americans in Los Angeles; one of those is the caliber of teachers in their classrooms. In a report by Education Trust-West, it was found that effective teachers are not equally distributed in LAUSD. Teachers in the top 25 percent are less likely to instruct lower-income students of color. These teachers are also more likely to leave the district's highest need schools. This is critically important since a teacher has more impact on student learning than any other factor controlled by school systems, including class size, school size, the quality of after-school programs and even which school a student attends. Because a high percentage of a school’s impact is attributable to teachers, attracting and retaining highly effective educators becomes critical to making substantial achievement gains that are sustained over time. (Met Project, 2011). ABC is working collaboratively with its partners to advocate for policies and practices that identify, support and retain effective educators in high-need schools across LAUSD and integrate parents and families in the discussion and decision-making. Public dialogue around the topic has traditionally been led by District and union leaders and education pundits who are currently shaping how this issue is framed by the mainstream media and understood by those on the sideline watching the debate. ABC is proposing to elevate the voices of those not typically heard, the: PARENTS and FAMILIES who have students in the District; STUDENTS who have been through the public school system and can testify to the impact that effective educators have had on their academic successes, and; TEACHERS in the classroom that understand the importance of the debate because they care about their students and families. ABC will launch a public education and awareness campaign, through the use of media, that elevates the critical role these stakeholders share in including the parents and families in the educator effectiveness dialogue to benefit student educational outcomes. Some of the key activities will include: convening at least 3 focus groups comprised of teachers, parents and students to discuss how parents and families can contribute to the development of policies and public conversations; developing at least 2 videos and 5 online profiles of parents, teachers and students providing testimonials about the importance of family voices in this public dialogue; developing key recommendations for how parents and families can be engaged in this conversation at their local schools and at the District; developing a document that outlines key principles for engaging parents in educator effectiveness that can be distributed amongst parent groups; and coordinating an official kick-off launch with the produced videos, profiles and information tools that will help inform on-going and future discussions about how to best identify, support and retain effective teachers.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
College Preparatory Curriculum: ABC co-convened the Communities for Educational Equity, a network of more than 20 organizations that mobilized thousands of parents, students, and stakeholders to advocate for LAUSD to adopt a policy that provides the A-G college preparatory curriculum to all students. The policy was adopted in 2005.
Pilot Schools and Zones of Choice: In response to the poor academic outcomes produced at local schools, ABC incited and supported the District in its efforts to bring new, innovative models of learning to Mid-City, Belmont-area students. Today, these students are provided school choice through a novel program called the Belmont Zone of Choice. Incoming 9th grade students choose among 19 career-themed options housed within four campuses.
Linked Learning: ABC is committed to developing high quality college and career education opportunities via the Linked Learning approach to instruction. Efforts include the successful passage of LAUSDs Linked Learning Resolution and the authoring of The Bottom-Up Approach: How Youth & Parent Organizing Strengthen Linked Learning Pathways to Both College and Career. ABC is also an evaluator for the Linked Learning Statewide Certification Review Team.
Afterschool Programs: ABC authored the report, “Maximizing After School Opportunities for English Learners” which outlined policy recommendations for improving the academic outcomes of ELs through after school programs. As a result of the report, then Assembly member Torlakson authored AB 2178 which allows after school program operators to obtain student academic data from school districts in order to improve programming and service delivery to students and Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 2178 into law.
