Archive for the ‘
Uncategorized ’ Category
Randy Hitz is the Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University.
Educators throughout the nation and state are strengthening the profession by recruiting a more diverse and talented pool of candidates, improving preparation, and improving ongoing support for teaching and learning. We seek a more seamless, efficient and effective system. In this blog post I will specifically address two ways we are improving teacher preparation.
At the heart of preparation are school/university partnerships and, most notably, the student teaching or clinical experience. There are significant national and state efforts devoted to improving clinical experiences for educators, for evaluating performance, and for creating more seamless systems for professional preparation and professional development. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has an initiative with eight alliance states, including Oregon, to improve the clinical experience. The NCATE standards have recently been adopted by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) and have become increasingly rigorous, especially with regard to expectations related to clinical experiences and school/university partnerships. The creation of a new set of model standards for teachers (InTASC) by the Council of Chief State School Officers is a major step forward and these new model standards have also been adopted by both the Oregon Department of Education and the TSPC. The InTASC standards are aligned with NCATE standards and with the standards of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. As such they form a key leverage point for improving school/university partnerships and the clinical experiences for teacher candidates. (more…)
Colleges of Education are being challenged to “prove” that their graduates can improve student learning. At Pacific University in Eugene, our students (called candidates) student teach for 18 weeks. During that time they work with the classroom teacher (called the mentor teacher) during the first few weeks and then ease into the full planning for and teaching of the children. In some cases, the mentor feels they need to give the student teacher his or her plans and tests to ensure the reliability of the lessons. (In fact, this decision is being made more frequently as the mentor is being held to test results.) Some teachers feel comfortable allowing complete independence; however, some are always in the classroom and will make changes or intervene. In all cases, our candidates are expected to create units and lessons that assess their students’ learning.
This background information should raise some questions about the ways Pacific can actually prove that it is our candidate who is making the difference in student learning. Given the present collaborating system, we need ways to identify what the candidate actually knows and has done him or herself to improve learning. Certainly each teacher (candidate or mentor) should be held accountable for improvement in learning while in his or her class. The devil, as always, is in the details: the measurements we use.
“The essential question is not, ‘How busy are you?’ but ‘What are you busy at?’”
It’s probably safe to say that public education professionals in Oregon have never been so busy. They have larger class sizes, fewer staff to do more work due to budget cuts, a need to invest time in professional development to keep pace with changing technology in the field, and strong pressure to adopt fundamental changes to boost student achievement.
In a word, they are being expected to continuously improve at a time of historic cutbacks in education funding.
Needless to say, these are challenging times. But with the third year of Sisters School District’s CLASS grant under way, a significant culture change is evident. Teachers are operating less in silos, and collaborating across grades and school levels to close gaps in student knowledge. They are more open to being mentored and evaluated by peers, and see these evaluations as valuable tools for improving their instructional practices. Student achievement data is posted prominently in the District office and in all teacher lounges, and helps shape what goes on in classrooms.
As the dust settles from the whirlwind of another school year startup here in rural Oregon, I’ve been holding my breath to see how the deep state budget cuts made last spring are going to impact my two teenagers’ schooling.
From my standpoint, staff, parents and students are doing their best to keep programs intact and classroom instruction quality high, though the system is strained to breaking point. And we are going more and more often to our own family pocketbook to help sustain programs that used to be taken for granted.
Here’s how the crisis in public education funding in Oregon is playing out in Sisters for the 2011-12 school year.
- The elementary school principal position was eliminated, with responsibilities for parent relations and basic staff coordination transferred to a lead teacher, who doubles as a kindergarten instructor.
- With administrative staff whittled to bone, the district superintendent has assumed new responsibilities such as cleaning the men’s bathroom, performing teacher evaluations at the elementary school, and answering phones, since he has no longer has a secretary. He is also responsible for implementing the new Chalkboard planning grant. Reports are that the few still left on staff at the district office are working before sunup until late hours to cover the work of three RIFed staff members, on top of their own workloads.
