Anne Gienapp is an evaluation consultant at Organizational Research Services, leading qualitative and quantitative analysis of many community-based programs throughout the Northwest. With a Master’s in Public Administration from The Evergreen State College and extensive experience with children and family services, early care and education, youth development and community development, she brought an insightful and layered perspective to Chalkboard’s evaluation of our civic engagement efforts, which was conducted in 2010.
The Chalkboard Project’s long-term goal is to elevate student achievement and propel Oregon’s K-12 system to be within the top ten nationally. To achieve this goal, Chalkboard pursues multiple civic engagement efforts intended to provide the public with credible information, build broad support for education reforms, promote stronger stakeholder voices and mobilize key individuals and groups to advocate for proposed solutions.
In 2010, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Chalkboard engaged in an evaluation of its civic engagement efforts. The comprehensive evaluation (read the full report here) was based on interviews with a range of key informants—legislators, education practitioners, partners, staff, board members, and advisors—and review of multiple secondary data sources such as press coverage and past reports. The evaluation, conducted by the Seattle-based firm Organizational Research Services, addressed the extent to which Chalkboard’s efforts between 2007 and 2009 led to progress on education reforms in Oregon.
Chalkboard civic engagement efforts included:
- Commission and dissemination of public opinion and best practices research, including research related to the CLASS model
- Legislative advocacy
- Convening education stakeholders, including those in districts where CLASS was being piloted
- Media outreach and engagement
- Engagement and alliance-building with influential individuals and groups
The evaluation was completed last December. The findings offered strong evidence that Chalkboard’s multiple combined efforts contributed to policy outcomes that reflect progress on the way to even further policy change. Together with key partners, Chalkboard engaged decision-makers and implemented effective advocacy that led to the following policy results:
- Teacher mentoring bill was adopted/funded in 2007 and was included as an item in the Governor’s 2009 Oregon state budget
- Improved school financing via a one-time diversion of corporate tax rebate
- Improved school finance and accountability via school business reviews
- Teacher professional development standards were adopted in 2008
- Teacher professional development bill was adopted/funded in 2009, which established a professional development clearinghouse
The evaluation also explored what factors contributed to these results. Though external factors such as Oregon’s political and economic landscape presented challenges, the findings highlighted ways in which Chalkboard’s efforts were influential and contributed to achieving identified results. Specific examples:
- Chalkboard provided relevant, accessible research and data that were referenced by decision-makers, the media and the public. Legislators and partners noted that Chalkboard’s research was valuable because it both identified problems (e.g. teacher retention rate) as well as solutions (e.g. recommendations for more efficient school business practices).
- Chalkboard was widely perceived as a credible, neutral “third party” in the policy arena. Early on, Chalkboard’s broad-based civic engagement efforts in Oregon communities (2005-2006) set up their more targeted engagement around policy reforms during 2007-2009. A district representative remarked that this helped to connect community members with elected officials and increased visibility of Chalkboard’s policy priorities. Foundations for a Better Oregon, the six-member philanthropic collaboration that was Chalkboard’s founding entity, helped to enhance Chalkboard’s reach, influence and credibility.
- Chalkboard built and leveraged relationships with strong legislative champions. In 2007, Chalkboard assembled an influential legislative point team and continued to cultivate strong legislative champions through the 2009 session. This helped to encourage new conversations about education reform among policy makers.
- Chalkboard developed and capitalized on key partnerships and alliances. Chalkboards strong partnerships—especially its partnerships with Stand for Children and the business community—and alliances with key education stakeholders such as the Confederation of School Administrators and the Oregon Education Association furthered its credibility, extended Chalkboard’s reach and constituency, and contributed to achievement of policy outcomes.
- Chalkboard received positive, consistent media and editorial coverage. Chalkboard’s consistently strong media strategy helped get the attention of legislators and the public.
In addition to policy outcomes, the evaluation findings showed that Chalkboard’s efforts positively altered both the tone and content of education reform discussions in Oregon at the state and local levels, and they helped to create a new, more conducive space for dialogue and the potential for continued successful reform efforts.