If you could witness the first day of school at Salem’s César Chavez School, then you would see our teacher candidates (known elsewhere as “student teachers”) already in the classroom working alongside trained clinical teachers.

Being a teacher candidate at César Chavez is not a passive role. They assist students, plan lessons, and teach. And by the time this experience is completed, they are ready to take charge of their own classroom. This is our model of teacher preparation today.

In the past, student teachers would be assigned to classroom teachers who, typically, did not have any sort of training in mentoring, coaching, or supervision. Therefore, the quality of a practicum experience varied widely from school to school, teacher to teacher. Given this haphazard approach to preparation, is it a surprise many novice teachers struggle in their first year, and research shows nearly 50 percent of new teachers quit within five years?

Thanks to Chalkboard’s TeachOregon initiative, Salem-Keizer has collaborated with Corban and Western Oregon universities. Through this partnership, we have been able to prepare “clinical” teachers to work with teacher candidates. For the last three years, we hired teachers with this plan in mind, and now Cesar Chavez has 25 clinical teachers. We wanted our school to be a lab, a place that believes in teaching and learning at every level.

Recent César Chavez teacher candidate Carolyn Cava described her experience. “From the beginning, I felt I was treated like a teacher, not just a student teacher,” Carolyn said. “I was never just sitting back and observing. As I got more and more responsibility, I also got the support to be successful.”

At César Chavez, Carolyn was partnered with two teachers—Nubia Green and Nora Singleton. Very soon, Carolyn was teaching, starting with small reading groups and eventually teaching the entire class. After graduation, Carolyn received a job offer in Salem’s Hallman Elementary, where she teaches third-grade bilingual students.

“I owe so much to Nora and Nubia,” she says. “I learned how to build a classroom community and how to build relationships with my students. You just can’t learn that in a college seminar.”

Our teacher candidates are immersed in the classroom experience. But more than that, these new teachers develop abilities to connect with students and see themselves as a true educator. Through our TeachOregon partnerships, our teacher candidates and clinical teachers have created a model that could eventually improve the education for all Oregon children.

Senator Ted Ferrioli

Senator Ted Ferrioli

Senator Ted Ferrioli is the senior member of the Oregon State Senate and serves as the Senate Republican Caucus Leader. He was first elected in 1996 and is now serving his fifth term of office.

In addition to serving as Chair or Vice Chair on dozens of Legislative Committees during his long tenure in the Oregon State Senate, Ferrioli was elected by his peers to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore. Today, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and serves on the Legislative Administration Committee. In 2013 was appointed to the Capitol Foundation Board of Directors.

Senator Ferrioli represents Senate District 30, Oregon’s largest, encompassing Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Malheur, Wheeler, and portions of Clackamas, Deschutes, Lake, Marion and Wasco counties. He lives in the town of John Day with his wife Mary and spends all his spare time on their ranch near Mt. Vernon, Oregon.

See Introductory Post

The retreat from accountability in Oregon’s education system has earned us the lowest achievement rates, the highest drop-out rates and a reputation for some of the worst school ratings in the nation

Taken literally, it’s not the most permissive, most lackadaisical and least rigorous teachers who lift students to their full potential; it’s the toughest, most exacting and most demanding teachers that push students to do more, to prove their worth and to master difficult subjects

Being held accountable by demonstrated mastery of subject matter (i.e. testing) is hard. It’s stressful. There is the threat of the possibility of failure which mirrors the reality students will encounter later in life.

Building academic muscle requires training and testing in a competitive environment, just as in athletics. No one ever suggests we should cancel the league or conference play-offs, so why should we give our education institution a “pass” on academic testing?

I was one of six “no” votes on the issue of suspending statewide testing. I’m proud to join Senator Ginny Burdick, Senator Mark Hass, Senator Betsy Johnson, Senator Rod Monroe and Senator Chuck Thomsen who also voted to oppose a retreat from testing. It was a vote for a return to academic excellence.

