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.
We 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.
The 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.
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 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…)
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…)
Dan Jones has spent a thirty-seven year career in the field of education, primarily as a classroom instructor, and for the last two years with a split assignment in the classroom and as Coordinator of the CLASS Project/TIF Grants. In addition to his contracted roles and responsibilities, he has additionally expanded his professional expertise throughout his career to include participation and leadership capacities at the district, regional, and state levels on a wide variety of educationally-related committees.
This spring, Bend-La Pine Schools and the Bend Education Association accomplished something no other school district in Oregon has done. It adopted a new professional compensation and salary advancement model for educators entering the profession. The new compensation model is designed to incorporate specific areas of professional interest for both the district and the Bend Education Association, and is intended to align more closely with professional development and experiences that correlate with teacher effectiveness. You can access the model here to learn more about its details. To learn more about how Bend-La Pine navigated through this process, read the interview below with Dan Jones, CLASS project coordinator and a former teacher and union president.
Why do you think Bend-La Pine School District was the first district in the state to succeed in designing and implementing a new compensation model?
The seeds for a new compensation model were planted in 2007 when Chalkboard Project was recruiting districts to join the soon-to-launch CLASS initiative. Although our district wasn’t ready to join the first cohort, we were excited about the transformational opportunity CLASS provided through its four blueprint areas (career paths, evaluation, professional development, and compensation). When we joined CLASS in 2008, we quickly ascertained that moving the needle on compensation would be a challenging endeavor. We faced a depressed economy, making it incredibly challenging to push for a new compensation model when we had gone through multiple years of hiring freezes. So the first year, we focused our energy on redesigning our systems within the three other blueprint areas, while gathering data and research across the country on alternative compensation models. We may not have been actively redesigning our existing compensation system, but we were actively learning about what others were doing in this area. By the second year, we were ready to start. Five years later we finally had a model we could present to the school district that had buy in and commitment from all key stakeholder groups. (more…)
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.
By 2020, Oregon will need 16,000 new teachers. These teachers must not only be highly qualified to help us raise student achievement, they must also better match the growing diversity within our student population.
There is a real urgency to address teacher preparation. Teacher shortages are a real issue across the country and Oregon is no different. Of the 16,000 teachers Oregon will need in six years, approximately 11,000 account for replacing teachers leaving the field. We’ll need another 5,000 to address population growth. None of this, however, addresses the need to build a culturally diverse educator workforce. According to a new study released by the Center for American Progress and based on 2011-12 school year data, only 11 percent of Oregon’s teachers are culturally diverse, while 33 percent of our students are of color.
This is why Chalkboard Project launched its TeachOregon initiative. Built on the success of CLASS, which underscores the importance of high-quality teachers in the classroom to drive increased student achievement, TeachOregon takes it one step further by investing in the preparation of teachers before they enter the classroom and by growing a teacher workforce that mirrors our growing diverse student population. (more…)
Kelly Hicks is a 4th grade teacher at Sage Elementary in Redmond, Oregon. Kelly has been an educator for 21 years and has worked with students in grades 2-8 in both private and public schools. Originally a native of Chagrin Falls, OH, Kelly received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Notre Dame as well as a Master’s Degree from the University of Pennsylvania. A strong advocate for public education and equity of opportunity, Kelly has a passion for both classroom instruction and the continued development of strong professional educators. Kelly lives in Redmond with her husband and two sons.
“You cannot improve education by alienating the profession that carries it out.” —Sir Ken Robinson
Promoting educator effectiveness is a hot topic across the United States and rightly so. Our children have one chance at each grade level. We have to get it right.
As our country struggles with entrenched systems and a wide spectrum of deeply held beliefs, public schools can no longer continue to operate along the status quo. In order to ensure quality education for our children, teacher evaluations have become the catalyst for defining effective practice.
Individual states are working to craft a vision of effective practice and simultaneously develop a system that evaluates the educators who directly affect students. The appearance of these evaluation systems at the local level is deeply affected by state mandates, budget considerations, and various stages of readiness. (more…)
Ford Morishita is a member of the Chalkboard Project Advisory Council. After teaching science, and coaching for 33 years at the middle and high school levels, he retired in 2011. His interests include STEM literacy across all subjects, early childhood science, bringing bioscience/bioengineering education into the classroom, and NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) implementation. Ford’s professional service includes work at the local, state and national levels. He served as a founding member of the Teachers Advisory Council for the National Research Council, past president for the Oregon Science Teachers Association, and was designated a national associate of the National Academies. He has a B.S. in Biology and an M.A.T. from Lewis and Clark College.
In March of this year, the Oregon State Board of Education officially adopted the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) as the new Oregon Science Standards. We became the 10th state to do so, out of 26 lead states who declared their intentions to join the NGSS effort. These new science standards were intended to lay a clear foundation for not only what all K-12 students should know and do, but to also underscore the connection between Science and Common Core ELA (English Language Arts)/Math standards and practices. And while new NGSS assessments to measure this knowledge and skills are under development (led by Achieve), a larger question looms: How will NGSS be made accessible to all students in Oregon?
Nationally, our student population has become increasingly diverse in the classroom. This diversity includes a wide range of Non-Dominant Student Groups, such as economically disadvantaged students, racial or ethnic minority students, students with disabilities, and English language learners. Over time, these students have traditionally been underserved across all subject areas and domains of learning. NGSS developers addressed this topic, and made equity a high priority in the implementation process. (more…)