- The part-time coordinator for our district’s highly-regarded Aspire program, a volunteer-based mentoring program to help high school upperclassmen and -women make post-graduation plans, was RIFed. Fortunately, public outcry resulted in school administrators and a private philanthropist cobbling together enough grant money to continue the program, at least for this year.
- The pace of fundraising has picked up. For school year 2011-12 our family has participated in three car washes, an evening benefit and auction, and a golf tournament…set up a bed-and-breakfast for quilt show visitors… waited tables at a community dinner…made two direct contributions to teams…and canvassed local merchants to solicit items for an auction basket—and this is three weeks in. (more…)
Rep. Ben Cannon serves House District 46 in the Oregon Legislative Assembly. When the legislature is not in session, Rep. Cannon teaches Humanities to middle school students at the Arbor School of Arts and Sciences.
The following is from a speech Rep. Cannon gave at Stand for Children’s Legislative Breakfast this morning.
I want to extend my thanks to Stand for Children for all of their work, not just this morning’s breakfast. Legislators know the effectiveness of the organization. The annual rally is always one of the more memorable events of the session and your presence this year will be crucial.
I first ran for office five years ago and education was my highest priority. What did I say about it? Pretty simple: schools need more funding. The important thing, it seemed, was for the state to provide the fiscal context for educators to thrive.
When it came to other questions about improving educational outcomes, my standard response has pretty much been that those issues were best left up to districts and teachers. The teacher in me knows that educational outcomes are so highly conditioned by particulars – that what works in one classroom, between one teacher and her students, may very well not work in another. The teacher in me is skeptical of “best practices” coming from the Legislature and dictating to me what happens in my classroom.
The budding politician in me appreciated that this position seemed to hit a political sweet spot. Join organizations like Stand in calling for more funding. Form common cause with our local educators who say when it comes to contracting, to professional development, to mentorship, to evaluations, those are issues to be worked out between educators and their district.
Fast forward ahead a few years.
In some senses, not a lot has changed. If I could wave a magic wand and do only a single thing for schools, it would be to significantly increase funding – not only its stability but its adequacy. We are asking our schools to do far too much with far too little.
Especially this session, we don’t have that magic wand; I think every person here is cognizant of the likelihood that K-12 education will experience cuts.
So with that dismal outlook – a belief that improving funding is the most important thing we could do, and that funding won’t be available this biennium – what can we do? (more…)
The Chalkboard Project is releasing a new report today on the condition of Oregon’s K-12 education system. The report draws on new statistics and makes the case that we need to ensure 1) our high-need students are receiving an equitable education, 2) all of our students are meeting high standards, 3) our school dollars are being spent wisely, 4) our educators are meaningfully evaluated and supported to do their best work in the classroom, and 5) the early years of a child’s education set the foundation for success.
From the press release:
Chalkboard’s K-12 Conditions Report: Oregon Schools Can Improve
PORTLAND-January 14, 2010- Oregon’s K-12 schools are mediocre and risk getting left behind schools across the country.
The state’s schools could especially improve when it comes to educating students of color and those from low-income families. And all Oregon students, and families, deserve better.
Those are among the stark findings in the non-profit Chalkboard Project’s latest report on the condition of K-12 education in Oregon.
“We are quickly approaching a crisis point for our state’s schools and students,” says Chalkboard Project President Sue Hildick. “As Oregon enters another difficult budget year, we must look closely at how we are spending our education dollars and whether or not we are getting the results we need. We know we have hard-working, committed educators, great schools doing amazing things for students, and engaged families who want to see their students do well, but as a state we have to ensure that ALL students have the opportunity to succeed in a global environment.”
A primary goal for the Chalkboard Project is to help push Oregon’s schools into the top 10 among all states. Chalkboard’s K-12 Condition Report for 2010 underlines the areas where the state needs to focus its efforts in order to move towards that goal of excellence.
