In the spring of 2012, I worked with Chalkboard Project to form the Distinguished Educators Council (DEC). Chalkboard’s idea was to convene a team of educators recognized for their teaching excellence. The goal was to bring them together at meetings to discuss current issues important to teachers, and engage them in amplifying teachers’ voices in Oregon’s education policy-making arena.

Thirty-four distinguished teachers applied to be part of the new council, and after a thorough and thoughtful review process thirteen were invited to join. Through my role as an advisor and facilitator, I maintained that Chalkboard was asking the DEC for one important thing—ideas to support and strengthen teaching in Oregon.

After five months of reading and discussion, the council adopted five research-based recommendations to help teachers. The recommendations centered on teacher preparation, evaluation, professional learning, leadership opportunities, and supporting all students. The council’s full report is on Chalkboard’s website.

From fall of 2012 to spring of 2013, the council shared their ideas with policy-making bodies, which included the State Board of Education, the Oregon Education Investment Board, and the Oregon Legislature. And, the council was thrilled to see the legislature form the Network for Quality Teaching and Learning, a new OEIB-initiative that reflects the council’s recommendations.

The council spent last summer discussing over 50 concrete ideas for making their five core recommendations realities, and narrowed those ideas to two areas of focus – support for cooperating teachers working with new teacher candidates, and providing teachers time for collaboration and professional learning. Since then, the council has been researching and considering these topics in depth, and they are excited to advocate specific ideas to policy-makers in the coming months.

When the council first convened I wondered if these teachers trusted the sincerity of Chalkboard’s charge, to generate ideas to support and strengthen teaching in Oregon, and were they assured that Chalkboard was not simply looking for a rubber-stamp of its own agenda? Yet in the fall of 2012, I read comments from the DEC council about their participation that expressed how invigorated and empowered they were by this work, and several called it the most meaningful professional development experience of their careers.

Which brings us to the present. I’m excited to continue to work with the Distinguished Educators Council and engage teachers directly in Oregon’s education policy-making process. And I am excited to announce that Chalkboard Project is now accepting applications from teachers to join the Distinguished Educators Council. You can find details and an application form at this website.

It seems like the topic of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is central to many of my recent conversations. We all seem to share the same objective–to figure out what is best for our kids and educators in Oregon. Yet there’s so much confusion and conflicting information out there that sometimes it prevents us from even entering into the conversation.

During one of my conversations with a fellow parent about the “Common Core”, it dawned on me that while I was talking about what the Common Core State Standards would mean for our kids’ classrooms, she was talking about the Smarter Balanced state assessment (SBAC). In many of the conversations that are happening right now it’s not easy to differentiate which of the three new components that are being grouped as “Common Core”–the actual standards, the potential for new curriculum materials for classrooms, or the new state assessment that will be used to measure student achievement towards the new standards.

It seems like since I’ve had this realization it’s been easier to have meaningful conversations with friends and colleagues because we first decide what we’re talking about—the standards, the curriculum, or the assessment—they are not all Common Core, but pieces of a new system. Each of these three pieces has their own implementation needs, challenges and even successes that need to be supported, overcome or celebrated. Our discussions need to differentiate between the three components clearly, or I fear decisions will be made holistically and one or two very important parts will be left misunderstood.

Simply put the CCSS are statements of what students should know in math and English/language arts at each grade level to be college or career ready; “curriculum” are the resources and tools (like textbooks and teaching materials) educators will use to help students reach the standards; and the SBAC will help us determine if our curriculum aligns to our standards.

When emotions are running high, you may find it easier to frame discussions by narrowing the focus. Many resources are available online that describe each of these three facets of Common Core. For example, can you explain why and how the standards in education have shifted to focus on colleague and career readiness?

If the conversation shifts to a “federally-mandated curriculum” can you speak to how this is not the case in Oregon and that curricular decisions are still made by individual school districts?  Or, can you share your thoughts on why various organizations are advocating for a delay on the use of SBAC until educators can get the support they need to implement the new standards in their classrooms? (Especially if those new assessments are tied to an educator’s or school’s evaluation?)

We need to have a serious conversation in Oregon about how to best make this shift and what our priorities for kids and educators are, but first we need to make sure we are having the right conversation.


