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Chalkboard Project ’ Category
The debate around student testing continues to escalate. Nationally, Congress is considering removing annual assessments as a requirement for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In Oregon, bills to allow students to opt out of annual testing or removing statewide annual assessments all together are being introduced in the legislative session.
While I agree we should engage in a thoughtful conversation about how we build an effective and balanced assessment system, I am concerned about the rising voices questioning the importance of statewide annual assessments, and the push to allow students to opt out of these tests.
An OEA workgroup commissioned by the Oregon Education Investment Board recently published a white paper proposing a system of assessments to support learning and foster student success. While the workgroup rightly highlights the need for better assessment literacy among educators, especially in formative and classroom summative assessments, it downplays the need to continue annual statewide assessments for all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school as currently required.
Chalkboard Project supports the need for a highly effective and balanced assessment system. While teachers must be well versed in formative and classroom summative assessments to help make adjustments to daily instruction, this alone is not enough. The goal of assessment is to improve how our students learn and ensure we are providing the best learning environment possible. Eliminating annual statewide testing would undermine our ability to identify which schools and districts are excelling or struggling; which strategies work or don’t; and where the state should direct its resources. Most importantly, annual statewide assessments are the cornerstone of a public accountability system that ensures historically underserved students and those most at risk are not forgotten or minimized. Statewide assessments provide transparency and are a tool to further equity of access to quality teaching and opportunities to learn for all students.
Every healthy system needs an outside check to monitor progress. Annual statewide assessments provide just that. There are valid concerns about current testing systems. That’s why we support the need to audit the type and number of assessments currently administered in Oregon schools, because many of these test are mandated at the local school or district level, and are often redundant and unnecessary.
At a time when Oregon lags behind nationally in student achievement and high school graduation, getting rid of a useful tool for measuring student learning seems counter productive and irresponsible. We cannot dismiss accountability nor accept mediocrity. As parents, educators, and taxpayers, we should be confident that our state is educating our children, closing achievement gaps, and holding our education system accountable. Annual statewide assessments are an important tool to meet this need.
While much of the Common Core buzz has centered on mathematics, another change is the increased use of non-fiction texts. While many schools already made such increases before Common Core, there are now mandatory increases of using non-fiction texts, beginning at the kindergarten level.
Educator and author Marc Aronson lectured recently in Portland on the topic of increasing non-fictional text usage in schools. Marc earned his doctorate in American History at NYU while working as an editor of books for young readers. He was the first winner of the American Library Association’s Robert F. Sibert Medal for the best informational book for readers through age 14. He teaches in the graduate library school at Rutgers where he trains school and public librarians, and frequently speaks at conferences on materials for children and teenagers.
Marc Aronson found time before his lecture to speak with Chalkboard staff on the topic of the Common Core and the increase of non-fictional text in the classroom. When asked what were the urgent things he would say to Oregon teachers, he had this to offer:
Make sure you have read the Common Core standards.
That is because I think a lot of the heat and tension are from people who “know” the standards third-, fourth-, or fifth-hand. I think when you read the standards, you will find that they are very clear.
Our students are living in an environment of constantly changing knowledge.
This is the reality of the technological world we live in. I believe we are living in a time where tools for gathering data and processing knowledge have exponentially increased their speed and power. Students have to have that forward-thinking mentality because it’s out of our hands—that’s the reality we are in.
I urge teachers to look at the standards, and non-fiction books, non-fiction websites, with the eye of:
- Does this help my students learn inquiry?
- Does this help them see all of knowledge as a detective story?
- Does it help them develop the tools so they can make sense of new ideas, new technology, and new knowledge that will arrive in the coming years, but which isn’t here yet?
If you speak to a librarian, a person who see kids and their caregivers looking for fun reading, they will tell you non-fiction is very popular. Kids want to know things. They want to know things about the world. They want to know things about dinosaurs, weather, and about sharks. And as educators we want to teach reading as a skill that is worth their time. For many kids, non-fiction provides motivation. It makes the process easier, because you are giving students more of what they actually want to read.
I work and meet with countless teachers and administrators across the country. Every time I go to such a conference I hear the story of a child who wanted to read a nonfiction book and was told he couldn’t, because reading meant, “reading a novel.” That is a bias, and therefore, it is a barrier that we have to remove.
We have to expose more teachers and administrators and show how lively, how engaging, how fresh, and how dynamic much of the non-fiction being created for K-12 truly is.