Senator Ted Ferrioli

Senate Republican Leader

SD 30-John Day

See Introductory Post

Monroe_photoSenator Rod Monroe was a teacher at Tigard High School and later served on the David Douglas School Board. He was first elected a member of the Oregon legislature in 1976 representing District 12 in Portland, and served two terms. He was elected to the Oregon Senate in 1980, representing District 7, receiving re-election once.

He was elected and served on the council of the governmental agency, Metro, from 1992 to 2004. Later, Senator Monroe was elected to the Oregon Senate in 2006, representing District 24.

Senator Monroe represents House District 24, encompassing east Portland and north Clackamas County.

See Introductory Post

Sen. Rod Monroe – HB 2655, Floor Remarks, June 11, 2015 

Thank you, Mr. President. I hope everybody is paying attention to this issue because it is one of the most important issues that we will vote on this year with respect to public education.

I would just like to ask you ladies and gentlemen, are you happy with our graduation rates? Are you happy that Oregon has among the lowest graduation rates in the country? Are you happy with the fact that our students, when they graduate from our high schools and enter our community colleges, 60 to 70 percent of them need remedial math or language arts? That’s what Smarter Balanced is all about. The current OAKS test, which is purely multiple choice, does not give us the information necessary to do those kinds of remedial programs when they’re juniors and seniors in high school, instead of us having to pay twice for that education when they get to community college. Smarter Balance is not perfect, but it is certainly better than the old OAKS test that’s been antiquated and been around for many, many years.

Now let’s talk about opt out. This is OEA’s six-year opt out bill. That is the correct name for it. Let’s talk about opt out. Currently we have opt out in this state. This bill doesn’t change that. What this bill does is encourages school districts and encourages teachers to suggest to their students that opt out is a good option. That’s what troubles me. So who is using the opt out? Well, in my area, Lincoln and Lake Oswego—a couple of rich schools—are opting out at about the 40 percent rate. Whereas, one of the poorer schools in my district, David Douglas, is doing it right. They are informing the parents of this new Smarter Balance test. The teachers are giving kids information about the test and the opt out rate is very, very small and the success is very high.

When students take this Smarter Balanced test, and if they do reasonably well on it, many universities are considering that as the entrance exam so it saves these young people the need to take the university entrance exams.

Now what happens if less than 95 percent of Oregon’s students take the test? Well you’ve got a memo right there in front of you from the Department of Education, permission to read from a document Mr. President? (Granted)

It says this, “The text of the Oregon bill currently under consideration proactively encouraging parents to opt out of assessments and failing to hold districts and schools accountable if they fall below 95 percent participation increases the likelihood that Oregon will not meet its obligations under the law and will incur enforcement action.” What’s the enforcement action? The enforcement action is that we lose our Title I money. And our Title I money primarily goes to low-income students. So what would happen if a few schools like Lincoln and Lake Oswego all opt out, the rich kids mind you? It would cost money, $140 million, for some of the poorest schools in our state and the kids that really need those federal Title I dollars. Because of the impact, possible fiscal impact and risk of this measure, it ought not to be before us today, it ought to be in Ways and Means. We send everything to Ways and Means if it has a few thousand dollar possible concern. This has $140 million concern. It ought to be in Ways and Means. I ask you ladies and gentlemen, are you willing to take the risk? Are you willing to take the risk of losing that kind of money to help our poor students, because we are playing games with their education?

Look at who is opposed to this bill: Oregon Business Association is opposed to this bill. Stand for Children is opposed to this bill. Chalkboard is opposed to this bill. Both of your co-chairs of the education subcommittee of Ways and Means, Rep. Betty Komp and myself, both lifelong educators, are opposed to this bill.

I got a call a couple of days ago from a teacher who lives in my district, but teaches at Reynolds. She is a constituent and I’ve known her for many years. She is an excellent teacher. She was angry that OEA would not only submit legislation like this, but gag her and other OEA members from speaking out against it. She said, you know I’m paying $100 a month, $1200 a year, to OEA and they are gagging me and they are making a bad decision for the students of our fair state.

We are trying to catch up with the other states that we are behind. This will put us farther behind for the next six years! It’s a horrible bill. Vote no.