For more information

Achieve website 

The Aspen Institute 

Oregon Common Core Standards Website




Introduction The U.S. Department of Education, using four year adjusted cohort rates, reported Oregon was forty-ninth in high school graduation rankings for the 2011-2012 year. While alarming, the resulting discussion over how the rankings are formulated and what these figures measure within each state is an intriguing one. This blog post presents a perspective on this rating process.

President of ECONorthwest John Tapogna specializes in education, social, and fiscal policy.

He has directed evaluations of dropout prevention programs, the impacts of small class sizes, and the efficacy of small schools. Prior to joining ECONorthwest, John was an analyst at the U.S. Congressional Budget Office. He holds degrees from the University of Oregon and Harvard University’s School of Government.

Oregon’s 68 percent high school graduation rate has been the subject of considerable debate. But, relative to other states, does Oregon really deserve its bottom tier status?  Probably not.

On-time, cohort graduation rates are a new measure. To illustrate this, we dug into the graduation rates for the 2010-11 school year.  Oregon’s near the bottom of the pack. Then we looked four years earlier—spring 2007—at the performance of Oregon eighth graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics exam. These are largely the same kids—just earlier in their educational careers.

Seventy-three percent of Oregon eighth graders met the NAEP standard for basic math proficiency in 2007. That was middle of pack—twenty-fourth in the US. Four years later, 68 percent of the cohort graduated on time.

Connecticut and Maryland students performed similarly on the 2007 NAEP—73 and 74 percent at basic math proficiency, respectively. Yet, both states registered 83 percent on-time graduation rates in 2011—15 percentage points higher than Oregon.

So, what’s going on?


One interpretation is that Oregon’s high schools are a disaster—dropout factories—while Maryland and Connecticut’s are over-performers.

But that’s unlikely the case. Two factors are more likely.

First, Oregon is holding itself to a tighter standard and doesn’t count diplomas that other states include (e.g., modified diplomas to students with special needs).

Second, the growing popularity of five-year high schools, which blend community college work into the final years, is probably depressing Oregon’s rate. To date, federal statistics haven’t looked at graduates who take extra time.

The upshot?

Interstate comparisons of newly devised high school graduation rate figures are misleading. In recent years, they have overstated the Oregon K-12 challenge. Were one to devise and implement a common national standard for high school graduation, I suspect you’d find Oregon right in the middle the pack. That said, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

More information

Oregonian article, “Oregon graduation rate barely budges…”, Feb. 6, 2014

My great nephew recently announced to his parents his intent to finish college and get his teaching license to teach science at the high school level and coach soccer. His father, a business major, tried to dissuade him, not because teaching is not an honorable and noble profession, but because spending the money on a master’s degree, teaching license, and the debt that his son might incur in the process and the entry level salary and increases he would make did not make good economic sense.

One of the major challenges faced in teacher preparation program reform work today is attracting and recruiting bright, young, talented students to careers in teaching.

A new report released recently from The New Teacher Project (TNTP) sheds light on the problems with an inflexible archaic pay structure built solely on degrees and years of experience. It clearly illustrates the inherent problems with the pay structure used in more than 90 percent of our school districts in the U.S. today.

Some people say that pay is not important for teachers, yet in a survey of 11,000 teachers in three of the nation’s largest school districts, two thirds of the respondents indicate that they would choose to teach in schools offering either a base salary increase, or bonuses to the top performing teachers over a school with a traditional pay system, all else being equal.

There are numerous districts in the U.S. that are working with new pay structures and are gaining ground in dealing with the aforementioned problems. Their work serves as a model for the rest of the country. While pay is only one piece of the solution, it is a big piece and one that we can tackle.

Key Factors

  • Moving to a new structure is a process and not an event; it will take time and teacher input.
  • The use of performance pay increases will require strong teacher evaluation systems that are consistently implemented, clearly communicated to teachers, and generally understood by all involved.
  • School leaders will need to be trained in the use of the evaluation system with observation skills and tools in order to avoid inflated ratings.
  • Teachers will need a clearly articulated way to address any concerns with their evaluations.
  • Strong differentiated and relevant professional development will need to be available for teachers to feel supported in improving their teaching.