In the early 2000s, Oregon was in the top tier among all states in its eighth-grade reading and math scores. By 2009, Oregon’s eighth-grade scores had fallen to the middle of the pack. In the early 2000s, Oregon was in the middle of the pack among all states in its fourth-grade reading and math scores. By 2009, the state’s fourth-grade scores had fallen to the bottom tier of states. Oregon’s scores are not getting worse; other states are improving more quickly.
Chalkboard’s Condition Report notes other challenges:
· About 45 percent of Oregon K-12 students were part of low-income families in 2009, almost twice the percentage of 1998. Yet Oregon schools with the highest proportions of low-income students have less experienced teachers, and lose them more quickly, than other schools.
· High school graduation rates among students of color continue to lag behind those of white students. While 88 percent of white students graduated on time in 2009, only 72 percent of African-American students did.
The K-12 Condition Report also points out practices that we all know can improve the education of our children, including providing the tools and resources teachers need to do their best work in the classroom, strong early childhood education programs, and a commitment by the state to direct funds to programs that shows results. Chalkboard has been an advocate for all of these issues, including lowering K-1 class sizes and providing reading tutors to all K-3 students, as well as piloting new career, evaluation and compensation models for teachers.
“We have seen in districts participating in Chalkboard’s CLASS Project that a commitment to supporting teachers and empowering them to do their best work can have a tremendous impact on student achievement in the classroom as well as on teacher satisfaction and collaboration. We hope that the K-12 Condition Report makes the case that we need to build on such successes, encourage educators to lead the way, and put our education system on a clearer path to excellence,” Hildick says. “Pockets of success cannot overcome funding instability and resistance to change; transformation has to happen at the state level.”
Chalkboard’s K-12 Condition Report is available at: http://www.chalkboardproject.org/images/PDF/Chalkboard_cond_final.pdf.
More information about the CLASS Project is at: http://educators4reform.org
Originally published in the Oregonian, as “How about some straight talk about fiscal crisis?”
This past election I received 146 political mailings. They contained hundreds of promises, including vows to support businesses and seniors, improve healthcare and education, and reduce taxes and regulations. Beautiful promises all. But not one of the promises was to cut public programs or raise taxes. Troubling, since state and national fiscal crises suggest we must do both.
My economics students understand this. This fall we watched “I.O.U.S.A.,” which revealed that federal debt swelled to $12.7 trillion in 2009. Bad news, considering we have not budgeted for the additional $46 trillion Social Security and Medicare will cost over the coming decades.
My government students understand as well. A state senator visited with us recently and said Oregon must cut over $3 billion from a $15 billion budget over the next two years, about 20%.
Our national leaders understand, too, but sadly, they’re unwilling to admit it. This month our president and Congress turned their backs on the recommendations of the deficit reduction commission, then declared victory as they extended expiring tax cuts and heaped another $850 billion onto our mountain of national debt.
Why won’t they confront reality? Is it because we aren’t willing to? Consider Oregon. About 93% of our discretionary budget is spent on education, human services and public safety, so cutting 20% means cutting vital services. And in education, where about 85% of spending goes to wages and benefits, that means cutting people. But public servants are quick to react against this, understandably so. (more…)
Today, November 22nd, has been declared the Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform. Educators and advocates across the country are sharing their visions for education and their perspectives on the challenges we face.
See the full list of blog posts here: http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/ideas/
Follow the Twitter conversation at #blog4reform.
Spend some time today reading one or two entries or, even better, leave a comment! Share your perspective and have a meaningful conversation about the future of our schools and children.
Let us know what you read. Did you have a favorite post? Did you happen upon a good conversation?
Recent figures released by the National Center for Education Statistics list Oregon public schools as having the fourth-largest class size in the country (See Betsy Hammond’s article in the Oregonian). While this is a horrible statistic and certainly a fact that bodes badly for both our teachers and our students, it made me wonder just where we should focus maximum efforts with minimal dollars.
When I was first working for Chalkboard Project at the Oregon legislature, we advocated for reduced class sizes, but only for kindergarten and 1st grade. (more…)