See Introductory Post

This week, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed Oregon will receive a three-year reprieve from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind school accountability law. And while the state says it remains committed to teacher evaluation via standardized testing, the recent passage of Oregon’s “opt out” law may have consequences yet unrealized.

We have written recent editorials in support of maintaining a highly effective assessment system aligned with state education standards. We believe the goal of assessment is to improve how our students learn and to help ensure all students receive the best learning environment possible.

Our work with educators confirms teachers want better support and professional development in assessment literacy, especially to meet the demands of the new state standards. With the Governor’s signing of HB 2655 into law in the final days of this legislative session, we at Chalkboard continue to be concerned about the future of education across Oregon and the possible challenges this decision may create.

Below we express the concerns of two Oregon senators regarding HB 2655.

This blog post, authored by Oregon State Senate Minority Leader Senator Ted Ferrioli (R)

This blog post of floor remarks on the bill by Oregon State Senator Rod Monroe (D)

JulieBev PIC2Co-authors and Chalkboard staffers Julie Smith, educator effectiveness coordinator, and Bev Pratt, TIF grant manager, will be presenting a blog post series this summer on teacher compensation.

This is the first blog post in that series.

Merit pay is defined as paying teachers for increases in student test scores and has been proven time and again not to work for students or teachers, and we at Chalkboard agree. Teachers work hard for their students every day and so to say “We will pay you more, or pay you a bonus if your scores increase” does not suddenly make a teacher more effective. When we dig deeper into claims that merit pay systems work, we find that it is not the merit pay that makes teachers more effective, but it is the system of supports put in place to ensure teachers reach their professional and student goals.

Over the years, alternative compensation systems have evolved to include many different components based on the performance of both teachers and students, as well as on teachers improving their professional practice. For example, last month we visited a Colorado district that had a version of merit—or performance—pay in place that purported to be making a difference for kids. When we probed deeper to understand why the district was seeing improvements in student learning, it turned out the educators had a clear picture of what they needed to do to refine their practices, and had supports in place to help them meet those goals. The district also had a very well defined assessment system, designed with teachers’ input.

Julie0707 Portland, Maine, also designed an alternative compensation system when they moved from an experience-based pay model (first introduced in the early 1900’s) to a professional-learning-based salary system. Instead of teachers having to pay for college credits to advance across a traditional salary schedule, teachers had the option of opting into the new system that recognized educators as lifelong learners who continued to improve and adapt their teaching practice. Again, the redesign of their compensation model led to a focus on providing and valuing meaningful professional learning opportunities for teachers to enhance their craft to ensure they are effective with all kids.

Systems of support can and should exist with or without increases in pay for performance. An effective system regardless of the compensation system makes sure teachers are receiving quality professional learning opportunities focused on instruction, student engagement, understanding standards, and formative assessment. These quality-learning opportunities are embedded and ongoing, and they are collaborative among peers, with opportunities for independent learning. Most importantly, these districts prioritize professional learning by allocating resources, compensation, and time.

Educating kids today is different than it was a generation ago. We cannot assume teachers can adapt to this new environment just because they need too. Teachers and district leaders need to come together to collaboratively design effective professional learning opportunities that support the acquisition of new knowledge, skill development, exploration of beliefs and assumptions, and opportunities to practice. Together, they must refine the application of new learning and evaluate the impact of their learning on all students.

 Stay tuned. The next blog in this series will explore alternative compensation models that support this type of deeper learning!

Rural communities, and especially Oregon’s tribal communities, have many significant challenges to providing enriching childhood educational programs and leadership experiences. A successful program serving the Burns-Paiute Tribe has a mission to “Provide a safe and supportive environment where youth will learn tradition, language and culture”, and help the Burns-Paiute youth embrace a proud self-identity and a positive healthy lifestyle.”

Burns-Paiute blog1“Tuwakii-Nobi (Kid’s House) provides a consistent learning environment. Every day after school, the tutors are there, the computers are there—we have consistency for our children. This is where we engage these kids, and then line them up with leadership and education opportunities,” said Michelle Bradach, Burns-Paiute social services director.

