I love reform. I’m excited that as a state and nation we are looking at making changes to public education. But sometimes in moving forward, it’s good to look back.
I’ve been moved to look back at my earlier career by the publicity around Jose Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and product of the California middle school where I taught. I’ve been thinking about the Jose days (mid-90s) and the staff and organization of that school. Of course, he is only one student, but there were many new immigrant kids who did quite well there. So what were we doing there that worked?
One thing that we did have was lots of faculty communication across the grade levels. I taught an intense and rigorous program partly because it was jointly developed by all the teachers on the 5th grade team. We met every Wednesday during prep, opened our plan books and shared. As a 5th grade teacher in a 5-8th grade school, I was reminded in staff meetings and in passing about where kids needed to be in order to be successful in later grades. There was a mindset that we were preparing kids for college. It helped that we were a Silicon Valley school sitting in the shadow of Yahoo, Netscape and SGI, where innovation and hard work were cultural norms in the neighborhood.
In continuing my take on Marc Tucker’s report “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” (read a summary here), I wanted to focus this post on his suggestions for teacher education programs in the United States. (See my previous post about his opinion on charter schools and teacher pay.)
As an education professor, my interest piqued with Tucker’s focus on Schools of Education. Since joining the faculty at Concordia University last year (after ten years as a high school teacher), I have been more aware of the critical roles that teacher preparation programs play in establishing the character and skills of teachers as they enter into the profession. Thus, Tucker’s decision to devote time to their strengths and weaknesses provided an opportunity for me to examine my own practice as well as the state of all schools working to prepare educators.
Among several observations, Tucker concludes that standards for teacher preparation programs need to be higher. He explains that a low bar has led to teachers who are coming from the bottom third of college entrants, and that their mastery of content knowledge is suspect. Tucker argues that low expectations within colleges of education nationally have also led to these colleges being seen by universities as “second class citizens” on campus as well, which leads to fewer institutional supports (research grants, etc). All of these issues contribute to teachers being ill-equipped to succeed in the classroom.
Tucker has several proposals to address these issues. (more…)
State Senator Mark Hass (D-Raleigh Hills) is currently the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. After teacher Jennifer Singleton discussed summer learning loss and pros and cons of year-round education on the ChalkBloggers last week, Hass further explores the topic and the pending national TIME Act.
In the dog days of summer, it’s great to be a kid. Lazy, sunny days. Family Trips. Summer camps. Not a care in the world.
Actually, this is a myth threatening America’s future in the global economy.
The truth is, more than half of the students in Oregon public schools (50.1 percent) come from “economically disadvantaged” homes, according to the Oregon Department of Education. These students are not spending their days at OMSI Camp. And without the kind of enrichment activities enjoyed by wealthy families, the “summer slide” is deeper.
The “summer slide” is how educators describe summertime months when students forget some of what they learned the previous school year. Research not only confirms this, but reveals that its takes its biggest toll on low-income students.
Marc Tucker, in his recent report, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” made some strident observations about education reform in the United States, and after spending some time with it, I’d like to explore some of his proposals over the next few blog posts.
For those who haven’t had the opportunity to read the entire report, the Chalkboard team offered a summary in their recent Research Update. In short, Tucker is the head of the National Center on Education and the Economy, and crafted this report after a summit of various education ministers from around the globe. Commissioned by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the summit sought to investigate what the “best” nations were doing well in order to learn how to improve our beleaguered education system in the U.S.
This particular document drew some interesting conclusions—in fact, I found myself startled at some of Tucker’s claims. One was the ineffectiveness of charter schools as a means of true reform. Tucker feels that the gains made by charters are too sporadic and, ultimately, these schools are more prone to fail than succeed. I appreciated the insight since two of my children are educated in Portland charter schools.
The summer weather has finally arrived in Oregon and summer vacation is in full swing. Some kids are camping, some are at summer camp. Many teachers are taking a much-needed break, while others are enrolled in summer courses.
Summer vacation has been a tradition in the United States since the mid-19th century, but as the students of the United States fall behind in reading, math and science, the trend towards year-round education is gaining momentum. Is it possible that summer vacation is a tradition that is doing more harm than good for our children? Could year-round school be the key to improving our struggling public education system?
