Chalkboard Project Vice President of Education Policy
Before joining the Chalkboard Project, Dan Jamison served as Superintendent for the Sherwood School District in Sherwood, Oregon. After accepting the position in 2005, the district, under his leadership, significantly increased student achievement and successfully passed a $98.0 million bond. Dan is a passionate believer in public education. He has worked as an educator for the past 32 years, teaching at the middle school and high school levels. More recently, he has served as principal at all three levels in the Greater Albany School District. Dan earned a B.A. in history at Washington State University, followed by an EdM at Oregon State University. An avid believer in contributing to his community, he has served in a variety of capacities, including Rotary, Sherwood Family YMCA, and the Chamber of Commerce.
The spring of 1978 proved to be a pivotal time shaping my career. These were the ten weeks I completed my student teaching at a small rural high school in Colton, Washington.
Fortunately, I was taught and mentored by a marvelous master language arts teacher, Diana Carlson. Our first meeting was memorable. “Mr. Jamison, I have good news for you. In the coming weeks you will become the Language Arts Department at Colton High School.”
With thirty-five years of distance and perspective since that spring, and wonderful experiences along the way, I am deeply grateful for the high expectations and rigorous regime framed by this fine educator. Diana required me to teach four different grade levels of high school English, business communication, a social studies class, and to assist in directing the high school play after hours. Working fifty to sixty hours a week, I planned, created, delivered, evaluated…breathed, ate, laughed, fretted and lived… with these students and classrooms consuming my life.
We all know the importance of strong induction and mentorship supports for our newest professionals. While I benefitted the following year from an equally strong teacher who mentored me in my first full-time teaching job in Independence, lately I have looked back on that experience in Colton for an entirely different reason. Increasingly, I am concerned we are not adequately serving and supporting Oregon’s rural schools. (more…)
Last week Chalkboard joined several partners and national leaders in a powerful and lively panel discussion at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
Judging from the passion of our panelists and thoughtful questions by our audience, “Developing Great Teachers and Leaders: What’s Working and How That Should Inform Policy Decisions” appears to be a timely topic.
Chalkboard President Sue Hildick capably launched the morning, and President Tom Carroll of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future successfully facilitated the discussion. I felt very fortunate to join our panelists Rob Weil, Deputy Director of the American Federation of Teachers; Dr. Tabitha Grossman, Senior Policy Analyst of the National Governors Association; Janice Poda, Director of Education Workforce for Chief Council of State School Officers; Joellen Killon, Deputy Executive Director of Learning Forward; and Bend CLASS Project Co-Leader Dan Jones.
Several themes emerged during our two-hour discussion. First, we should note this is a time of exciting change, with many powerful developments unfolding on the national level. We are reminded that Oregon will be well-served to stay dialed into this important national discourse. Our failure to track developments and anticipate these national drivers will leave us vulnerable. Now, more than ever, we must stay connected to this crucial conversation.
Other topics received strong attention. Performance evaluation is emerging as a high stakes initiative in several states, with many moving forward to align with the new InTASC teaching standards. Like Oregon, most states have enacted some form of legislation to add impetus to this effort. The opportunity to align these reforms with concurrent adoption of Common Core Learning Standards will result in a more closely aligned K-12 effort. Teacher preparation, and specifically the quality of college and university programs, will be under the microscope in coming years. And, perhaps most important, all of our panelists reminded the audience that this work must be thoughtful. We cannot sacrifice quality of implementation for political expediency.
Of all the discussion, most rewarding to us is the growing national recognition that teachers want and deserve the opportunity to be at the heart of this reform effort. Indeed, every panelist commended the work of the CLASS Project and pointed to our collaborative model as the best path to pursue this complex work. Dan, Sue and I came away from this event knowing our teachers have pursued the right path, and with the humbling recognition that there is great hope placed in our Oregon-grown CLASS efforts.
The last few months reflect a time of momentous change in public education. Weekly, it seems, headlines tout new developments from across the country. Much of this conversation has morphed into a broader, polarized rhetoric, portrayed with clear winners and losers. Whether it is the publication of VAM data by the LA Times, the exit of Michelle Rhee as chancellor of Washington, DC schools, or the redefining of tenure in Illinois, we sense that a battleground of high stakes change is afoot.
I suspect this positional media frenzy is more symptomatic of national political discourse than an accurate portrayal of the challenging yet rich high stakes conversations taking place in many states. Certainly in Oregon, we have chosen a more thoughtful path as we navigate the forces of reform together.
I was pleased to learn that President Obama specifically cited emerging work in Oregon and a few other states as part of his weekly radio address this past Saturday (watch the full address here). In fact, I believe there is a compelling and admirable story to be told within our state. This is not a headline story based in union bashing, erosion of contracts, or top-down directives from a governor; rather, it is a more subtle, compelling story of collaboration, hard work, and creativity in the midst of extreme economic hardship.
Recently I attended a great event hosted by the Oregon Education Assocation (OEA). The Symposium on Transformation in Public Education was well-received by an enthusiastic audience. It was encouraging to see so many educators and state leaders give up a Saturday to participate in a deeper conversation about possibilities for meaningful reform in our delivery of public education. OEA is commended for intentionally engaging a wide range of stakeholders and bringing strong speakers to the forefront.
Our keynote speaker, Dr. Yong Zhao, launched us well with a provocative and humorous look at public education contrasted with some of our questionable long term assumptions about global competitiveness. He offered a healthy and balanced perspective that was refreshing and funny. His message reminds us all, as we pursue this path of collaborative reform in Oregon, to maintain balance and common sense.
Our renewed Governor, Hon. John Kitzhaber, provided a powerful closing. I see in our state leader an intentional move to bi-partisan balance and a willingness to courageously tackle tough issues with a sense of immediacy in the coming few months. This urgency is welcome, knowing the magnitude of our larger challenging context. His selection of Nancy Golden as Educational Policy Advisor is a compelling choice for sustained reform, a signal to all of us that he is serious about deeper work in the educational enterprise.
Kudos to OEA for delivering a well-planned day that appropriately sets the stage for the shared challenges ahead.
The release of the latest economic forecast nearly two weeks ago has brought back mixed feelings. While we all share in a sense of despair, knowing the depth of hardship experienced by many current Oregonians in all walks of life, I am reliving some of the emotions I felt during our last statewide crisis.
In the late summer of 2003, I was the principal of West Albany High School. At that time, I was tasked with reducing seven teaching positions, while our enrollment increased by more than eighty students.
The loss of seven positions meant the elimination of forty-two class period offerings for our 1250 students. Reductions hit administrative and classified ranks as well. As a large professional team, we hunkered down and did the best we could. As one would expect, it was an incredibly tough school year.
Looking back, I am still awed by the collective shared resolve of our professional staff. I am still proud of our students and their resilience. We recognized we were in a difficult journey together, and we survived. While the quality of the educational experience was greatly diminished, I am convinced we strengthened relationships.
As I reflect on my leadership, however, I am haunted by one decision that still pains me: I eliminated our professional development budget. (more…)