The Burns-Paiute Reservation is located north of Burns in Central Oregon, about 130 miles from Bend, and spans nearly 12,000 acres. There are approximately 380 Burns-Paiute tribal members living in rural Harney County, considered one of the most economically needy areas of Oregon—per capita income is 22.2 percent less than the state average.  Since Chalkboard’s 2014 report on the education status of Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes, the Burns-Paiute tribe has seen marked improvements in math skills, but not in reading. And their school absenteeism rates are some of the highest in the state.

Recognizing the need to improve their children’s academic achievement and wanting a safe and nurturing place for their children after school, the Burns-Paiute people launched Tuwakii-Nobi (Kids’ House) in 2012 with funding from the Oregon Juvenile Justice Department Program (OJJDP).  The program offers meaningful wellness programs, plus tutoring, and tribal language instruction.

Fifteen children attend the afterschool program during the four-day school week, and 25 children attend on Fridays. Their three-week summer session bring even more children into the program. Over the last three years, the community has grown to appreciate the program, and a recent community survey rated Tuwakii-Nobi as the top funding priority—a powerful message just as the OJJDP grant monies were running out.

Searching for new funds has been a daunting task for a tribal administration office with a single person managing social services—Michelle Bradach, tribal services administrator.  Subsequently, finding time to search for funds has been elusive. How can you find funding for a program when you are understaffed, far from large population centers and nonprofit resources, while each day is consumed with completing the task directly in front of you?

To support the Burns-Paiute Tribe, the Spirit Mountain Community Fund helped build a collaborative partnership between the tribe and Chalkboard Project. The primary purpose—to create a multi-faceted, three-year strategic plan to sustain existing services and expand the offerings to build leadership opportunities for young adults, obtain staffing to build financial support, and move the program into a comprehensive Wellness Center.

The strategic plan was based upon input from a steering committee made up of tribal elders, parents, and children, feedback from the tribal prevention and education staff, and after Chalkboard staff visited the community, and held weekly conference calls afterwards for several months. Chalkboard Vice President of Education Policy Frank Caropelo, Michelle, and program director Elise Adams wrote the plan to both capture the tribe’s vision for its community and serve as the backbone for additional funding.

“Before this program, our tribal children would have their tutoring held in different places and offices—there was no stability for them. Tuwakii-Nobi is a safe place for all tribal youth to go, and experience positive things they would not otherwise do,” said Michelle.

While this official partnership is coming to a close, Chalkboard will continue sharing the story of the Burns-Paiute Tribe and about the dedicated people who are working hard to create a prosperous future for their community.

Being involved in the CLASS Project earned us tickets to Minnesota!

Yes, Minnesota. Let me explain…

Our CLASS design team in Mt. Angel has been working together for three years now. Mt. Angel, a small school district with scarce resources, is located 18 miles northeast of Salem. Though our CLASS implementation plan for the 2014-2015 school year was not funded, we still decided to move forward with a small part of the plan through a professional development mini-grant available to teachers.

MtAngelIn January 2015, we successfully secured a winning grant that funded 11 teachers (me included) at St. Mary’s Public School to be trained to implement a supplementary reading program called Logic of English (LOE). The program’s author, Denise Eide, teaches the concept that the English language does, in fact, have rules and if we teach students these rules, they will become far better readers and spellers. We not only used the video trainings available from LOE, but the grant allowed us to hire substitutes so our grade-level teams had implementation time to plug the lessons into our current schedule, and even have Skype sessions with Denise to tackle questions with implementation.

While grade-level teams planned and worked together to implement the curriculum, a new level of cross-grade level collaboration also developed. My first-grade team would tell the second-grade teachers how excited they were going to be to get this batch of kids next year, and the kinder teachers would tell us the same thing!

Our collaborative efforts not only brought us closer together as co-workers, but final analysis of the data showed that student outcomes in reading increased as well. Staff and board members were impressed with our findings and our excitement after viewing a short video we had produced, and were even more excited about St. Mary’s potential of future reading success.

