Hedy N. Chang directs Attendance Works, a national initiative aimed at advancing student success by addressing chronic absence. She co-authored the seminal report, Present, Engaged and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades and has written numerous other articles about student attendance.
In February, Oregon became one of the first states to take a thorough look at its school attendance data, and the results surprised many of us. Nearly a quarter of students missed 10 percent or more of school year, a level of absenteeism that put them at risk academically.
This is true across the state, affecting many schools and districts where daily attendance rates look just fine. The reality is that most schools only track average daily attendance (ADA) but this aggregate figure can mask large numbers of individual students missing so much school that they are at risk academically. (more…)
Dr. Krista Parent is the Superintendent of South Lane School District. It is her 28th year in the district as a teacher, principal, curriculum director, assistant superintendent and superintendent for the past 12 years. Heather Bridgens is in her 13th year in the district as a high school Language Arts teacher, department head, coach and CLASS Executive Team member. Jan Jacobs is in her 26th year in the district as a middle school Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, coach and CLASS Executive Team member.
South Lane School District Pursues TIF 4
South Lane School District’s decision to pursue a Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant from the U.S. Department of Education was really a “no brainer.” The district has anchored their key improvement efforts around the CLASS Project and the four blueprint areas. These four areas focus on performance evaluation for teachers and administrators, alternative models of compensation, career pathways for teachers to play significant leadership roles in the district’s work, and professional development that is relevant and differentiated for the needs of staff. The TIF grant was simply a way to seek more resources to accomplish this important work.
South Lane School District has a long history of collaborating with their teachers. A culture has been created over the years where everyone – teachers, administrators, custodians, secretaries and other staff – are truly invested in doing whatever it takes to ensure student success. South Lane’s core beliefs include:
Kids Come First!
Decision Making is Student Centered
Kids Learn Best When They Want To Be At School (more…)
When I did my student teaching I was told both by university professors and by my mentor teachers that once I had my own classroom, I could close my door and basically do whatever I wanted. At most, they said, my class might be observed by the principal a couple times each year. This was true for me, and it was true for my mentor teachers who started in the profession decades before me. Unfortunately, despite great improvements in education today, it is still too much the case that teachers are on their own to develop their skills and meet student needs.
I am more confident than ever that we can change this aspect of the professional teaching culture because we have the practical and research bases needed for real change. (more…)
Adam Davis is a Founder and Principal of DHM Research, an independent, non-partisan public opinion research and consultation firm in Portland, Oregon. With over 30 years of experience in all phases of public opinion research, Adam’s expertise ranges from survey research design to focus group moderating.
As parents and students settle into the new school year, K-12 public education advocates prepare for the new legislative session scheduled to begin only four months from now. A quick overview of Oregonians’ attitudes about K-12 public education may be valuable to these warriors as they gird for battle in Salem. Some of these considerations may not be news, but as I watch those advocating for a better K-12 public education system, I am often left wondering if it wouldn’t help to remind ourselves of some past lessons. Following are a few findings from our focus groups and surveys that may be valuable in developing effective communications with voters and state legislators.
It is not all about money. Remember, a significant number of Oregonians believe the system has enough money. They see the problem as not using the money wisely. Education advocates should talk about how public education is being more efficient at the state and local levels and how educators are using new ideas and methods to increase student achievement (e.g., Chalkboard). If you want to connect with more voters and legislators, this has to be as much a part of your advocacy language as pleas for more money.
K-3 is the sweet spot. In a time of limited resources, more Oregonians every day have to make tough decisions and set priorities. They expect the same from their elected representatives, who need to focus on getting the best return on taxpayer money. For many people, that means investing in the early grades. As one focus group participant put it, “You’ve lost them by the time they get to the middle grades and high school. You need to be sure they’re given a good foundation to succeed in life.” If any aspect of your advocacy represents an opportunity to improve K-3 education, then talk about it. You’ll be connecting with more voters and legislators. (more…)
Sometimes seemingly small lessons enter our lives and change us forever. When I was a pre-service teacher, one of my professors showed a short film, “Cipher in the Snow.” The film depicts the story of a student of poverty who is neglected at school. He dies, and his teachers realize they don’t even know if he was in their classes. That film helped shape my goal of leaving no child behind.
A lot of ciphers in the snow go through Oregon schools every year. They may be quietly ignored, or they may be the attention-getting student who is never ignored. Either way, they get lost in the system. Over 6,000 students drop out of school in Oregon every year. One out of three students will not earn their diploma in four years. While many alternative schools are high performing, The Oregonian (June 16, 2012) published an article about Portland’s most struggling students going to alternative schools where there is little accountability for student success and few graduate.
Sometimes it is easy for schools to give up on the most struggling students. They are often children of poverty or minorities, and they may lack family members who are advocates for their education. In addition, struggling students as a subgroup score lower on state tests. They can be more difficult to teach. How many students will we leave behind this year? More importantly, what are successful schools doing to help struggling students succeed? (more…)
John Tapogna is President of the economic consulting firm, ECONorthwest. He oversees the firm’s overall business strategy and operations and has built practices in education, healthcare, human service, and tax policy. In education, he has directed evaluations of dropout prevention programs, the impacts of small class sizes, and the efficacy of small schools for clients like the Chalkboard Project, Washington’s League of Education Voters and Seattle Public Schools.
For much of the last 15 years, Oregon K-12 educators have waited for additional revenue to boost school quality and achievement. A weak economy and growing medical and corrections costs have gotten in the way. And looking forward, the costs associated with an aging population, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and rising public pension costs will compete with classroom dollars. In short, K-12’s fight for sustained, significant increases in funding will be as tough in the next decade as it has been in the past.
While educators can, and should, advocate for additional resources, they must simultaneously evaluate how well they are deploying the dollars they have. Evidence suggests a weak relationship between per-student spending and achievement. In a classic debate, competing economists from Princeton and Stanford dug into the same set of rigorous K-12 spending studies. The Princeton economist concluded spending had improved achievement in about half of the studies’ findings. By the Stanford economist’s accounting, only a quarter of the studies exhibited a spending-to-achievement link.
So, does money matter? These dueling economists might say the answer ranges from “maybe” to “probably not.” (more…)
Last week, Dan and I had the pleasure of hosting a break-out session at REAP’s (Reaching and Empowering All People) Academy of Leadership Innovations.
The academy is an opportunity for 8th through 12th graders to practice their leadership skills and engage with community members around important issues facing the greater community.
We spent our session hearing from the students about great teaching. We started by asking the students to describe their best teachers. Over and over again we heard praise for teachers who care about their students, who know their subject matter, and who are willing to individualize their support.
We then had the students get into small groups and discuss questions related to assessing and supporting great teaching and student learning. There were engaged and animated conversations throughout the room, and when we had every group share out at the end of the session, thoughtful ideas were plentiful. Here are some of the highlights: (more…)