The State Board of Education is meeting today to discuss and vote on adoption of national common core standards as well as Oregon’s math achievement standards.
The Common Core Standards Initiative was started to determine best practices and recommendations for what every K-12 student should know and be able to do regardless of where they live. The educational standards that were developed over the course of the initiative are intended to prepare all students for college or career.
A majority of states have already adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and today the State Board of Education will discuss Oregon’s adoption of the standards.
In preparation for today’s meeting, an issue brief has been prepared by the Office of Educational Improvement and Innovation at the Oregon Department of Education. The brief provides an overview of the work that has been done in the state thus far as well as potential changes and challenges that would come with adoption of the standards.
According to the brief, possible challenges are:
- Due to the larger amount of content in the English language arts (ELA) and Math Kindergarten standards, districts that do not offer full-day kindergarten will need to develop strategies to ensure first graders do not fall behind.
- The expectation in the ELA standards that reading is to be a shared instructional responsibility across content areas will require professional development (e.g., vocabulary, comprehension of grade-level text) for middle school and high school non-ELA teachers.
- The math knowledge and skills that have been “pushed down” to lower grades throughout grades K-8 will require some teachers at those grades to become more proficient in the new content itself, in addition to developing effective instructional practices to help students learn.
- Due to the large number of math standards at most grade levels, math departments will need to determine the best way to cover the required content while still teaching to proficiency. (more…)
Kristina Ribali is a mother of two, small business owner, and parent activist who lives in McMinnville. She has led a high school ministry for the last 5 years and loves being a part of the community. She’s also on the Government Affairs Council for the McMinnville Chamber of Commerce and works hard to understand the educational and economic struggles of the area.
I received a call this week from a concerned mother in our local school district. I listened as she described the issues her 10 year old son has been having in school. His struggles are all too familiar to our family and many more. He’s falling behind, he’s been bullied and he’s so discouraged and school is so overwhelming that he wants to quit. I wish I could say this is the first of these types of calls that I’ve received, but unfortunately it’s not. In the last two years alone I’ve received over a dozen of calls similar to this.
Without fail, every parent that calls me has one question: What are the educational choices available for my child? Much like our family, most of these parents simply cannot afford private schools or a tutor. The school their child must attend has been chosen by the district because of where they live, and is not determined by the needs or abilities the child has.
We had to make a very difficult decision two years ago. That decision was whether to keep my son in a school where he was slipping farther on daily basis or change schools. We didn’t even know where to start, or what choices we had. The more we searched, the more we realized how limited our choices really were. As I mentioned previously, finances kept us from choosing private schools, homeschooling seemed so overwhelming (even though I have dozens of friends who do it remarkably well), and there wasn’t a single charter school within 30 miles of our home. Was there anything else? (more…)
When I posted an interview with former Western Oregon University professor, Bob Turner, about Oregon students’ college preparedness, I received a question about student work experience and partnerships between schools and local businesses. I didn’t have a simple answer – and still don’t – but, I have done some digging on Oregon’s policies.
The Oregonian recently published an article about a hands-on program for high school counselors to learn about trade apprenticeships so that they can better share accurate information with the students they serve. Given this recent article, I felt it was an appropriate time to revisit the issue of career preparation in our schools.
According to the Oregonian article: “Many students don’t consider a career in a trade because they’re only told about college, said John Nelsen, who organized this first Union Apprenticeship Teacher’s Workshop.”
It may be true that a lot of students are not informed of their options in the trades. A little research also indicates that there is great variance across the state in terms of what career-related information students receive. (more…)
This is the question of the hour and one we expect to answer throughout the next five years. But the answers will not be as simple as some would hope.
There has been a great deal of media coverage around “merit pay” recently. The problem with throwing around a term like merit pay is that there is not a singular definition and yet everyone has strong opinions about it. When the Center on Performance Incentives released a report last week that “merit pay” does not raise student achievement, some individuals rushed to discount any efforts to compensate teachers in new ways. In actuality, the only conclusion the report out of Nashville reached was that giving teachers bonuses for improving test scores did not correlate to greater improvements in test scores. Chalkboard has always been opposed to “merit pay” when defined as paying teachers based on single test scores.
Chalkboard saw the Teacher Incentive Fund grant as an opportunity to expand and deepen the work of the CLASS Project. The money that Chalkboard and seven Oregon districts are receiving from TIF will not be used to pay teachers for test scores. CLASS is a comprehensive approach to reform that integrates expanded career paths, effective performance evaluations, relevant professional development and new compensation models.
Compensation should be integrated with career paths, professional development, and evaluation, and cannot stand alone as it does in most current systems. From what we have seen, it is not the additional dollars, but the integration of the components and the collaborative, teacher-led nature of the district design process that has led to outstanding outcomes for educators and students in the CLASS districts. Unfortunately for those looking for easy answers, this work does not translate well into simple correlations.