When I shared the video with LOE author Denise, she told me she had tears streaming down her face. She wanted to continue our collaboration together by offering our district two free slots at her week-long Master Teacher Training Course in Rochester, Minnesota, July 27-31! We know this opportunity will strengthen the collaborative commitment we have made at St. Mary’s Public School, and I can’t wait to see how far we go next year!

RobPutnam1On June 9, author Robert Putnam shared the lessons he learned from his research for his recent novel, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

Robert Putnam, professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, is also the author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community and has been a consultant on social issues to Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton. His presentations were sponsored in part by Chalkboard Project and organized by SAGE (Seniors Advocates for Generational Equity).

Chalkboard Project staff, board members, and guests had a deeper discussion with Professor Putnam on June 10.

One key point he made is that more children are growing up in isolation. Today’s societal pressures: under-paid parents unable to focus significantly on their children’s needs; movements toward privatizing after school activities; and less involvement with church or civic groups (entities outside of the family) have resulted in more children growing up alone, unable to create trust relationships with others or develop ownership of the American Dream.

Professor Putnam noted that we often mistakenly point the finger at schools as the source of students’ inability to succeed. “While schools are not the source of the problem,” says Putnam” what we haven’t been able to do is to use our public school system well to help lower-class students find a successful path forward.”

One example he gave really hit home with me.

PutnampllqteMy years in marching band created some of my fondest high school memories. It taught me so much about myself, about so-called “stick-to-it-iveness”, and more. Therefore, when my daughter entered high school, I was happy to see her enthused about joining band.

But she came home dismayed to learn that we would have to pay for her to participate and was worried that it would be out of reach (because it was for some of her classmates). The fee was substantial, something my parents didn’t face when I was going to school. Fortunately for us, I could pay it, while murmuring “…times sure have changed.” I assumed it was necessary due to dwindling school funds, then thought no more about it. And, I didn’t have to think about it, because my college-graduate lifestyle and income made the problem go away.

However, for many children who want to gain a positive school experience and explore music, team sports, and extra-curricular activities, these “pay to play” fees create a substantial obstacle. In our lifetime, our society has constructed a wall, or a wire fence if you will, where only more-affluent children enjoy an enriching school life and the rest can peer thru the fence. We deprive children of not only the activity, but the positive influence of a trained adult mentor outside the home—a coach who offers encouragement, affirmation, and structure. Ask many “successful” people who made a difference in their lives, and you will find it wasn’t always a teacher or a parent.

Putnam reminded us these extra-curricular activities were historically free, and were created specifically to foster emotional and intellectual growth in all children. While marching band or playing football may not lead to career options or skills, the so-called soft skills that children gain—teamwork, discipline, interdependence, empowerment, and self-respect—are invaluable.

While Putnam maintains he is not trying to find all the answers, he is meeting with policy makers and speaking across the country “striving to give oxygen” to more discussions about growing inequities for children in today’s society. And yet, despite the heart-wrenching stories of children profiled in his book, and the studies pointing to increasingly low chances that all children will have an equal chance to succeed and prosper in this country, Putnam reports that he feels extremely hopeful about the future.

“I’m a deeply optimistic American,” he said. Thanks to both my gratitude for after-school programs and to my newly opened-eyes to the dire situations we have built for today’s children, I want to create that optimism, too.

Updated and reprinted with permission from the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership. First published April 1, 2015.

Dr. Sandy Austin manages district partnerships and provides instructional leadership support for district and school administrators. Dr. Austin is one of three instructors in the Leading for Learning initiative.  She joined the Center for Educational Leadership after serving as an assistant superintendent and a school administrator for fifteen years. Sandy is interested in the link between instructional leadership and improved teaching and learning. She received her Ed.D. from the University of Washington in 2006.
When I ask principals what prevents them from focusing on instructional quality in their school, the number one answer I get is: time. It’s true, time is always a concern for principals, but it is not the only one. I have found that even when principals carve out the time to improve instruction, they are often at a loss for what to do.

