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Julie Smith has spent the past decade in various educational leadership roles helping to raise student achievement in her schools through the support of teaching and learning. She began as a teacher leader and instructional coach moving to an administrative role as a Professional Development Specialist with the Evergreen School District. Julie is currently a Chalkboard CLASS coach and was appointed in August to the Quality Education Commission.
As an educator it was often hard to find time to have collegial conversations with teammates about improving teaching and learning in our classrooms. There were always too many other topics to discuss like: “Who is going to get next week’s homework packet done?” “How are we going to organize next months thematic unit to cover all of the standards?” Or, “Help me fill out a survey from last weeks staff meeting.” Don’t get me wrong, these conversations are essential in order to keep the workload manageable and support a school’s daily rhythm. (more…)
A few weeks ago when a small group of CLASS leaders had the opportunity to meet with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan they took the time to be candid with him about CLASS Project as well as the challenges and opportunities of the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant. See more photos on our Facebook page.
- Terrell Smith, Sherwood School District, speaking to Secretary Duncan.
Chalkboard has been working with districts through the CLASS Project for over four years, but the Teacher Incentive Fund grant is relatively new to Oregon. We helped seven Oregon districts apply for the TIF funds in 2010 as a way to fund their CLASS Project work. With its focus on a comprehensive system for supporting effective educators through expanded career paths, relevant professional development, effective performance evaluations and new compensation models CLASS was a good fit to receive TIF funding. We were pleased to receive $24.4 million for five years of planning and implementation.
Although CLASS is the foundation of TIF in the seven districts that received federal funds, the federal grant has its own specific requirements and timelines. Here’s a quick chart that describes some of those differences: (more…)
Last week, Dan Jamison and I were invited to help facilitate the Mid-Valley Boys and Girls Club staff retreat in Lincoln City. This Boys and Girls Club serves kids in the Mid-Willamette Valley area within the Albany, Sweet Home and Lebanon school districts and provides a fun, safe and supervised environment for recreational and educational activities. Dan and I were particularly excited about this retreat because Albany and Lebanon happen to be two of our 18 CLASS districts.
Chalkboard was invited to this retreat to provide the Boys and Girls Club with an introduction to the CLASS Project, share current state and federal education policy issues, and also provide a snapshot of some of Oregon’s student data. And we were happy to join, always wanting to build our outreach and share important education-related information with communities throughout the state. This was also a great opportunity for the Boys and Girls Club staff to gain a better understanding of what’s going on with the students and teachers within their school districts—particularly those involved in CLASS.
It also wasn’t hard to say yes to a day at the coast, in Lincoln City where the retreat was held. The day promised to be full of hard work, creative thinking, and a bit of an ocean breeze. And after teaching for 32 years in Albany and serving as a principal at all three levels in the Greater Albany School District, Dan was excited to engage with the club. He even ran into some of his former students!
Last week Chalkboard joined several partners and national leaders in a powerful and lively panel discussion at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
Judging from the passion of our panelists and thoughtful questions by our audience, “Developing Great Teachers and Leaders: What’s Working and How That Should Inform Policy Decisions” appears to be a timely topic.
Chalkboard President Sue Hildick capably launched the morning, and President Tom Carroll of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future successfully facilitated the discussion. I felt very fortunate to join our panelists Rob Weil, Deputy Director of the American Federation of Teachers; Dr. Tabitha Grossman, Senior Policy Analyst of the National Governors Association; Janice Poda, Director of Education Workforce for Chief Council of State School Officers; Joellen Killon, Deputy Executive Director of Learning Forward; and Bend CLASS Project Co-Leader Dan Jones.
Several themes emerged during our two-hour discussion. First, we should note this is a time of exciting change, with many powerful developments unfolding on the national level. We are reminded that Oregon will be well-served to stay dialed into this important national discourse. Our failure to track developments and anticipate these national drivers will leave us vulnerable. Now, more than ever, we must stay connected to this crucial conversation.