Yesterday, Governor Kitzhaber proposed to spend $9.4 billion in education, half of his $18.6 billion proposed state budget for the next two years. This is an increase of nine percent over the last education budget and demonstrates the governor’s commitment and leadership on strengthening our education system
We welcome this focus on education. The climate for educators is very complex today—constantly evolving and with many challenges, especially as they navigate Common Core, new evaluations, and new state testing. Teachers are the single most important in-school factor that drives student success. That’s why it’s important to put strong resources into support programs that allow them to bring their best to our students, whether they are in preschool, third grade, or ninth.
We support the governor’s priorities in early education and his increased focus on English language learners. These are important and worthy investments. And while we agree it takes efforts on many fronts to prepare our children to succeed, we want to ensure that educators and educator effectiveness remain a top priority. Investing in our educators is the strongest strategy we have to improve the quality of education in Oregon.
During the last budget cycle, the state created the Network for Quality Teaching and Learning as recognition of the need to develop and support effective teachers and leaders by building ongoing statewide systems and supports. The Network impacts the full continuum of an educator’s career pathway and invests in strategies that are evidence based and research driven. The governor’s 2015-17 budget includes the statutory funding set aside for the Network at $37.4 million and continues to expand the School District Collaboration fund, which supports districts implementing CLASS-like work. It also funds K-12 educator mentoring and school leadership efforts. But it stops short of investing in other vital areas of the educator continuum, namely improving teacher preparation programs and implementing new teacher and principal evaluation systems. These efforts are currently underway, but without continued funding, risk poor or incomplete implementation. The statutory funding also doesn’t provide adequate supports for educators as they rework their curriculum and teaching practices to meet new state standards. For this reason, we have urged the governor to fully fund the Network with $55 million. We intend to work with him and our state legislators to attain this goal.
Every Oregon student deserves a great teacher. If we are to deliver on the promise of a high-quality education for all our students, there must be a strong focus and investment in our educators. While this may not be a new demand or strategy, it is a proven one. Effective educators are the most important factor to ensuring the success of every student, and the success and vitality of our state. Let’s make sure we invest in their success by maintaining our commitment to educator effectiveness as one of our top priorities.
Letter to Gov. Kitzhaber regarding the proposed 2015-2017 budget
We would like to introduce Chris Chavez, a new author at ChalkBloggers.
Chris currently teachers social studies at Liberty High School, in the Hillsboro School District. Previously he was a teacher in the Woodburn School District for ten years.
I recently read Dr. Hilda Rosseli’s piece Oregon’s Educators Workforce Diversity: Still Falling Short regarding the 2014 Oregon Minority Teacher Act Status Report. As an educator of color I am, and continue to be, very conscious of the lack of diversity in education. Since the passing of the Minority Teacher Act of 1991 we have seen a growth in the number of minorities entering and completing teacher programs but, according to the report, we saw only an additional 10 minority teachers added to the workforce in 2013-2014 from the previous year. Yet according to the numbers compiled by the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission in June 2014, between the public and private Oregon educational institutions we saw 221 culturally and linguistically educators complete their initial teacher licensure programs.
Even with the new proposed change under Senate Bill 755 that was recently introduced that would redefine as a minority any staff member whose first language was other than English, parity across our state would still be far from being achieved. Given the current progress of the hiring of minority educators, I support the Oregon Educator Equity Advisory Group’s assertion that parity includes a re-examination of recruitment, interviewing, and hiring practices at the district and building level.
This would mean that districts consciously, actively, and systematically recruit more minority teachers, whether Latino, African-American, Asian, women, disabled, etc. As districts and communities embrace diversity, there is a need for us to address this re-examination proactively.
The incorporation of more minority teachers plays an important role in changing the perception of minorities in society, and in all students, regardless of demographics. Especially if these teachers are hired to teach in the core subjects: science, math, English language arts, and social studies. In the case of some minority educators, we would even add the benefit of more bilingual teachers who are endorsed in core subjects, and increase our capacity to implement fully bilingual programs. Furthermore, the different perspectives and experiences of these new teachers would be an invaluable resource to our staff as teachers and as future leaders.
I am often amazed how few educators—including educators of color—are even aware of the Minority Teacher Act of 1991. To move forward, I believe the issue of parity should be part of any school improvement plan, utilize current minority teachers to recruit teachers, and, most importantly, districts recruit from their own community of graduates.
We have made great strides and I applaud the progressive steps we have taken. Parity is just another step in our long journey as a society and toward our goal to provide the best and most equitable education possible for all students.