That’s a problem because principals matter. School leadership is the second greatest school-related influence on student learning, second only to teacher effectiveness (Leithwood & Riehl, 2003). Without an effective principal in every school, it will be difficult to improve student outcomes and close persistent achievement gaps.

So why do principals struggle to find the right approach to foster instructional excellence? It’s because principal leadership is complex and requires expertise, practice and reflection. As we all know from trying to learn a new skill or change a habit, it is difficult to do without continuous support, a plan, feedback and a way to monitor progress.

At the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership (CEL), my colleagues and I are working with principal supervisors and principals across the country to form new habits and learn new skills. Over the years we have developed an instructional leadership inquiry cycle tool that helps principal supervisors and principals to collaboratively engage in a continuous process of instructional improvement and analysis. Since January of 2015, we have been helping principal supervisors, superintendents and other district leaders in the state of Oregon to learn this tool as part of the Chalkboard Project’s Leading for Learning initiative.

Let’s take a closer look at this inquiry cycle and see how taking an “inquiry stance” can become a way of working in our schools.

Instructional Leadership Inquiry Cycle

The Instructional Leadership Inquiry Cycle has four phases: analyze evidence, determine a focus, implement and support and analyze impact.

One important piece of advice we’ve offered Leading for Learning participants is, before you start: don’t try to solve every problem at once. The cycle of inquiry is short term, often completed in three to four months and therefore the student-learning problem and teaching problem are small in scope. The principal area of focus is a specific skill needed to solve the identified teaching and learning challenges.  Principal Supervisors in Leading for Learning have focused their learning with one focus principal over the past six months in order to learn the steps of the Inquiry Cycle.

Step I: Analyze evidence

In the first step, principal supervisors and principals use student test scores, self-assessments, classroom observations and observations of principal practice to identify the most pressing student learning problems and contributing teaching and leading problems of practice.

Questions to help identify these challenges are: What are the learning strengths and challenges of student learning? What are the related instructional strengths and challenges of teaching practice? What type of evidence will be collected to determine the principal’s area of focus? What is the principal area of focus for this cycle of inquiry?

Let’s look at a recent example from our practice.  At a 500-student elementary school with declining test scores in mathematics, a large percentage of those identified as English Language Learners (ELL) were not meeting standards in math at the fifth grade level. More specifically, ELLs recently released from ELL programs were struggling with comprehension of mathematics problems and explaining their thinking to others. The principal and his team identified this as the student-learning problem.

The principal supervisor and principal repeatedly observed classroom instruction. They noticed that the four fifth grade teachers were not consistent in giving ELL students opportunities to learn mathematical academic vocabulary or to talk to the teacher or other students. As a result of these observations and discussions with teachers they determined that the key teaching problem of practice was that teachers needed to better teach the vocabulary and the processes for students to engage in effective mathematical discourse.

AustinJunePullqteStep II: Determine a focus

In the above example, the principal completed a self-assessment of the district’s instructional leadership framework and the principal supervisor shared his observations in order to determine a focus. They decided that the area of focus for this cycle of inquiry was for the principal to find out about the resources available for teaching school leaders and staff what mathematical discourse looks and sounds like in a fifth grade math classroom. The principal was also going to learn how to develop systems to hold staff accountable for implementing learned strategies.

One important thing to remember in this phase: be sure to surface the current realities of student learning, teaching and leading practice to project what would count as evidence of success at the close of the cycle.

Step III: Implement & support

Creating an implementation and support plan is the next step in the process. Typically, the principal supervisor and principal set up a series of learning activities together based on the principal’s and teachers’ learning needs to improve student learning in the identified area of need for this cycle.

Critical questions in this phase include: What are the possible actions for a series of learning sessions? How will these sessions improve principal performance?

In our example, the team used the Instructional Leadership Inquiry Cycle to plan a series of four learning visits. It is important to remember that this is a short-term cycle so the learning activities need to be carefully designed to improve principal practice in the identified area of need. Keep in mind that these are learning activities and not steps that the principal is expected to take on his or her own since it was clearly established that this is a task that the principal does not know how to do without additional learning or support.

