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In my last blog post I discussed some common myths associated with the preparation of teachers. Just as it is a myth that teachers today teach much the same as they did 100 years ago, so it is a myth that teacher education is the same as it was 100, 50, or even 10 years ago. The myths that I discussed were:
Myth 1: Most teachers in Oregon are prepared at the baccalaureate level.
Myth 2: Teacher candidates lack a good background in the subjects they teach.
Myth 3: Teacher candidates don’t enter a K12 classroom until their final academic term for student teaching.
Myth 4: Teacher educators rarely have K12 teaching experience.
In this blog I will address two final myths. (more…)
Sometimes seemingly small lessons enter our lives and change us forever. When I was a pre-service teacher, one of my professors showed a short film, “Cipher in the Snow.” The film depicts the story of a student of poverty who is neglected at school. He dies, and his teachers realize they don’t even know if he was in their classes. That film helped shape my goal of leaving no child behind.
A lot of ciphers in the snow go through Oregon schools every year. They may be quietly ignored, or they may be the attention-getting student who is never ignored. Either way, they get lost in the system. Over 6,000 students drop out of school in Oregon every year. One out of three students will not earn their diploma in four years. While many alternative schools are high performing, The Oregonian (June 16, 2012) published an article about Portland’s most struggling students going to alternative schools where there is little accountability for student success and few graduate.
Sometimes it is easy for schools to give up on the most struggling students. They are often children of poverty or minorities, and they may lack family members who are advocates for their education. In addition, struggling students as a subgroup score lower on state tests. They can be more difficult to teach. How many students will we leave behind this year? More importantly, what are successful schools doing to help struggling students succeed? (more…)
I recently toured a nonprofit in Medford called Kids Unlimited. KU identifies traditionally disadvantaged students at an early age and provides them with extra-curricular activities, academic support and mentorship in hope that they will stay in school and earn diplomas. Of the first 18 students who entered the KU program ten years ago, 12 of them graduated from high school, and KU’s success has only grown since then. It took me two minutes with the KU founder, Tom Cole, to recognize that he is a gem of a leader – visionary, committed, charismatic, and no-nonsense. I asked him what he thinks is the key to KU’s success. He gave a one word response – relationships.
I’ve been thinking about that word a lot lately. I’ve shared this story with others. When I got to “relationships” in the story one colleague responded, “You can’t teach that.”
The recent release of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides results that should give all Oregonians cause for great concern. Most NAEP measures for Oregon students are disheartening. Oregon is now one of five states where the overall achievement gap widened between 2003 and 2011. Additionally, low-income students in Oregon rank among the lowest performing in the nation and have lost ground since 2003. This information invites questions that should be in the forefront of Oregon’s attempt to restructure educational delivery. What will it take to declare a statewide breakdown? What is Oregon’s commitment to close the achievement gap?
NAEP Report Overview
Also known as the Nation’s Report Card, NAEP is the only tool we have to assess which states appear to be making progress in academic achievement. While we recognize the limits of NAEP, simultaneously the results should not be ignored. One advantage of this national assessment is the opportunity to assess progress over time. Another dimension of interest is the opportunity to disaggregate results and examine how different student subgroups fare compared to others across the country.
This week, the 2011 NAEP scores were released. The National Assessment of Educational Progress is the only assessment of student learning that is given to students across the nation- making it a significant tool for comparisons across states. A representative sample of 4th and 8th graders take the exam in reading and math every two years.
On the whole compared to 2009, the new data showed small improvements in math and relatively flat scores in reading. In Oregon, scores held steady compared to 2009 with no significant improvements or declines.
State Superintendent Susan Castillo said of the results, “While we didn’t see drastic changes from the previous NAEP results, we are not seeing the improvements in student performance that we know Oregon needs in order to compete nationally and internationally.”
Indeed, looking further back to 2003 some states have made substantial progress, particularly for their low income students, while Oregon has not. (more…)
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.
I was left to ponder that thought after reading a “Politifact” article about state senator Mark Hass’ claim that an Educational Service District (ESD) superintendent’s salary could pay for three teacher’s salaries. The article, written by Ryan Kost, sought to establish whether Hass’ claim was true. In reading on, through what seemed like multiple machinations about salary, Kost concluded, somewhat harshly, that Hass’ claim was “false.”
I could craft a separate article about the issues with the methodology that Kost utilized, but I wanted to discuss what the spirit of this article told me.
One the one hand, Mark Hass certainly didn’t do us any favors by trying to make a great sound bite that the Oregonian could take a crack at. But at the same time, I was disappointed at the approach of the Oregonian to undermine what Hass is after: a way to streamline costs for education. The Oregonian runs multiple articles about how schools are using money inappropriately. But when Mark Hass is trying to challenge the status quo of ESD offerings, the Oregonian, instead of remaining consistent and exploring what cost savings there may be, goes on the attack against him.
Reading articles like this one make me question if the Oregonian is going to be an ally in helping our educational system. It would seem to me that the Oregonian’s role in the education debate is not to “stir the pot” in order to fill up the blogosphere on Oregonlive.com. As essentially the only major publication in the state, they have a sacred responsibility to present information to the population that no other media outlet can.
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” H.L. Menken
In his August 2 column in the Oregonian Leonard Pitts wrote “It is time teachers embraced accountability. Time parents, students and government did too.” In my previous blog I also urged teaches to embrace AND to take charge of accountability. Given the responses to Pitt’s column including the response written by an Oregon teacher, teachers and (I agree with Pitts), parents, students, and government are not quite ready to take the challenge.
The responses to both Pitts and the blog writer ranged from the defensive to the vituperative with two people offering more nuanced analyses. Bob Bath in the above blog explains the very real difficulties in assigning responsibility to just one teacher for a student’s OAKS score in a given year. “Skybeaver” in response to Pitts draws a useful analogy to illustrate how knowing the relationship between a beginning and ending score on a test makes the end score more meaningful but also more difficult to reward. Both responses have within them the seeds for developing a more sophisticated and valid way to hold teachers (and students) accountable for learning: (more…)