Last week, at our annual board-affiliate meeting, Chalkboard awarded its first-ever Orcilia Zuñiga Forbes Leadership in Education Advocacy Award. Orcilia was a founding board member of Foundations for a Better Oregon and a fierce champion for children and education in our state, especially for those most in need.
It was our great honor to recognize Oregon Representative Betty Komp as the first awardee. A tireless advocate for education, Representative Komp has been instrumental in passing many of our state’s policies to support educator effectiveness and lift up the profession in our state—from securing funding for new teacher and principal mentoring, to the creation of the School District Collaboration Fund, to supporting TeachOregon and Leading for Learning. Her dedication and commitment to quality teaching and learning has helped districts implement transformative change, close achievement gaps, and increase student achievement.
Betty Komp is a former teacher and principal, and served as a CLASS Project coach.
“I’ll use that old adage, ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’, but I would say, ‘No, it takes a whole state,’” Rep. Komp said, after receiving the award.
The annual award will recognize state, education, or philanthropic leaders who have a track record of successful education advocacy or education leadership, and are champions of change.
Rep. Betty Komp receives the Orcilia Zuniga Forbes Leadership in Education Advocacy Award from Chalkboard Project President Sue Hildick, November 18, 2015 at the Chalkboard Board/Affiliate Annual Meeting, Portland, Ore.
I recently attended the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s National Summit on Education Reform. This event, like many others, stimulates new ideas and concepts that inspire and challenge me. The conference presented an array of policy ideas that are always helpful to me in my role at Chalkboard. But what really stayed with me on my plane ride home were some of the comments made by keynote speakers.
Learning may someday be as simple as swallowing a pill.
Many in the audience struggled with ideas presented by Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT media lab and the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative. He recommended the abolition of age segregation, testing, and real estate taxes as the funding base for education, and private schools. His description of the OLPC and introduction of technology to kids who’ve never seen it before, however, was impactful. Currently, a staggering 300-400 million children don’t have access to schools across the globe; but provide a laptop to kids who’ve never seen one before and they will not only figure out how to turn the thing on, they will manage to get to Disney Junior with remarkable speed.
When pushed to make a prediction for the future of education, Negroponte responded that one day we may gain knowledge through more than just our senses; that one day we may also access the brain through biological means. He conjectured that he wouldn’t be surprised if soon you can pop a pill and know French, for example. (My high school self would’ve loved that!)
His prediction seemingly far fetched, pushed me to think about my day-to-day work in education policy and question whether we are preparing for a vastly different future for our kids and our schools. It seems we are spending more time focused on addressing challenges presented to us by the past. This leads me to the next presenter…
Schools as they exist today are obsolete.
Dr. Sugata Mitra is professor of educational technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK. In 2013, he was given the $1 million TED Prize in recognition of his work focused on the use of technology in education.
Dr. Mitra described the work he was doing around self organized learning environments (SOLEs), where children work in groups, access the Internet and other software, follow up on a class activity or project, or take them where their interests lead them. He posits that a group of third graders could answer any question on their own by using the Internet. He asks, “Why shouldn’t they be able to access these tools that are an ever-increasing part of their daily lives? We wouldn’t ask anyone to tell the time without looking at a clock, would we?”
As I reflected on these questions, I couldn’t help but put on my Chalkboard “hat” and ask, “Where does that leave teachers?” If we take Dr. Mitra’s theory to the next level, we are asking teachers to take on an even more challenging role—one that takes them from the “sage on the stage” to teaching children how to interpret, decipher, and apply the universe of knowledge available to the problems before them.
This means educators will need access to supports that are innovative and nimble—that help them keep pace with the accelerating rate of change we can expect in our classrooms in the coming years. At Chalkboard, we believe building a statewide system of these supports is the single-most important thing we can do to help realize that goal and begin to prepare for a future we can only imagine.
Oscar Mareno Gilson is the senior director for Portland Public Schools, where he supervises 12 principals in the district’s Franklin cluster schools. Oscar was featured in ChalkTalk’s October issue, where he shared his perspective about choosing leadership positions during his education career.