Coming back to our example, this included working with a math specialist to determine resources, planning professional development activities and observing together in classrooms. During one learning session the principal supervisor modeled a feedback session with a teacher and then provided feedback to the principal when he executed a similar feedback session.

Step IV: Analyze impact

Facing initiative overload, this is the step in the inquiry process principals and their supervisors often skip. This is unfortunate because collecting evidence and analyzing results generated by the actions taken is crucial to building a virtuous cycle of instructional improvement.

Critical questions in this phase include:What was learned about leadership practice and its impact on teacher practice and student learning? What are the implications for the next inquiry cycle?

To share the project results, principals often prepare a written reflection on the changes in student learning and teaching and principal practice. After presenting this to the principal supervisor or colleagues, the team can decide whether or not to continue with the current cycle or begin anew.

Let’s get back to the example we have been following. In this specific case we had a group of principals who were completing their cycle of inquiry at the same time. The principal presented his cycle results to three other principals using a structured protocol. The principal, after obtaining feedback from colleagues, decided that there was enough evidence of improved teaching practice and student learning that he could release the fifth grade team to continue to work with the math coach to further refine their practice. The principal, with input from his principal supervisor, decided to work with the K-2 ELL students and teacher to prepare them better for what they would experience in fifth grade.

The feedback from principals was very positive. Many admitted that at first the process had intimidated them, but after working through it, they shed their earlier reservations and even wanted to continue to work in similar fashion in the future. Some principal supervisors even said that the experience was the best learning they had since taking the position.

Impact on Practice

Getting this process up and running is not easy. But when it grows and takes root it is a powerful force for instructional improvement.

In our wide array of work with principal supervisors, I have seen this many times. In one district a principal supervisor told me that she now has clarity on how to work with principals to help them implement actions to improve teaching practice and student learning. She also recognized that she and the principal do not need to wait for benchmark data or end-of-year assessments to see if student learning is improving. They can see changes in teacher practice and student behavior every day. Many principals comment that the dedicated support and a clear plan helped them to improve in ways they never imagined.

Because school leaders are getting results, they have a greater sense of accomplishment, which – almost everybody tells me – increases their motivation to continue to dedicate time to focus on instructional leadership.

Bev is Chalkboard’s TIF grant manager and helps organize Chalkboard’s annual all-district meeting.

What happens when you bring together educators and school leaders for an all-day event to share innovations and best practices? You get a super-charged environment of learning, collaboration, creativity, and connection.

That’s exactly what happened on May 12, when more than 150 participants—teachers, building and district administrators, and union representatives—attended Chalkboard’s annual all-district meeting in Eugene. The educators, representatives from districts participating in either the Teacher Incentive Fund or School District Collaboration Fund grants, engaged with statewide peers and learned about innovative practices in Colorado and Tennessee.

BevMay26In the name of learning together, three Colorado school districts shared their experience of designing a hybrid model for teacher leadership, redesigning the classroom to better align the curriculum with today’s global society, and rethinking educator compensation system for effectiveness and growth. Denver, Douglas County, and Harrison school districts challenged the participants to envision innovative approaches to transforming teaching and learning.

As one participant noted, “It was nice for our team to see what could be designed and hear from teachers about how their leadership roles support students and fellow teachers, and increase their own effectiveness. Triple win!”

Another winning presentation came from Tennessee’s Lipscomb University. Dean Debra Boyd shared the differences in working conditions based on generational characteristics, particularly as Generation Y’ers enter the education workforce. A timely topic about hiring and retention: one that many were dealing with back in their own districts. “If this information were presented two or three years ago, the audience response would have been much different,” remarked one attendee. “But now that our districts have been working on this for the last five years, this doesn’t feel as threatening as before.”

From presentations, to round tables, to brainstorming sessions, it didn’t take long to feel the power of collaboration: educators stepping outside the box, exploring opportunities, and engaging deeply in meaningful learning experiences.

And as the day came to a close, I came away excited about the energy, connectedness, and sharing that took place among passionate educators, who will go back to their districts, schools, and classrooms, and ignite the passion of learning in the children they serve.