Last month, the Distinguished Leaders Council (DLC) released its report and recommendations for improving school leadership in Oregon. Recognizing the urgent need, and grounded in the recommendations from the DLC, Chalkboard Project is partnering with the Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Washington to launch a program aimed at building districts’ capacity to develop effective principals. The program’s goal—designed for current central office leaders who have supervisory roles with principals—is to strengthen central office administrators knowledge and skills in the leadership practices that ultimately drive significant gains in student achievement by increasing the capacity of school principals. As the DLC noted, principal supervisors who prioritize instructional leadership, emotional intelligence, and student-centered accountability are ultimately better able to support principal performance. I’m pleased to say that we are now accepting applications for the first cohort, due back to Chalkboard on October 30.
A hallmark of effective school principals is that they find a way to prioritize instructional leadership over traditional administrative tasks. While no two schools operate exactly alike, in my experience a common trait in schools led by highly effective principals is that they empower leadership at all levels of the organization, which allows them to focus more deeply on improving student achievement.
Through coaching teachers in the classroom, working with teachers and staff to respond to formative assessment data, and managing human capital, principals become a key lever in school improvement. Effective principals are highly visible in their schools. They provide useful feedback and ensure high-quality professional development resulting in strong school cultures of support, trust, and continuous improvement. They lead through an equity lens to develop and advance culturally responsive practices and close achievement and opportunity gaps.
Yet for many principals, the seemingly endless number of administrative tasks can often overwhelm their best intentions to devote significant time to instructional leadership. It can feel like a trap. As a former principal, I can attest first hand to the challenges of juggling administrative tasks with finding time for instructional leadership. I knew both sides of the job were critically important to the success of my school and both placed large demands on my time. I was often left having to, in the words of Kim Marshall “attend to the urgent at the expense of the important.” And, often I fell short.
Part of running a successful school, I learned, required enlisting leaders at all levels of the district. Slowly, and with lots of help from my amazing staff, I learned how to build a culture of trust that created the conditions and expectation that our staff (and students!) could take ownership for many facets of our daily operations. This allowed me to shift how I spent my time and gave me the time I needed to support educators to do their best work.
We’ve known for a long time that school leadership matters. After educators, effective principals have a significant impact on student achievement. Helping central office supervisors to create the conditions that lead schools to new levels of student achievement can only happen with an intentional focus on leadership, and because district leaders have been given training, support, and experiences that deepen their knowledge and skills. I’m excited to see this work take shape.
Photo: Official release of the Distinguished Leaders
Council report and recommendations,
September 17, 2014.
In the spring of 2012, I worked with Chalkboard Project to form the Distinguished Educators Council (DEC). Chalkboard’s idea was to convene a team of educators recognized for their teaching excellence. The goal was to bring them together at meetings to discuss current issues important to teachers, and engage them in amplifying teachers’ voices in Oregon’s education policy-making arena.
Thirty-four distinguished teachers applied to be part of the new council, and after a thorough and thoughtful review process thirteen were invited to join. Through my role as an advisor and facilitator, I maintained that Chalkboard was asking the DEC for one important thing—ideas to support and strengthen teaching in Oregon.
After five months of reading and discussion, the council adopted five research-based recommendations to help teachers. The recommendations centered on teacher preparation, evaluation, professional learning, leadership opportunities, and supporting all students. The council’s full report is on Chalkboard’s website.
From fall of 2012 to spring of 2013, the council shared their ideas with policy-making bodies, which included the State Board of Education, the Oregon Education Investment Board, and the Oregon Legislature. And, the council was thrilled to see the legislature form the Network for Quality Teaching and Learning, a new OEIB-initiative that reflects the council’s recommendations.
The council spent last summer discussing over 50 concrete ideas for making their five core recommendations realities, and narrowed those ideas to two areas of focus – support for cooperating teachers working with new teacher candidates, and providing teachers time for collaboration and professional learning. Since then, the council has been researching and considering these topics in depth, and they are excited to advocate specific ideas to policy-makers in the coming months.
When the council first convened I wondered if these teachers trusted the sincerity of Chalkboard’s charge, to generate ideas to support and strengthen teaching in Oregon, and were they assured that Chalkboard was not simply looking for a rubber-stamp of its own agenda? Yet in the fall of 2012, I read comments from the DEC council about their participation that expressed how invigorated and empowered they were by this work, and several called it the most meaningful professional development experience of their careers.
Which brings us to the present. I’m excited to continue to work with the Distinguished Educators Council and engage teachers directly in Oregon’s education policy-making process. And I am excited to announce that Chalkboard Project is now accepting applications from teachers to join the Distinguished Educators Council. You can find details and an application form at this website.
Introduction The U.S. Department of Education, using four year adjusted cohort rates, reported Oregon was forty-ninth in high school graduation rankings for the 2011-2012 year. While alarming, the resulting discussion over how the rankings are formulated and what these figures measure within each state is an intriguing one. This blog post presents a perspective on this rating process.