More Information

Shortchanged: The Hidden Costs of Lockstep Teacher Pay (2014)

The Irreplaceables:Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools (2012)

Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top third graduates to a career in teaching (2010)

White Rhino Blog on Why I discourage Latino students from becoming teachers


We’ve been talking a lot about equity recently. Whether it’s about student achievement and opportunity gaps or about ensuring our teacher workforce is culturally and ethnically diverse, the truth is Chalkboard has been committed to equity in education since its inception. In fact, we’ve had an educational equity policy embedded in our vision statement for several years now. Our vision is to see Oregon’s K-12 public schools among the best in the nation as measured by student achievement and educational equity. Yet, Oregon’s achievement gaps remain stagnant, even while states similar to Oregon in demographics and funding are narrowing theirs. Our CLASS districts are consistently narrowing the poverty gap, but fluctuating in their results along racial lines.

Pull quote Sue 7 29 14We are determined to align our internal and external resources for greater equity. We especially want to better understand the underpinnings of racial equity. One year ago, Chalkboard staff started down a learning path to build awareness and a shared understanding and analysis of structural racism, and the challenges that deep institutional and societal inequities present to our work. We’ve accomplished quite a few milestones—from completing an organizational assessment to developing a strategic framework and action plan. This has led to Chalkboard staff drafting its first-ever racial equity policy, which was reviewed and adopted by our board earlier this month.

Our policy reflects the core values and principles we have set forth to inform and drive our transformational work on equity, diversity, and inclusion. These are:

  • Diversity as it drives discovery
  • Collaboration and shared leadership
  • Quality education as a basic human right
  • An inclusive and dynamic workplace
  • Mutual respect and understanding

We recognize that we cannot do this work alone. Chalkboard will invest in partnerships with diverse leaders and community organizations to help us build a better Oregon for our children. We will deepen our relationships with communities of color. And we will promote greater understanding among policymakers that the achievement gap has social and economic implications.

We acknowledge that we will achieve our equity, diversity, and inclusion goals only as we assume individual and collective responsibility. Chalkboard Project is committed to these goals and moves forward with great enthusiasm and engagement.

Recent events have once again raised the question of equal access to quality education, and how far we must still go as a nation to close the achievement and opportunity gaps for all our students.

In June, a Superior Court judge ruled against the state of California and the teacher union in Vergara v. State of California, asserting that the state’s level of funding disproportionately disadvantaged minority children, and tenure laws led to the hiring and retention of poor-performing teachers, who often taught in schools with large numbers of low-income and minority students.

A month later, the US Department of Education announced a new initiative to provide all students access to great educators through its three-part Excellent Education for All. States will be required to put in place comprehensive educator equity plans, the Department will launch a new educator equity support network, and also will publish educator equity profiles starting this fall, which will help states identify gaps in access to quality teaching for low-income and minority students

At Chalkboard Project, we welcome the strong focus on equity in education. And more importantly, on the role high-quality teachers play in the equity equation.

We have spent the last decade working to improve the effectiveness of the classroom teacher—first through our CLASS project, then through the state’s School District Collaboration Fund and the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants, and more recently through our teacher preparation program, TeachOregon. We believe that every child deserves a highly effective teacher and all children are entitled to a high-quality education regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.

The good news is that our efforts are paying off. The districts that have participated in our initiatives, have continued to move students to proficiency on state tests faster than the rest of the state. These districts also continue the promising result of closing the achievement gaps between traditionally underperforming student groups and the rest of Oregon students.

We know that teachers are the single most important in-school factor for student learning. And we understand the importance of supporting teachers throughout their career pathway—from preparation, to recruitment, retention, and advancement. These are the tenets of Chalkboard’s initiatives.

In TeachOregon, for example, we are collaborating with 13 districts and 11 higher education institutions to pilot new ways of improving Oregon’s teacher preparation programs. And soon, we will launch a school leadership initiative to meet the demand for excellent school leaders.

We have, indeed, made progress toward raising the bar of teaching effectiveness in Oregon. But until all districts adopt a laser-like focus in supporting their teachers and working collaboratively to improve the quality of instruction, Oregon will continue to hover in the middle of the pack as compared to other states in the nation. In fact, if Oregon had fully implemented the CLASS Project, we would be among the top 10 states in the nation as measured by eighth grade achievement, and could achieve our statewide goal of 100 percent high school graduation three years faster than the current trajectory.