Public schools in the United States haven’t always had a long summer vacation; in fact, in the 1800s different areas of our country had different school schedules. In the city schools were open as many as 48 weeks a year while rural areas had a summer and winter term for school and a fall and spring break allowing children to help with planting and harvesting on the family farm. In the 1840s, popular educational reformers like Horace Mann proposed a blending of the two schedules citing the belief that year-round school was over-stimulating to children’s minds, but that 2 semesters wasn’t enough. And so it was. The “traditional” calendar was born: a 9 month school year with a long summer break. (Source)
As Chalkboard’s state government relations team, Phil Donovan and I believe this was an incredibly successful session for Chalkboard Project and its parent foundations. Our partnership with the Oregon Business Association and Stand for Children served us well and resulted in a formidable advocacy team of business, grassroots and research entities. Despite a devastating state budget, CLASS Project and mentor dollars were achieved and a new teacher evaluation system was put on a timeline for implementation in 2013.
You have probably all heard about the “education package” that passed and the concerns that many have voiced about the politics that engineered the seemingly disparate group of policy reforms. It is this kind of “horse trading” that turns so many off from politics, but such is the basis of how things get done, especially with close margins in the party makeup.
The new annual sessions and the House divided 30-30 for the first time made this session part of Oregon history on two accounts. Politically, the House makeup and the very close margins in the Senate (16 Democrats and 14 Republicans) led to “bipartisanship” being the term most used by the media, pundits and the legislators themselves.
But to many, “bipartisanship” connotes a friendliness and agreement of important issues—a common sense, middle-of-the-road route to public policy. Publicly that may have been the image portrayed, but others describe the drama behind the scenes more along the lines of a hostage situation where bills advanced that one party did not like in order for them to see their own issues move ahead. Is this a strong-arm strategy, rather than a philosophical meeting of the minds?
Education policy was the key area where one might ask this question. But certainly it cannot be denied that the legislative leaderships’ choreography of the process was masterful, the trading intense, and even the purported strong-arming effective in leading to significant changes for Oregon.
There are some very inspirational leaders in the education profession. These are the people who seem to have the capacity to view the big picture and articulate so clearly what they see and hear. Linda Nathan, headmaster of Boston Arts Academy, author, and Harvard instructor in democratic schools, is such a leader.
Linda came to Oregon in May as the keynote speaker at the Oregon Small Schools Leadership Institute in Ashland. The theme of the one day Institute, led by E3 Small Schools Director Kathy Campobasso, was “moving forward.” Linda spoke with rich and vivid examples on the importance of leadership with a strong and clear vision and about the complexities of sustaining the work of personalizing education through the power of small. Principals, teacher leaders, teachers, superintendents, and board members from 22 small high schools participated in a variety of break-out sessions. They shared outstanding practices that are happening in their schools and celebrated the positive results.
Students from southern Oregon small schools presented a panel on their small high school experiences. The concluding forum was presented by Duncan Wyse, Executive Director of E3, Barbara Gibbs of Meyer Memorial Trust, and Linda Nathan on the importance and challenges of moving forward with positive school change on the state and national level. All were inspirational!
Chalkboard was busy last week getting ready and co-hosting (with Social Venture Partners Portland) an inspiring evening with the author of Do More Than Give, Leslie Crutchfield. Over 150 foundation leaders, philanthropists, community organizers, teachers, and trustees gathered at Friends of the Children in Northeast Portland to hear the esteemed nonprofit strategist and author speak about re-conceptualizing philanthropy and discuss how donors can address world issues by going beyond just donating money. It’s a call to action. Leslie’s book highlights donors who have already committed to catalyzing real change in the world.
As Leslie walked among the seated guests, she informed the crowd that philanthropy is growing and changing. It is not just the top 1% of the country giving to charities. In fact, the average household now gives $1,400 a year. Today, over $300 billion is donated annually to nonprofits, while private foundations have nearly doubled and community foundations nearly tripled in the last two decades. Whatever the good intentions, this still begs the question: Is giving money to a cause simply enough? Well, no.
It’s been a dramatic time for education in Oregon. We have seen lots of change, coming fast and furious from the Legislature, and much of it remains to be sorted out in terms of its actual impact on student achievement. But it certainly gives us hope—hope that Oregon can have a public school system among the best in the nation.
We give thanks to our state’s leaders for feeling the urgency we believe has been building all across this state for a higher quality system of K-12 schools. We give thanks to the teachers and leaders who are on the front lines of our schools every day, helping point the way to the supports children need to learn to their full capacity. We give thanks to the parents and citizens of this state who continue to send their children to public schools and have a collective will to make them strong. Together, we make up a community that has faith that every child can learn, and now, more commitment and momentum to make that goal a reality.
Our task ahead is perhaps harder than pushing these reforms through the legislative process—we must work together to implement them in a way that improves the learning experience for each child. We are delighted that among the reforms passed to do this are two of Chalkboard’s priorities to ensure we have an effective, quality teacher in every class, every school day.