Christi Seiler is a kindergartner teacher at St. Mary’s Public Elementary School in rural Mt. Angel, Oregon. She will soon begin her twenty-third year of teaching, and fourth year of teaching kindergarten. Christi spent two years teaching with a full-day kindergarten schedule.

While the recent decision to expand kindergarten to a full day in all Oregon schools this fall is not supported by everyone, I can tell you there are some strong positives to be gained.

Before when I was teaching a half-day of kindergarten, I felt rushed. You had to teach reading, writing, and math, but because it’s kindergarten you need to include songs, dance, and nursery rhymes, creative play, etc. As a teacher, I wanted to create a classroom that was developmentally appropriate, and it’s challenging to do that in a thorough and in-depth way in just three hours.

FULLDayKindAnd yet, I had my doubts going into a full-day schedule. I was worried about the long day, emphasizing too many academics at a young age, and their overall sense of school. It took just a few months into that first year to convince me this was a good fit. I didn’t feel at any time I was pushing the students or taking them to an extreme—it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

The most important thing for teachers to remember is: be flexible. When you are starting the school year you’re just working on routines and getting them use to school life. Then, your schedule will change in the fall because by November the students will be ready to do more. By March, your schedule will change again because, by then, they will be writing independently and handling longer periods of instruction.

I think a full-day schedule is a positive for kindergarten teachers, because my experience has been that I now have time for hands-on science learning, dancing, music, and nursery rhymes, but I also have an hour and a half language arts block that I never had before.

Some parents were very worried, telling me, “This is too much for kids and we’re pushing them too hard.” I eased their minds by showing them when the kinders’ schedule changed over the year, and explaining, “Look, now we have quiet time, we have computer time, we have reading time, we have story time, and we have fine-motor time when they’re at the easel painting.” The “learning through play” idea is definitely still there—it isn’t all academics. But with a full day, a teacher can integrate academics in a way that is much more age-appropriate without the pressure of a half day.

I haven’t always been a kindergarten teacher. For nineteen years, I taught third-grade, and other grades, from struggling readers to reading-advanced kids. And when I became a kindergarten teacher, my friends told me they thought I had become a baby-sitter and wondered why I changed, and if I would stay there. And in the beginning, I sometimes wondered that myself.

Today, I’ll tell you the greatest thing is watching a child learn to read, and teaching a child to read. Getting to watch the light bulb comes on and they become excited about learning, wanting to take books home and read—I never had that level of experience when teaching the upper grades. Kindergartners are excited for school and excited to learn. Full day instruction is a great way to begin their outlook on school and how they view themselves as learners. I’m excited to see what other teachers have to stay about full-day kindergarten, and to see the scholastic results for Oregon.

 Co-authors and Chalkboard staffers Julie Smith, director of educator effectiveness, and Bev Pratt, TIF grant manager, have authored the second blog post in their series on teacher compensation. 

It is well documented that teachers are the most important in-school factor impacting student learning. We believe that districts must ensure that all teachers receive quality professional development that aligns to the ever-changing and challenging demands of what it takes to be a teacher today. All systems should be aligned to this end. It is the right thing to do for our teachers who work hard every day to reach the demands of their profession, which is in turn good for kids. This conversation is well accepted when we talk about aligning professional learning systems, teacher leadership opportunities, or even more recently educator effectiveness systems, but it gets harder when compensation systems are considered.bevBLOG2

 Historically educator compensation models were created and evolved to serve the profession in very meaningful ways. We believe that with the increased demands on the profession it is time for them to evolve again. As we work with teachers across Oregon to unpack their district’s compensation model, they often find that their district’s compensation models do not align with what they value about teaching and learning. For example, current salary schedules incentivize educators staying in the same role, except maybe for a grade level change, for the whole of their career and often require the educator to pay for college credits to grow as a teacher and “move across” the traditional step and ladder salary schedule.

However, when we compare this traditional model with what teachers tell us they actually need to stay engaged and effective–not to mention the research–we begin to wonder if we are in fact incentivizing the wrong things. What would it look like if we educators were able to engage in self-directed differentiated learning to be more effective with the population of students that they teach—and have their efforts acknowledged in their compensation? What would it look like if educators had multiple roles and responsibilities available to them that kept them engaged and enabled giving back to their profession?

Alternative compensation has taken on a whole new look, moving away from a focus on student test scores to realizing that there are many other components of being an effective educator. Districts that have moved to alternative compensation systems have taken time to unpack what they believe are evidence of effective educator practices. These districts also embedded career options for educators into their salary structure. In Oregon, we are just beginning to explore these more expansive ideas of what makes up a teacher’s compensation and we are doing it through the collaborative work of educators directly impacted.

Our last blog post highlighted work being done on compensation in Portland, Maine public schools. This district moved to a new salary structure they refer to as the Professional Learning Based Salary Scale. They are trying this new system because the district and teacher’s association believed it was important to develop a professional learning system aligned to enhance educator practices leading to improvements in student learning. The Professional Learning Based Salary System (PLBSS) is equally accessible to all members of the bargaining unit and is built upon recognition of the importance of educator professional learning in promoting significant contributions to student learning. The PLBSS encourages educators to remain career-long learners, to enhance and update their skills, and to have educators be visible models as learners to their peers and their students.”(PEA Teacher Contract)

Through the PLBSS educators have more autonomy in the development of professional learning proposals that directly support their own learning and can be applied as “credit” on their salary schedule. Educators submit proposals to a peer review team, which may include the following:

·      Classroom action research

·      National board certification

·      New curriculum developed and implemented

·      Conference/workshop/course presenter

·      Professional learning collaborations

·      Professional book groups

·      Curriculum institutes

·      Creating a website to promote student learning

We are going to continue to watch what Portland Maine’s PLBSS does for the profession as well as other compensation pioneers because we would like to see all the support possible given to Oregon’s educators as they prepare our students to be successful in a global economy.

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.