The Office for Civil Rights names education as the civil rights issue of our time. We couldn’t agree more. It will take equal access to high-quality teachers for all students to accelerate student achievement and to help all students reach their potential. It will take breakthroughs in how we engage and support teachers. It will take courage and determination to work collaboratively to move the needle toward eradicating social inequality through effective teachers and a high-quality education system.

hildarosseli oldshotThe gap between student and educator demographics in Oregon continues to widen. Although Oregon’s students of color made up more than one-third of the K-12 population in 2013, less than 9 percent of Oregon’s teacher workforce was non-white with the most notable gap found between Latino students (21.5 percent) and Latino teachers (3.6 percent). It is clear that Oregon’s efforts to address this gap has had limited impact since 1991 when the Minority Teacher Act was passed.

During the 2013 Legislative Session, Senate Bill 755 amended the original Act, providing a revised goal for 2015 and changing the definition of “Minority” to include educators whose first language is not English.   An Oregon Educator Equity Advisory Group has been formed to continually advise the development of the required reports but to also assess, evaluate and advocate for continuous accountability and improvement of conditions and policies that impact educator equity.


The Oregon Education Investment Board released a 2014 status report this month, showing that as of July 1, 2013, Oregon is on track to meet the 2015 goal of increasing the percentage of minority candidates graduated from Oregon’s public educator preparation programs by 10 percent as compared to July 2, 2012. The 2012-13 data show that the annual yield of minority candidates graduating from public educator preparation programs increased by sixteen and that minority graduates accounted for 14.3 percent of the total numbers who graduated.

As of 2014, Oregon is very close to being on track to meet the 2015 goal of increasing the percentage of minority administrators employed by school districts and education service districts by 10 percent as compared to July 2, 2012. The 2013-14 data reveal that the number of culturally and linguistically diverse administrators employed in Oregon public schools has increased by 18 since 2011-12 and is currently 10.8 percent of the employed administrator workforce.

However, Oregon is not on track to meet the 2015 goal of increasing the percentage of minority teachers employed by school districts and education services districts by 10% as compared to July 2, 2012. In 2013-14 the number of culturally and linguistically diverse teachers employed in Oregon public schools (2,401) only increased by 10 additional teachers from the previous year. That means that only (8.46 percent) of the employed teacher workforce are minority and that the gap has slightly increased.  Although the reduction may be in part due in part to staff reductions in recent years and that some teachers may have been selected to fill positions as administrators, there would need to be an additional 229 teachers employed in Oregon public schools to meet the goal of SB 755 by July 2015.

minEdRpt pullquote

Educators of color serve as cultural brokers, not only helping students navigate their school environment and culture, but also increasing involvement of families and communities of color which in turn impacts student attendance, achievement, graduation rates and postsecondary aspirations. Furthermore, diversifying the field of education has both an immediate and long-term impact of closing the academic achievement gap. Research has shown that when matched with a teacher of the same ethnicity, elementary-level students of color performed higher on academic achievement tests than those students of color who are not taught by a teacher of color (Dee, 2004; Eddy and Easton-Brooks, 2011). Dr. Easton Brooks, now dean of the College of Education and Business at Eastern Oregon University found that African American students who had at least one African American teacher between kindergarten and 5th grade scored 1.50 points higher in reading than those students who did not have at least one African American teacher at the end of kindergarten.

Chalkboard’s TeachOregon projects have potential for helping to close the demographic gap as do the pipeline and retention grants funded by the Network for Quality Teaching and Learning this year. But it will take a statewide multi-faceted approach that includes collaboration with:

  • Communities of color and professional associations who can help recruit future educators
  • Community college and university programs that prepare new educators
  • School and district personnel who recruit, hire and place new employees
  • School leaders and teachers who create inclusive work environments
  • Policymakers who can create statewide initiatives that help recruit educators and career advancement opportunities to help retain them

Tara Cooper WEBTara Cooper is Portland State University’s Coordinator of the Teacher Pathways Program. She is a first-generation college graduate who has worked in diverse student recruitment/retention at colleges for over 15 years. Tara is also a member of TeachOregon Project’s Portland Metro Teaching and Learning Coalition-TLC.


As first-generation college graduate, I have spent my career recruiting diverse college students and providing the support they need to graduate. One thing I learned over the years is that for the recruitment and retention of under-represented populations to succeed, it takes more than just one person—it takes everyone! It takes teachers, principals, parents, mentors, and community members.

At PSU, our Teacher Pathways Program has one primary goal: to support culturally and linguistically diverse undergraduate students who want to be teachers. We are here to help them earn a bachelor’s degree and successfully enroll in PSU’s Graduate School of Education.

