Kylie Grunow

Kylie Grunow

Chalkboard Project Project Director

Kylie Grunow is Project Director for the Chalkboard Project and mom to three beautiful girls, ages 6, 4 and 3. Kylie was born and raised in Southern Oregon and earned her bachelor’s degree in both political science and history from the University of Portland. Joining Chalkboard in 2008, Kylie brought with her experience in political consulting, strategic planning, and program management gained over the last decade in her professional life and the past six years as a parent. Improving the lives of children is near and dear to Kylie’s heart and she is thankful to work for an organization with same mission.

I am not a great traveler. I love to do it, but I’m not great at it, whether it’s for work or for play. First, I never know what to pack. Second, I can’t imagine how my husband and three girls will manage without me. Finally, I never know if it will be worth the effort. On August 14 and 15, I overcame these personal hurdles and attended a briefing about the evolving role of state education agencies.

The briefing, The state as the unit of change: Building capacity to impact learners, was held by Grantmakers for Education in Denver, Colorado, and asked funders to ponder whether state education agencies could act as primary change agents and innovators; or whether public-private partnerships are the driving force behind innovation and change at the state level.Kyliepullquote

There are many examples of public-private partnerships in education, though they have traditionally and most often had to do with leveraging community stakeholders as a part of the educational resources available to schools. The breadth and pace of the various state-level education reform initiatives seem to suggest that public-private partnerships are critical to supporting state education agencies and their ability to drive innovation, build capacity, and support stakeholder collaboration.

In Colorado, for example, the Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) has created a strong private-public partnership with the Colorado Department of Education. The commissioner of education, who sits on the board, has said, “What CEI has been able to do for Colorado is to bring things to fruition so fast, in a way the Colorado Department of Education alone would never be able to do.

Here in Oregon, we frequently see these types of partnerships when we talk about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, and many kids in our area reap the benefits of a close proximity to Intel. And Chalkboard Project has had a longstanding private-public relationship with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), working on issues such as teaching effectiveness, educator evaluation systems, and more recently, on improving school leadership.

Some believe a minimal state education department is ideal: identify those functions that only a state agency can do and hand everything else to outside organizations. Others believe that state agencies have handed over too much to outside organizations, creating negative impact on the quality of education. What do you think? And, where would you suggest Chalkboard be on that spectrum?

At Chalkboard, we see our role and value in helping to create statewide, systemic reform by (1) providing independent research as the basis for reforms; (2) partnering with educators and experts to design and implement pilot programs and advocate for transformation; and, (3) serving as an independent voice to citizens, educational stakeholders, and decision makers. We’ve also seen the Oregon Department of Education work toward becoming a more nimble and efficient agency—one that is shifting its focus from compliance to one of support and service. We applaud and support these efforts. But we strongly believe that the department cannot move the needle fast enough on all the complex education issues without the funding, innovation, and resources that private partnerships offer.

Back in the conference room in downtown Denver, the room full of funders—some big ones with names you can guess and some very small ones with names I can’t remember —honed in on the need to support organizations like CEI and Chalkboard as the best way of ensuring a return on their investment in the education arena. Without organizations that can come alongside state education agencies and act as both a critical friend and as a catalyst for change, the success of many of their other investments is left in doubt. For sure, states that shy away from public-private partnerships will likely fall behind in transforming crucial areas such as education.

You’ll be happy to know that my packing job turned out to be just right, my family survived (I could say thrived but I’m choosing not to), and participating in a thought-provoking conversation about the evolving role of state education agencies was more than worth it!

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has just written about the frustration of teachers who accurately grade their students, but then get severely criticized if they dare to hand out “Ds” or “Fs.”

We believe report cards are important, not just for students, but also for assessing how our state, districts and schools are performing on education measurements.

Sometimes the results can be tough to stomach. Oregon recently received a “D” from StudentsFirst, a national education advocacy group. They said: “Oregon can improve many of its educational policies to make its public school system more student-centered. Specifically, the state can do more to prioritize teacher effectiveness in decision-making and empower parents with information and quality choices.” You can read the full StudentsFirst report card here.

Ten years ago, Chalkboard Project developed an online tool for learning more about Oregon school districts, the Open Books Project. With support from the Oregon Community Foundation and in partnership with the Oregon Department of Education, we will re-launch Open Books tomorrow as the online portal for Oregon’s redesigned school and district report cards (www.openbooksproject.org). (more…)

In a blog post a few weeks ago, Liz Hummer wondered if the world uses too much edu-speak, too much jargon. She pointed out that jargon can remove us from what we are really talking about and it can turn people off from becoming part of the conversation.

She was right. Now, more than ever, Oregonians need to be joining the conversation about how we can improve our public education system, not shying away because they don’t have the facts, they can’t fathom the figures, or they aren’t familiar with the terminology.

In fact, many Oregonians aren’t familiar with the jargon of public education and who can blame them? Too many of us think we don’t have the time or the resources to really understand what a state public education budget of $5.7 billion means for our school district, or what a graduation rate of 66% means for the local economy. Even for data junkies, it can be overwhelming to try and find meaningful information. That’s why Chalkboard created the Open Books Project.

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As the 2010-2011 school year begins in earnest, parents and students have probably noticed a few things. Students probably have larger classes or maybe fewer class offerings. Parents are noticing the shortened school year and feeling the more urgent need for volunteers. Most likely they’ve had to dig a little deeper to pay activity fees for school sports or to take that field trip to the beach.

A quick search of the Oregon Live website found over 147 items posted on our schools and the budget cuts in the last two weeks – over 21 postings a day. But the fact is that most Oregonians don’t know much about their district’s budget or where the dollars go, which makes it difficult to know what it really means for the school down the street when reading an article about cuts to a K-12 budget of over $5 billion.

The Open Books Project, an easy-to-use website with information on state and district-level finances, student achievement, and student and teacher demographics, is designed to help Oregonians learn more about the budgets, graduation rates, and student-teacher ratios in their school district and districts across the state.

Last week, Open Books added a section that offers a deeper look at five Oregon school districts, how they’ve been affected by budget cuts and what they are doing to hold their students as harmless as possible in the coming year. Beaverton, Eugene, Salem, Sherwood, and Springfield school districts answered the following questions:

  1. Are you cutting any full-time employees (FTEs)? If so, how many?
  2. What is your average class size for the coming year and how does that compare to the last school year or your historical average?
  3. Has collective bargaining been affected for 2010-11 school year?
  4. Are you using any type of reserve in your 2010-11 budget?
  5. What measures has the district taken to meet the needs of the students? Tell us your story in a few sentences.

Visit www.openbooksproject.org to find out more and encourage your district to share their story with us.