When I think about why I became a teacher, I believe it was a personal calling. My roles as principal and district leader, however, were more tied to outside influences, such as the demand for more diversity in school leadership.
I spent my childhood in Mexico, and then in the United States. Immigrating to a new country and attending two different education systems, made me insecure. I often doubted my abilities and didn’t think I could make a difference.
I became a teacher in large part due to the Portland Teachers Program (PTP) that encourages people from underrepresented populations to become teachers. While I was a teacher, I had a principal who commended me on my job although I didn’t believe her at first. After hearing such positive feedback from my principal, I thought: If I’m making a difference with 30 kids, is it possible I could make a difference with 300 kids?
That was my first step toward becoming a principal, which was at Lincoln Elementary in Corvallis. I realized I could make a difference with 300 kids and improve outcomes, using strategies such as making sure staff worked believing that all children can learn, and empowering parents to become a valuable support community. I later served as administrator in a few other schools and began asking myself what impact I could have for 3,000 kids?
Which brings me to the present: I recently became a senior director for Portland Public Schools, and joined Chalkboard’s Leading for Learning program. It might seem that being a district-level supervisor just takes common sense, but I can tell you that isn’t the case. At this juncture, my sincerest hope is to develop other leaders, as well as the usual roles of a school director. The specialized training I’m receiving is providing me with valuable support as I enter my newest leadership role—as a principal moving into a career where I am supervising other principals. And just like before, my hope is to make a difference for kids in my new role of working with principals—for improving outcomes today, and discovering new leadership for tomorrow.
NOTE: A short video of Leading for Learning participants, along with Oscar Moreno Gilson, shares personal perspectives and motivations for joining the training cohort.
These days, if someone stops me in the grocery store to ask how to become a teacher, I often joked they should put their ice cream in the freezer while I explained the intricacies of admission, preparation, and licensure.
Eventually, I wondered how do most people find information before deciding to enter Oregon’s teaching profession? When I searched the Internet, I saw multiple websites—often with conflicting information and/or content not updated in years. What was needed was a one-stop website.
With funding from the 2013 legislature, the Oregon Department of Education and Chief Education Office teamed up with Mambo Media to create and launch a new website called TeachInOregon.
We had three main objectives:
- Promote the teaching profession by emphasizing wonderful Oregon teachers who make a difference every day. See video clips to learn more.
- Emphasize Oregon’s need for more culturally and linguistically diverse teachers. Our website is available in English and Spanish, and we’ll be adding an additional component soon designed to better connect and facilitate networking between Oregon’s teachers of color.
- Provide useful information based on a visitor’s personal needs or interest. For example, high school students interested in teaching don’t need to know about every stage of licensure—just what steps to take next. And licensed teachers from out of state are probably most interested in learning about reciprocal licensing, career options, and available jobs.
With many changes underway at the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, we know we will be updating the website regularly to reflect changes in fees, licensure requirements and improved resources for future teachers. Visitors to the site can also directly link to each educator preparation program in Oregon, and even download a common fact sheet provided by the majority of programs.
The TeachInOregon website is a work in progress and is still in its infancy stage. We look forward to your comments and feedback to help make the website even more useful. Please send any suggestions or ideas to me via email on this new and exciting resource for Oregon teachers.
As Hispanic Heritage Month ends, Chalkboard presents a personal insight into the aspirations of Cinthya Murguia, a Latina teaching student in Oregon.
My name is Cinthya Murguia, and my goal is to become an elementary school teacher here in Oregon.
I will finish my associate’s degree at Chemeketa Community College this spring term, and plan to transfer to a university to complete my teaching degree. Right now, I am taking the Foundations of Education class at Chemeketa, along with my general education courses.
And I love the new education teacher here at Chemeketa! Sara Csaky is very approachable, and the fact that she is Latina, like me, because she shows me what my career will look like. Growing up, I never had a teacher who was Hispanic and I never felt connected to any of my teachers, except one. Knowing she is Hispanic makes me feel like I can connect and have more in common with her.
I strongly feel we need to have more diversity in the education system. Here in Oregon, we need more teachers who are not only bilingual, but also bicultural so they can relate to the students and with their parents. When I am a teacher, I will be able to communicate with all the kids and parents at whatever school I teach in, because I speak both English and Spanish. I really want to be the teacher who shows other Latino students the path to education and to college.
