Steven Weinberg, a retired Oakland teacher and Education Report contributor, makes a case for the Proposition 30 tax initiative on the November ballot.
The experience of Oakland middle schools over the last three years shows that it does.
Several years ago four Oakland middle schools with test scores in the lowest 20 percent of state schools received multiyear grants of $900 per student to reduce class sizes and fund other improvements. The grants were not given to all schools in the lowest 20 percent because the state wanted to be able to compare differences in improvement between those schools that received the extra money and those that did not.
After three years the differences in Oakland’s middle schools are dramatic. The four schools that received the extra funding (Claremont, Frick, Madison, and Urban Promise) have improved their API scores by an average of 99 points. The middle schools that started with similar scores, but did not receive the funding, improved by an average of only 32 points. The Oakland middle schools that were not in the lowest 20 percent of the state made only an average of 2 points of API gain over these three years. (All the figures are comparisons of 2008 base scores to 2011 base scores.)
The gains for students in schools with the extra funding was more than three times as large as the gains in similar schools and much greater than that if all middle schools are compared.
Clearly additional funding and lower class sizes make a huge difference in helping schools increase student achievement. These gains might have been even larger if the state had not been cutting basic school support during this period.
California voters will have a choice in November. They can approve a small, temporary tax increase that will provide resources for our schools, or they can vote against the plan and see massive cuts to educational programs. What they decide will have a clear effect on the achievement of our students.