Other topics received strong attention. Performance evaluation is emerging as a high stakes initiative in several states, with many moving forward to align with the new InTASC teaching standards. Like Oregon, most states have enacted some form of legislation to add impetus to this effort. The opportunity to align these reforms with concurrent adoption of Common Core Learning Standards will result in a more closely aligned K-12 effort. Teacher preparation, and specifically the quality of college and university programs, will be under the microscope in coming years. And, perhaps most important, all of our panelists reminded the audience that this work must be thoughtful. We cannot sacrifice quality of implementation for political expediency.
Of all the discussion, most rewarding to us is the growing national recognition that teachers want and deserve the opportunity to be at the heart of this reform effort. Indeed, every panelist commended the work of the CLASS Project and pointed to our collaborative model as the best path to pursue this complex work. Dan, Sue and I came away from this event knowing our teachers have pursued the right path, and with the humbling recognition that there is great hope placed in our Oregon-grown CLASS efforts.
As Chalkboard’s state government relations team, Phil Donovan and I believe this was an incredibly successful session for Chalkboard Project and its parent foundations. Our partnership with the Oregon Business Association and Stand for Children served us well and resulted in a formidable advocacy team of business, grassroots and research entities. Despite a devastating state budget, CLASS Project and mentor dollars were achieved and a new teacher evaluation system was put on a timeline for implementation in 2013.
You have probably all heard about the “education package” that passed and the concerns that many have voiced about the politics that engineered the seemingly disparate group of policy reforms. It is this kind of “horse trading” that turns so many off from politics, but such is the basis of how things get done, especially with close margins in the party makeup.
The new annual sessions and the House divided 30-30 for the first time made this session part of Oregon history on two accounts. Politically, the House makeup and the very close margins in the Senate (16 Democrats and 14 Republicans) led to “bipartisanship” being the term most used by the media, pundits and the legislators themselves.
But to many, “bipartisanship” connotes a friendliness and agreement of important issues—a common sense, middle-of-the-road route to public policy. Publicly that may have been the image portrayed, but others describe the drama behind the scenes more along the lines of a hostage situation where bills advanced that one party did not like in order for them to see their own issues move ahead. Is this a strong-arm strategy, rather than a philosophical meeting of the minds?
Education policy was the key area where one might ask this question. But certainly it cannot be denied that the legislative leaderships’ choreography of the process was masterful, the trading intense, and even the purported strong-arming effective in leading to significant changes for Oregon.
It’s been a dramatic time for education in Oregon. We have seen lots of change, coming fast and furious from the Legislature, and much of it remains to be sorted out in terms of its actual impact on student achievement. But it certainly gives us hope—hope that Oregon can have a public school system among the best in the nation.
We give thanks to our state’s leaders for feeling the urgency we believe has been building all across this state for a higher quality system of K-12 schools. We give thanks to the teachers and leaders who are on the front lines of our schools every day, helping point the way to the supports children need to learn to their full capacity. We give thanks to the parents and citizens of this state who continue to send their children to public schools and have a collective will to make them strong. Together, we make up a community that has faith that every child can learn, and now, more commitment and momentum to make that goal a reality.
Our task ahead is perhaps harder than pushing these reforms through the legislative process—we must work together to implement them in a way that improves the learning experience for each child. We are delighted that among the reforms passed to do this are two of Chalkboard’s priorities to ensure we have an effective, quality teacher in every class, every school day.
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.
The last few months reflect a time of momentous change in public education. Weekly, it seems, headlines tout new developments from across the country. Much of this conversation has morphed into a broader, polarized rhetoric, portrayed with clear winners and losers. Whether it is the publication of VAM data by the LA Times, the exit of Michelle Rhee as chancellor of Washington, DC schools, or the redefining of tenure in Illinois, we sense that a battleground of high stakes change is afoot.
I suspect this positional media frenzy is more symptomatic of national political discourse than an accurate portrayal of the challenging yet rich high stakes conversations taking place in many states. Certainly in Oregon, we have chosen a more thoughtful path as we navigate the forces of reform together.