Ever since I was young, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and now I am on my way!
At times I look back at how my schooling all started. Starting kindergarten, I was lost the first day. Being raised by immigrants who only spoke Spanish was difficult at times. For the first five years of my life I only understood one language, and at school I was always confused. I didn’t have older siblings or cousins who could have helped me with homework. I was on my own, and I still am.
Now, as the oldest of my siblings, I am the first to graduate high school and go to college. I am their role model and I am proud to be. They are my motivation and I want to show them that if I can do it, they can do it too. Considering I had no help with homework, at least they will have me. They are my motivation to keep going and be a better person in life.
My family is proud that I am in college, and I am proud of myself.
Cinthya participated in a Chemeketa class trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, June 2015. The 10-day trip’s focus is education and community empowerment and included school construction and education studies with local children in impoverished areas.
Read more about Chemeketa Community College’s bilingual educator program and Sara Csaky in the September issue of ChalkTalk.
Dr. Erin Prince became superintendent of the Corvallis School District in 2011. She arrived in Corvallis from the Sherwood School District where she had served as the assistant superintendent since 2006. Prior to that, she worked as an administrator in the Greater Albany and Lake Oswego school districts and as an elementary school teacher in the Oregon City, Hillsboro, and Tigard-Tualatin school districts.
Erin shared her perspective on the effects of CLASS and the emergence of educational leadership across Oregon in Leading For Learning.
Back in 2007, I was an assistant superintendent in Sherwood, one of the very first districts involved with Chalkboard’s CLASS initiative. Today, I serve as superintendent in Corvallis, a district that started its CLASS journey in 2012.
CLASS’s most transformative impact is the change within that district’s culture, yet this change is difficult to explain or capture on a spreadsheet. Specifically, I am referring to changing the collective mindset toward teaching and learning, and prioritizing certain strategies because they positively impact student achievement.
Let me share an example. Recently in Corvallis I met with a group of principals. During an in-depth discussion about educational equity, we touched on response to intervention (RTI)—a system for supporting struggling students. While aligning our RTI process two years ago, we experienced challenges with supporting the middle and high school grades. In response, we used CLASS monies to create teacher-leader positions in the middle and high schools to support RTI.
Today, our high school freshman failure growth has been cut in half. And in this recent discussion among principals, there was no question we were going to do whatever we needed to keep those RTI positions in next year’s general budget.
That discussion would have been quite different if it happened a few years ago.
While anyone can see the influence an excellent teacher-leader has on a classroom, it may be difficult for someone to realize the impact of a district-level superintendent. Today there are Oregon superintendents redefining their roles, and tapping into their leadership potential as well—Leading for Learning is the next larger step by Chalkboard to improve classroom outcomes.
Leading for Learning’s intensified training is for district staff seeking stronger and more effective supervisory/assessment skills, and supporting principals to become instructional leaders, among other objectives.
We know that outcomes do improve through excellent teachers, and the capacity grows as principals are provided improved supervisory feedback and supports by district superintendents with strategic focus and greater capacity to steer Oregon’s education system toward student achievement.
Despite these uplifting opportunities, my team sometimes expresses their impatience with the slow pace of change. My advice to them: step back and consider how far we have come in such a short time, and how much these changes in the district’s evolving culture have meant to the teaching profession, and to our students. More Oregon schools are creating a thriving culture of educational leadership via CLASS and Leading for Learning. I look forward to seeing the results of these programs, and broadening the discussion across other school districts in the coming years.
NOTE: You can hear more perspectives about the work of Leading for Learning here in this short video clip.
Co-authors and Chalkboard staffers Julie Smith, director of educator effectiveness, and Bev Pratt, TIF grant manager, present their third and final blog post in their series on teacher compensation.
Over the summer, we have shared innovative models of teacher compensation and examples where states and school districts have made that a reality.
We believe Oregon’s teachers and administrators are ready to explore the new frontier of alternative compensation. Just last month, the Teachers Standards and Practice Commission (TSPC) adopted a temporary rule suspending the requirement for teachers to earn additional college credits to renew their teaching license. Continuing professional development units (25 units/year) are now the only requirement to renew one’s teaching license, allowing districts and teachers to better advocate for improved salary schedules and reforms.