We would all love for there to be silver-bullets in education reform, but so far we have not found any. For example, the compensation component of CLASS is as much about recognizing and rewarding effective teaching as it is about the actual dollars. But, we do believe that a comprehensive, teacher-driven approach will raise student achievement, provide teachers with greater professionalism, and improve district culture. We fully expect for these seven Oregon districts to set examples for districts across the state and across the nation about what is possible when you invest in the effectiveness of educators.
I would encourage readers to go to educators4reform.org and hear directly from educators about what this work means for their students and their careers.
Last week, the Joyce Foundation released a guidebook and website called “Teacher Quality: What You Need to Know.”
The “Here’s How” section of the toolkit lays out the following suggestions for strengthening teacher quality:
- Start with a better pool of candidates
- We need to draw more talented people into teaching
- Identify what makes a good teacher
- Hire the best teachers for each school
- Scrap meaningless teacher evaluations and start again
- Accurately measuring effectiveness is key to improving quality
- Don’t let new teachers flounder
- Offer training that makes sense
- Pay for performance
- Rework tenure
- Redo retirement
This guidebook also encourages advocates to take action by asking targeted questions of schools, superintendents, school boards, and state legislators, including:
What is your child expected to learn this year and what should progress look like throughout the year? How does this compare to the state standards (available online on your state education website)?
What types of professional development are provided for highly effective teachers? What is offered for the weakest teachers? Are programs designed to meet the individual needs of each teacher?
Asking legislators to reserve teacher certification or tenure until after a teacher has demonstrated a track record of effectiveness with kids.
The full report and toolkit is available at: http://www.joycefdn.org/teacherquality/
Which of the proposals to strengthen teacher quality do you find most compelling? Do you this toolkit will help parents and community members advocate for policy changes?
Recently I came across the following words:
What do the good schools have in common? Good schools enjoy some core of community support and recognition that the public school is an essential building block of that community. Good schools enjoy positive action, not just lip service.
The spirit of public school reform must be adopted by the whole community if it is to make a difference. We will continue “at risk” as long as public schools are abandoned by the very constituencies they need to survive. These grassroots activists – parents and others – are essential to reversing erosion, promoting excellence, and demanding equity.
How long must the wake-up call echo before it is heeded by the citizenry as a whole? In towns all across America, persistent criticism, massive flight and despair – especially by the middle class – continue to drain our public schools and our urban centers of important energy, resources, and diversity. How long before we agree that equity in education (i.e., good public schools for everyone) is the solution to most of our ills. And how long before community-minded individuals, not just public school parents, begin to own this problem?
How long indeed? These words were written by former Parents for Public Schools Executive Director Kelly Butler more than fifteen years ago!
That brings me to the debate over school reform – or more aptly stated – the lack thereof. Is it any wonder that many in our communities look upon school reform with an arched brow and skeptical frown? What has brought us to this culture of intractability? This head-in-the-sand ethos is selling our kids short and is a luxury we can no longer afford. When the keepers of our educational systems spend months and years arguing about how many minutes it’s okay to teach kids. When we argue over whether parents have the right to fully participate in improving student achievement at their school or their district. When any mention of evaluation draws cries of standardized test and not a concerted effort at determining what and who is effective for our kids. When every question from every side is met with vitriol and defense, and every answer is hissed at and spun to oblivion. Then the debate becomes intolerable.
The mantle of this debate must be taken up by the very people who have long been left out – parents. (more…)
A September 27, 2010 headline in the Denver Post reads: “Jeffco Schools to Increase some Teachers’ Pay to more than $100,000” http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16159862. The article goes on to explain that the district has received a federal grant to study how peer support, professional development, and additional pay affect student achievement in high poverty schools. That study will include both a control group (without increased pay) and a full implementation group, certainly a necessary and important follow up to the Vanderbilt study released last week.
The most interesting part of the article, though, is the response by readers. Many of them use very strong language to decry the salaries: “Those are absolutely obscene salaries (plus lavish benefits) for public school teachers to be making …. There are plenty of highly educated long-timers who are terrible teachers. Looks like property taxes will continue going up!” “How about hiring more teachers instead this is a real waste of tax payers money….or keeping some of those recently closed schools open?”
Or this “conversation” between a teacher: “I am a high school science teacher – all who think it is an “easy” profession need to try it for a week. Most of you would run back to your little 8-5 by Wednesday- if not sooner.” And the non-teacher’s response: “Good bet you’ve never tried any jobs other than teaching. You’re still just getting used to working again after your three-month vacation.”
(On the other hand, the comments also included some applause for at least trying something different – as long as the NEA was not involved).
These responses remind us how many myths surround schools and how these myths make it difficult it for schools to try new ideas. For example, the notion of “obscene salaries” grows out of a conviction that people become teachers because they love children and that money will corrupt that value. (more…)