Don’t Hold Us Back Coalition: ABC was a leading member of this partnership comprised of a group of civil rights, parent and community organizations that believe every child deserves a quality public school education that prepares them for college and 21st century careers.. Our key demands to the LAUSD and the local teachers union included lifting the cap on teacher-led school structures; providing multiple measure evaluations to teachers; and assigning teachers to schools based on student need and not “must-place” hiring practices. As the spokesperson for the coalition, ABC used its platform in interviews with every major LA Spanish and English language newspaper and local media outlets, to describe how together, 100 parents and community members were mobilized, 26 organizations signed on to our efforts, close to 1,000 signed our petition, and as a result LAUSD-UTLA passed the Local Schools Stabilization and Empowerment Initiative of 2011. Since the coalition’s efforts wrapped up in December 2011, ABC shared its efforts with teacher groups, community organizations, parent groups and researchers nationwide to promote the replication of this type of effort.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
ABC will work with teacher and student led organizations that have also identified educator effectiveness as a core priority, in order to highlight diverse voices in this public dialogue. ABC will partner with Teach Plus, a teacher-led organization focused on developing the capacity of teachers; and Students for Education Reform (SFER), a student led group with local chapters across Southern California who have also identified “great leaders, great teachers” as important to the success of students. TeachPlus and SFER have been approached to help identify teacher and student voices, respectively, that can speak to the importance of having an effective educator in every classroom and the important role of parents to ensure this happens.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
To effectively measure its progress, ABC will set benchmarks for each of its major campaign activities and collect and document the following: number of coalition meetings; number of meetings with key LAUSD staff to discuss policy language on the inclusion of parents and student voice in the identification and retention of educators; number of elected officials that sign on in support of our campaign; number of parents that participate in parent empowerment trainings; number of media stories generated; number of community meetings/events hosted; number of informational brochures distributed; number of public actions taken by coalition, community and parents; number of visits to ABC website and ABC YouTube page that will host the parent, student and teacher videos and online profiles; number of “likes”, retweets, and shares on the various social media sites that the video and online profiles will be shared through; number of visits to the online sites that have seen the videos and online profiles; and number of policies passed via District bulletins, resolutions, or state legislation that correspond to the messages being delivered by the public awareness campaign that highlight parent, teacher and student voices. Tools developed to collect this information may include: stakeholder surveys and interviews, media tracking, media content and framing analysis, policy tracking, and some public polling. Additionally, to track ABC’s effectiveness and meet program outcomes, ABC’s Senior Policy Manager and Parent Organizer will meet with ABC’s Associate Director in biweekly meetings to assess progress and to identify best practices and opportunities for improvement. During these meetings, ABC’s Associate Director will use indicators listed above to determine efficacy and timeliness of program outcomes.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Los Angeles stands to benefit from this project because the academic and social (human capital) development of our students is being shaped by more than 32,000 teachers that instruct over 667,250 students ever year in our public schools. Research shows that 58% of a school’s impact on student achievement is attributable to principal and teacher effectiveness. As a result, attracting and retaining highly effective educators becomes critical to making substantial gains in student achievement that are sustained over time. Research has also shown that parents are a significant influence in the academic success of their children. Although studies often point to poverty as a significant predictor of low academic achievement, when parents and families are given the skills and tools necessary to create a nurturing learning environment, low-income families and children can defy the odds (Davis-Keane, 2007). Additionally, when parents are given decision making roles and considered equal partners in their child’s education, they can become informed and effective advocates for their child’s education.
As the second largest school District in the nation, LAUSD is taking a step forward and leading the debate as it currently examines how it can best support its teacher and administrator workforce. We currently have a window of opportunity to engage in this discussion and most importantly to help shape it, so that we ensure that parents and families are seen as crucial partners and part of the solution to arriving at meaningful ways of identifying, supporting and retaining effective educators for their children. By launching a public education and awareness campaign around the importance of having an effective educator in every classroom, every school and offering tools and recommendations on parents’ roles in this issue, we will build critical links between policy development and on-the-ground teacher, student and parent realities, by broadening public accountability to include consumers.
Ultimately, Los Angeles will benefit from having educators that are:
- identified as highly effective to minimize inequitable access to quality teachers by low-income and underrepresented families;
- supported in their profession by receiving high-quality, relevant professional development and resources to improve their craft, and;
- retained in the classroom so that students have consistent and stable learning environments and teachers are rewarded for their positive contributions to student outcomes.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
In the year 2050, education in Los Angeles will once again be amongst the top rated in the country. Groups from other school districts in the nation will be visiting LAUSD to learn about the effective teaching taking place in all of its classrooms. Parents, teachers and students will continue to be welcomed contributors to the public dialogue about effective teaching, student achievement, and the importance of building a school community that responds to the needs of each one of these stakeholders.
The LAUSD will see parents are critical partners in the educator effectiveness conversation, and as such will design culturally and linguistically relevant tools that inform parents and families as well as obtain parental feedback on key school reform efforts. In line with these changes, parent surveys will be used as one of the multiple indicators in teacher evaluations. Information regarding educator effectiveness will be readily available to parents so that they can be better advocates for their children and the teachers in their schools. Teachers will not feel attacked or challenged when parents speak about educator effectiveness, because they will all be using similar language to describe their ambitions for the success of students.
In addition, each student will have access to high quality instruction that will result in the elimination of the achievement gap, elimination of inequitable effective teacher distribution, reduced drop-out rates, engaged students that are being challenged with rigorous and relevant instruction, and an increase in students being prepared for college and meaningful careers in a highly competitive economy. Educators that are struggling in the classroom will be able to receive helpful feedback from their performance evaluations and strong professional development and supports that improve their teaching. Likewise, educators that are effectively teaching their students will be rewarded with transparent and unbiased feedback on their performance, as well as compensation based on their contributions to student outcomes and their school community.
In 2050, teachers, parents and students will be regularly featured by the media, District and union leaders and educational pundits that want to add to the public dialogue about educational issues that matter to everyone and can be relatable by anyone.