President of ECONorthwest John Tapogna specializes in education, social, and fiscal policy.
He has directed evaluations of dropout prevention programs, the impacts of small class sizes, and the efficacy of small schools. Prior to joining ECONorthwest, John was an analyst at the U.S. Congressional Budget Office. He holds degrees from the University of Oregon and Harvard University’s School of Government.
Oregon’s 68 percent high school graduation rate has been the subject of considerable debate. But, relative to other states, does Oregon really deserve its bottom tier status? Probably not.
On-time, cohort graduation rates are a new measure. To illustrate this, we dug into the graduation rates for the 2010-11 school year. Oregon’s near the bottom of the pack. Then we looked four years earlier—spring 2007—at the performance of Oregon eighth graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics exam. These are largely the same kids—just earlier in their educational careers.
Seventy-three percent of Oregon eighth graders met the NAEP standard for basic math proficiency in 2007. That was middle of pack—twenty-fourth in the US. Four years later, 68 percent of the cohort graduated on time.
Connecticut and Maryland students performed similarly on the 2007 NAEP—73 and 74 percent at basic math proficiency, respectively. Yet, both states registered 83 percent on-time graduation rates in 2011—15 percentage points higher than Oregon.
So, what’s going on?
One interpretation is that Oregon’s high schools are a disaster—dropout factories—while Maryland and Connecticut’s are over-performers.
But that’s unlikely the case. Two factors are more likely.
First, Oregon is holding itself to a tighter standard and doesn’t count diplomas that other states include (e.g., modified diplomas to students with special needs).
Second, the growing popularity of five-year high schools, which blend community college work into the final years, is probably depressing Oregon’s rate. To date, federal statistics haven’t looked at graduates who take extra time.
Interstate comparisons of newly devised high school graduation rate figures are misleading. In recent years, they have overstated the Oregon K-12 challenge. Were one to devise and implement a common national standard for high school graduation, I suspect you’d find Oregon right in the middle the pack. That said, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
Oregonian article, “Oregon graduation rate barely budges…”, Feb. 6, 2014
My great nephew recently announced to his parents his intent to finish college and get his teaching license to teach science at the high school level and coach soccer. His father, a business major, tried to dissuade him, not because teaching is not an honorable and noble profession, but because spending the money on a master’s degree, teaching license, and the debt that his son might incur in the process and the entry level salary and increases he would make did not make good economic sense.
One of the major challenges faced in teacher preparation program reform work today is attracting and recruiting bright, young, talented students to careers in teaching.
A new report released recently from The New Teacher Project (TNTP) sheds light on the problems with an inflexible archaic pay structure built solely on degrees and years of experience. It clearly illustrates the inherent problems with the pay structure used in more than 90 percent of our school districts in the U.S. today.
Some people say that pay is not important for teachers, yet in a survey of 11,000 teachers in three of the nation’s largest school districts, two thirds of the respondents indicate that they would choose to teach in schools offering either a base salary increase, or bonuses to the top performing teachers over a school with a traditional pay system, all else being equal.
There are numerous districts in the U.S. that are working with new pay structures and are gaining ground in dealing with the aforementioned problems. Their work serves as a model for the rest of the country. While pay is only one piece of the solution, it is a big piece and one that we can tackle.
- Moving to a new structure is a process and not an event; it will take time and teacher input.
- The use of performance pay increases will require strong teacher evaluation systems that are consistently implemented, clearly communicated to teachers, and generally understood by all involved.
- School leaders will need to be trained in the use of the evaluation system with observation skills and tools in order to avoid inflated ratings.
- Teachers will need a clearly articulated way to address any concerns with their evaluations.
- Strong differentiated and relevant professional development will need to be available for teachers to feel supported in improving their teaching.
Shortchanged: The Hidden Costs of Lockstep Teacher Pay (2014)
The Irreplaceables:Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools (2012)
Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top third graduates to a career in teaching (2010)
White Rhino Blog on Why I discourage Latino students from becoming teachers
We’ve been talking a lot about equity recently. Whether it’s about student achievement and opportunity gaps or about ensuring our teacher workforce is culturally and ethnically diverse, the truth is Chalkboard has been committed to equity in education since its inception. In fact, we’ve had an educational equity policy embedded in our vision statement for several years now. Our vision is to see Oregon’s K-12 public schools among the best in the nation as measured by student achievement and educational equity. Yet, Oregon’s achievement gaps remain stagnant, even while states similar to Oregon in demographics and funding are narrowing theirs. Our CLASS districts are consistently narrowing the poverty gap, but fluctuating in their results along racial lines.