Research has shown teacher effectiveness is the most important in-school factor for increasing student achievement—not advanced degrees or years of experience. In fact, most specialized careers allow licensed professionals to renew their initial license through continued professional development, not through college credits.
Both Baltimore, Maryland, and Portland, Maine, public schools have embraced the progressive practice of affording teachers opportunities for improving skills in order to meet their profession’s changing demands, and create compensations that reinforce successful growth.
“In the 1990s, changes in education have led to increased skill requirements for teachers. Public demands for high standards and accountability, demands for employee involvement to facilitate improved organizational performance, and an increasingly diverse student population require teachers to develop and maintain high levels of professional instructional skills, as well as management and leadership roles within schools. Provide incentives for long term career development of employees, linked to the knowledge and skills needed for today’s schools.” (CPRE, History of Teacher Pay)
Teachers need greater control over their advancement and professional growth opportunities. We believe Oregon should reward effective teachers who are making a difference—not compel them to pay for their own pay raise by taking college credits. Many districts are currently supporting teachers with job-embedded professional learning experiences, enabling peer-to-peer professional development. Teachers in these districts are working in collaborative teams, designing new curriculum, participating in collaborative learning teams, and other innovations.
It is time for these effective practices to be replicated in Oregon schools as an integral part of new teacher compensation models. The question is, who will lead this effort? Who will move these ideas from isolated practice into Oregon’s new reality?
The day before my son Kellen began kindergarten, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, “Oh no, my son is about to enter school and I haven’t put a dime into his college savings account.”
Kellen, now nine, is entering fourth grade and we have a plan in place to ensure he has financial access to college when that time comes. He is part of the class of 2024 and will graduate right around the time we are expected to meet our 40-40-20 goal outlined by Gov. Kitzhaber. Kellen, unlike many of his peers, come from a life of privilege. Both of his parents have Master degrees, work in education, and he benefits from all the perks an upper-middle class household provides. One of these perks is having the access to higher education after high school.
This isn’t the case for many Oregon students. We know college is important—especially for low income and underrepresented populations—and we have made college readiness a priority in our schools. However, the price of college, and fear of college debt, discourages capable students from enrolling in college. Moreover, those who do choose to complete four years of school and graduate are compelled to take jobs outside of their desired field that nonetheless offer higher wages, in order to pay off college debts. This can discourage capable prospective educators and to pursue positions that are more lucrative financially.
Students from the class of 2015 exited college with the largest amount of college debt in our nation’s history with an average of $35,000 of student debt per graduate. This is a $22,000 increase from the class of 1995 that graduated with an average of $13,000 of student loan debt, according to this article from the Wall Street Journal.
The unintended consequence of high tuition is a two-pronged barrier that increases the opportunity gap for students with limited resources. The high price of college creates barriers to access for students who don’t have financial means and creates an additional hurdle for those with limited institutional knowledge in accessing financial aid.
New York Times journalist Lee Siegel makes a compelling argument for reducing tuition by citing economic implications of soaring tuition rates, in his June 2015 article “Why I defaulted on my student loans.” The U.S. Department of Education reported one-third of students were delinquent on their college loans. It is evident that the growth in the economy is not keeping up with the rising cost of living and consumer debt.
So what do we do? Encourage students to take dual enrollment courses in high school to mitigate the full 4-year tuition burden; lobby for more reasonable tuition and college debt forgiveness programs; educate our students and parents on the financial aid process; push for stronger transitional support to community colleges?
Raising awareness can lead to changes that give every student—regardless of their socio-economic background—an opportunity to attend college without trepidation over their financial future. More importantly, it will prevent a lot of parents from waking up in the middle of the night wondering how they will pay for their child’s education… even if it is ten years away.
“Congratulations, Class of 2015, You’re the most indebted ever (for now),” blog post, Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2015
Student loan debt hits $1.27 million, grows $3,055 every second, August 13, 2015
“Why I defaulted on my student loans,” opinion, New York Times, June 6, 2015
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.
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.