We are building this program on the good work already being done in this area.  My days include cultivating relationships with local school districts and community organizations.  I meet with teachers, principals, and district leaders to connect and recruit students.  I meet with parent and family organizations, larger umbrella community organizations, multicultural organizations, youth leadership groups, and advocacy groups to recruit and to make sure we respond the community’s needs. We are learning together that successful recruitment and support is about finding ways to best connect with our target students and finding ways to connect with each other.

Sometimes, when I bring up the topic of diversification efforts, I hear “Oh, we have a diversity person/recruiter . . .” as if one person, or team, could do everything required in this work.  In reality, to develop diverse future teachers at the rapid rate that Oregon needs, EVERYONE must roll up their sleeves and take part. We need to increase the number of students graduating from high school prepared for college level work, enrolling and completing their undergraduate degree, graduating with master’s degrees, becoming teacher candidates, being hired in our schools, and being retained by our school systems.

Some of the ways you can support the diverse teacher pipeline:
- Develop a list of specific things that you can do now,
(e.g., encourage students, speak positively about a career in teaching).

- Be aware of pipeline/pathways programs so that you
can talk to potential future educators about their options.

- Talk to everyone (youth, neighbors, friends) about
the need for more culturally and linguistically diverse teachers.

-  Think of resources you can offer or need to be able to support the pipeline.

- Brainstorm the names of community-based organizations that
could be your partners. Do you already have some key contacts you should share with others?

-  Become a resource for others, by connecting someone you know to a support pipeline as a student or as a resource.

-  Brown University Educational Alliance reports:
Minority Teacher Recruitment, Development, and Retention, and
Best Practices in Minority Teacher Recruitment, A Literature Review.

We have to tell young students, “You can be a successful college student; you have the gifts and the ability to do it.” For those who show an inclination toward teaching, we should be asking, “Have you considered teaching?” This kind of encouragement and support must occur intentionally throughout the entire pipeline, starting in the first years of schooling up to, and including, being hired by a school.

My question for each of you is, how can you help support the pipeline?


Mary Cadez is the project director for Chalkboard’s TeachOregon Project. Formerly, she was the assistant superintendent of the Salem-Keizer School District, the second largest school district in Oregon. 

What brings young adults to make a decision to enter teaching as a profession and calling?

For us, that is a critical question. TeachOregon projects are trying several planned interventions to meet the challenge of attracting culturally diverse, talented students into teaching as a career, so that Oregon’s teacher work force will more closely mirror its diverse student population. When we determine what influences young adults to choose a teaching career, we may discover whether those same influencers work for attracting culturally diverse students as well.

I polled teachers to find out what they felt was the primary influence in their decision to enter teaching as a career. About a third of them said it was having “legacy” educators—an educator who encouraged them to become a teacher but who was also their parent, sibling, or extended family member. The rest of the teachers I queried—which frequently included culturally diverse teachers—reported their influence came instead from a former, respected teacher who gave encouragement and spoke positively about their love of teaching. The next strongest influence was early teaching opportunities and experiences while they were adolescents or young adults. (more…)

McGrory Photo

Sue McGrory teaches 7th and 8th grade Social Studies at Calapooia Middle School in Albany, Oregon. Sue has been an educator for 15 years—her second career. A native Oregonian, she previously worked as a registered nurse before earning her M.A. and M.Ed. from Oregon State University. Sue is currently the Career Pathways committee chair for the Greater Albany TIF Design Team, working with teacher mentors and peer leaders. She is a strong advocate for her students AND for professional educators. Sue is also president-elect of the Greater Albany Education Association. She lives in Albany with her husband and three cats.

We don’t like to talk about it. You know, the elephant in the middle of the room when we talk about other teachers. I don’t mean gossip. I mean when we talk about how a particular colleague may be struggling, needs help, isn’t quite doing the job, seems to be floundering, appears to be sinking. We too often talk AROUND the problem or the need. We never seem to address it head on and figure out a way to help that teacher. That’s the principal’s job, right?

On April 30, I was part of a group of educators who visited the Poway School District in San Diego, and what I saw amazed me. Teachers sitting around a table—with administrators and superintendents too—and directly addressing the elephant!

What did I see? Professional educators sitting around a conference table, discussing their concerns about 65 teachers using frank, professional language—including the language of their evaluation—to identify strengths and weaknesses in a teacher’s performance.  (more…)