I was pleased to learn that President Obama specifically cited emerging work in Oregon and a few other states as part of his weekly radio address this past Saturday (watch the full address here). In fact, I believe there is a compelling and admirable story to be told within our state. This is not a headline story based in union bashing, erosion of contracts, or top-down directives from a governor; rather, it is a more subtle, compelling story of collaboration, hard work, and creativity in the midst of extreme economic hardship.
As the 2010/2011 school year comes to an end, the CLASS districts have a lot to celebrate! This past Wednesday, 14 Oregon school districts came together in Salem to share highlights about their creative and innovative work, connect with other districts and hear from two national leaders. This powerful delivery came from the teachers, union representatives and administrators who have lived and breathed the CLASS Project work.
A few district highlights…
Forest Grove’s Assistant Superintendent, Dave Willard, began with a powerful presentation on the challenges and successes of his district’s CLASS work. He described the ways in which his district started to rethink their approach to professional development. For example, his district administrators took time to practice providing positive and constructive feedback to their teachers by asking effective questions and listening to each other.
Suzanne West, a middle school humanities teacher in the Sherwood School District, described her district’s work with CLASS as becoming fully integrated into their school system and school culture. In fact, she found that colleagues were becoming less familiar with the term “CLASS Project” because their work was feeling less like a temporary project and more just their standard way of daily life at school.
In the Sisters School District, three teachers—Justin Nichols, Kristy Rawls and Norma Pledger—opened up their presentation by explaining that they got involved with CLASS to “get better at what we do and improve the education of kids in Sisters.” They went on to describe a new evaluation tool in which teachers created a mock lesson plan, filmed it, and staff were able to use that footage to provide feedback to each other.
Juliet Safier, Vernonia’s Association President, described her district’s process of redesigning their professional development system and was excited that everyone was able to be at the table. Whether it was administrators, teachers or “Goddess Extraordinaires” (aka their wonderful administrative assistants), staff members were working together and felt ownership around the progress that they were making.
Our two keynote speakers also provided a fascinating and relevant national context. The first, Tabitha Grossman, is a senior policy analyst at the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices. She has worked as a teacher, school counselor and administrator in school districts in the central Virginia region. During her presentation, she shared her work with several states to redesign models of teacher pay. She provided the political framework and admitted that she was frustrated that so many of the policy makers in Washington DC “had never been educators.” She was energized by the CLASS work and found it powerful to be in a room of teachers and educators who were taking the lead.
Our second speaker, Louise Sundin, is the executive vice president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, and a career ninth-grade English teacher. She provided a lively presentation on the importance of teachers being in the drivers seat and being the agents of change: “If you are not at the table making the changes, then they will inevitably be made to you. We need to be part of the process.” After her presentation, Louise shared that she was blown away by the high level of work and collaboration in the CLASS districts.
For those not yet familiar, the CLASS Project (Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success) is a program that empowers educators and administrators to work collaboratively to design career paths, relevant professional development, effective performance evaluations and new compensation models. If you are interested in learning more about the project, please visit: http://educators4reform.org.
Thank you to all of the fabulous school districts who joined us on Wednesday! Watch video clips from the day here.
With much of the education and political news grim, with gridlock and pettiness the norm—how are we to move forward? How do we move past the wringing of hands and gain or re-gain our belief that we can do this? (“This” is doing every damned thing we can to prepare our kids for what lays next in their lives—and through them, our own lives.) I have two suggestions.
First, we must be bold and move forward with new ideas that place our kids’ interests at the very heart of our processes and systems. Business as usual must go, gridlocked politicians and political processes must be chiseled apart and forced in to the bright sunlight (please, give us some bright sunlight!). We must find a balance between our need for local control, and the clear and convincing reality that the larger system is broken.
How do we solve a school funding crisis when the decisions of how the state doles out our money has little to do with the actuality of what is happening locally in the schools? When cutting school days from our pathetically short school year does not change the amount of funding our districts receive? When local school boards can negotiate contracts that push off to another generation the very difficult conversations that the adults need to have in order to ensure our kids’ success? When our various systems, well intended to help our most vulnerable, are often uncommunicative and dysfunctional silos?