We are determined to align our internal and external resources for greater equity. We especially want to better understand the underpinnings of racial equity. One year ago, Chalkboard staff started down a learning path to build awareness and a shared understanding and analysis of structural racism, and the challenges that deep institutional and societal inequities present to our work. We’ve accomplished quite a few milestones—from completing an organizational assessment to developing a strategic framework and action plan. This has led to Chalkboard staff drafting its first-ever racial equity policy, which was reviewed and adopted by our board earlier this month.
Our policy reflects the core values and principles we have set forth to inform and drive our transformational work on equity, diversity, and inclusion. These are:
- Diversity as it drives discovery
- Collaboration and shared leadership
- Quality education as a basic human right
- An inclusive and dynamic workplace
- Mutual respect and understanding
We recognize that we cannot do this work alone. Chalkboard will invest in partnerships with diverse leaders and community organizations to help us build a better Oregon for our children. We will deepen our relationships with communities of color. And we will promote greater understanding among policymakers that the achievement gap has social and economic implications.
We acknowledge that we will achieve our equity, diversity, and inclusion goals only as we assume individual and collective responsibility. Chalkboard Project is committed to these goals and moves forward with great enthusiasm and engagement.
The gap between student and educator demographics in Oregon continues to widen. Although Oregon’s students of color made up more than one-third of the K-12 population in 2013, less than 9 percent of Oregon’s teacher workforce was non-white with the most notable gap found between Latino students (21.5 percent) and Latino teachers (3.6 percent). It is clear that Oregon’s efforts to address this gap has had limited impact since 1991 when the Minority Teacher Act was passed.
During the 2013 Legislative Session, Senate Bill 755 amended the original Act, providing a revised goal for 2015 and changing the definition of “Minority” to include educators whose first language is not English. An Oregon Educator Equity Advisory Group has been formed to continually advise the development of the required reports but to also assess, evaluate and advocate for continuous accountability and improvement of conditions and policies that impact educator equity.
The Oregon Education Investment Board released a 2014 status report this month, showing that as of July 1, 2013, Oregon is on track to meet the 2015 goal of increasing the percentage of minority candidates graduated from Oregon’s public educator preparation programs by 10 percent as compared to July 2, 2012. The 2012-13 data show that the annual yield of minority candidates graduating from public educator preparation programs increased by sixteen and that minority graduates accounted for 14.3 percent of the total numbers who graduated.
As of 2014, Oregon is very close to being on track to meet the 2015 goal of increasing the percentage of minority administrators employed by school districts and education service districts by 10 percent as compared to July 2, 2012. The 2013-14 data reveal that the number of culturally and linguistically diverse administrators employed in Oregon public schools has increased by 18 since 2011-12 and is currently 10.8 percent of the employed administrator workforce.
However, Oregon is not on track to meet the 2015 goal of increasing the percentage of minority teachers employed by school districts and education services districts by 10% as compared to July 2, 2012. In 2013-14 the number of culturally and linguistically diverse teachers employed in Oregon public schools (2,401) only increased by 10 additional teachers from the previous year. That means that only (8.46 percent) of the employed teacher workforce are minority and that the gap has slightly increased. Although the reduction may be in part due in part to staff reductions in recent years and that some teachers may have been selected to fill positions as administrators, there would need to be an additional 229 teachers employed in Oregon public schools to meet the goal of SB 755 by July 2015.
Educators of color serve as cultural brokers, not only helping students navigate their school environment and culture, but also increasing involvement of families and communities of color which in turn impacts student attendance, achievement, graduation rates and postsecondary aspirations. Furthermore, diversifying the field of education has both an immediate and long-term impact of closing the academic achievement gap. Research has shown that when matched with a teacher of the same ethnicity, elementary-level students of color performed higher on academic achievement tests than those students of color who are not taught by a teacher of color (Dee, 2004; Eddy and Easton-Brooks, 2011). Dr. Easton Brooks, now dean of the College of Education and Business at Eastern Oregon University found that African American students who had at least one African American teacher between kindergarten and 5th grade scored 1.50 points higher in reading than those students who did not have at least one African American teacher at the end of kindergarten.
Chalkboard’s TeachOregon projects have potential for helping to close the demographic gap as do the pipeline and retention grants funded by the Network for Quality Teaching and Learning this year. But it will take a statewide multi-faceted approach that includes collaboration with:
- Communities of color and professional associations who can help recruit future educators
- Community college and university programs that prepare new educators
- School and district personnel who recruit, hire and place new employees
- School leaders and teachers who create inclusive work environments
- Policymakers who can create statewide initiatives that help recruit educators and career advancement opportunities to help retain them