Posts Tagged ‘
education agenda ’
While my posts over the last couple weeks have only engaged a portion of the education reform program that Marc Tucker suggests in “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” I nevertheless hope that more of you take the opportunity to tackle the text on your own. When I finished reading the entire report (online here), I was part enthralled and part enraged by what he was intimating.
On the one hand, I share Tucker’s passion for wanting to make our system stronger—and I was captivated by the daring he suggest in attempting to reboot the system. At the same time, my enthusiasm was tempered at points by his comparisons, as I believe at times he simplified the reasons that other national systems are so successful, and that we cannot—mainly because of politics—adopt the reforms he suggests (to be fair, my dismay there is partly directed at those who would rather remain fighting than moving toward a real solution). Nevertheless, in recognizing my ambivalent feelings, I realized that Tucker’s plan may ultimately be what the American public needs as a blueprint for true educational reform.
What I have found empowering about Tucker’s approach is that it contains elements that both reassure and challenge any group involved in American education.
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.
State Senator Mark Hass (D-Raleigh Hills) is currently the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. After teacher Jennifer Singleton discussed summer learning loss and pros and cons of year-round education on the ChalkBloggers last week, Hass further explores the topic and the pending national TIME Act.
In the dog days of summer, it’s great to be a kid. Lazy, sunny days. Family Trips. Summer camps. Not a care in the world.
Actually, this is a myth threatening America’s future in the global economy.
The truth is, more than half of the students in Oregon public schools (50.1 percent) come from “economically disadvantaged” homes, according to the Oregon Department of Education. These students are not spending their days at OMSI Camp. And without the kind of enrichment activities enjoyed by wealthy families, the “summer slide” is deeper.
The “summer slide” is how educators describe summertime months when students forget some of what they learned the previous school year. Research not only confirms this, but reveals that its takes its biggest toll on low-income students.
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.
. . . Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Lately I’ve been thinking back to an earlier part of my life and using those experiences as a lens for our current efforts around school system change. For about ten years, I was a teacher with Outward Bound. OB’s name has nautical roots—when a ship leaves the safety of the harbor and heads out in to the unknown it is said to be outward bound. Their motto “To Serve, To Strive, and Not to Yield” comes from the amazing Ulysses by Tennyson (as does the quote above). It is about balance—between self-reliance and being part of a larger community; between tenacity and sensible self-denial; and between compassion for others and taking care of one’s own. So, with that in mind…
Let’s take a moment to celebrate. I am truly excited by our opportunity to begin the process of public school system reform that is possible through SB 909. All is not fixed, everything didn’t go our way, there is so much to do, but there are moments of beauty in small victories. As I often find myself saying these days, we now have the possibility of possibilities. Once we’re done with this brief self-congratulation, let’s get to work.
One thing I know is that commitment is not enough. In my heart of hearts I believe that we are all committed to our kids—the work ahead will require determined single-mindedness, and it will certainly take a deep collaboration that is unusual and unlike any other we have attempted. It is not left and right, rural and urban, black or white, across this or that aisle—it is a moral imperative and it is for our kids. We are leaving the safety of this moment, the security of this small but important victory and heading into uncharted waters. We must build and maintain unwavering collective capacity for systemic change and we can accept no excuses. The legislative session that brought us to this time was filled with moments of political will, charismatic leadership, and fierce advocacy, while we also glimpsed petty infighting, fear mongering, misinformation, and other devils of our nature.
In the middle of our nation’s major recession there are signs of an upturn here and there, but in the meantime, we are struggling to fund the most valuable piece of our future: Education. Unemployment is high, inflation is real and people are having trouble making ends meet. Simply put, there is less money to go around. So is it really any surprise that recent ballot measures asking Oregon taxpayers for even more money have failed? Where do Oregonians draw the line? To hopefully find an answer, I decided to take a look at our past.
As I reviewed Oregon’s ballot measures for the past 40 years, I noticed some not-so surprising patterns. Schools only asked for more taxpayer dollars during tough economic times. Schools suffer when people are making and taking home less money. Accordingly, during times of economic prosperity, Oregon would go years without a mention of educational funding on the ballot.
In general, voters have failed nearly every measure that proposed a tax hike to cover education costs. Since 1970, voters have failed at least 10 such ballot measures. Most recently last month, two local measures to fund education failed. Oregon City voters overwhelming turned down measure 3-376. It’s failure has forced the district to cut two school weeks from the 2010-2011 year in addition to numerous other deep cuts they have already made. Portlanders failed measure 26-121, which was earmarked for improving and repairing facilities.
I should note that voters have made some exceptions. Some measures have passed to keep schools open, keep class sizes down, and retain teacher jobs (Oregon Ballot Measure 2 in 1987; Oregon Ballot Measures 66 and 67 in 2010; and Portland Public School Measure 26-122 in 2011, respectively). But what did taxpayers really agree to? Measure 2 continued levies that were already in place; Measures 66 and 67 taxed businesses and the wealthiest Oregonians; and two other measures in the 1990’s allotted lottery funds for education. In most cases, the average citizen wasn’t giving up much.
As an educator I’ve heard a lot of talk over the years about change and improving outcomes for our students, but it feels different this year. Real change may actually be in the air, and there are new coalitions of stakeholders in the field of education that seem to be making it real. Here’s what I am seeing:
- Almost five years ago the Chalkboard Project formed an advisory council of teachers, school administrators, district superintendents, college deans, and school board members. This council supports Chalkboard in its work promoting innovations making a difference in Oregon schools—innovations like the CLASS project, teacher mentoring, and professional development coordination.
- Three years ago Chalkboard convened a broad cross-section of educators at the headquarters of Oregon Public Broadcasting for a summit on education in Oregon. This initial gathering spawned the Oregon Coalition for Quality Teaching and Learning, a body equally as diverse as Chalkboard’s advisory council. The coalition is currently chaired by Randy Hitz and is a state member of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. The Oregon coalition was the driving force behind a two-year legislative task force that established recommendations to the 2011 legislature to recruit, train, retain and develop teachers in Oregon.
- For over a year a team of district superintendents has been meeting to consider new ways to deliver education services and boost student achievement.
- The 2011 legislature is considering the creation of an Oregon Education Investment Board to better coordinate the delivery of education in Oregon from pre-school to graduate school.
Will these new coalitions and new efforts help Oregon achieve its ultimate goal, more student learning and achievement? That remains to be seen. But we have to hope that we’ll strengthen education in Oregon when educators at all levels are working with each other instead of independent of each other.
There are many proposals for reforming education. And new proposals continue to appear regularly. Over the past several months I have tried to sift through dozens of proposals and integrate the most important of these, those most likely to produce results, into a coherent framework. In developing this framework I tried to improve our fundamental understanding of public education in the United States and to clarify the purposes of education reform.
I then organized a limited number of “high leverage” improvement ideas into three themes: teaching and learning, education infrastructure, and accountability. Next, I attempted to show how these parts fit together as a coherent whole. Finally, I considered the policy changes needed to implement education reform.
I have argued that policy makers at many levels should work together to establish common purpose, focus attention on what matters most, and sustain a strategic effort over time. I’ve also asserted that substantial progress can made using the resources already available and that meaningful work can commence immediately.
If the topic of education reform interests you, you can find my monograph here.
You’ll note that the Chalkboard Project’s current emphasis on teacher quality issues is strongly supported by my own research. Over the long term, work in this area is essential to improving student achievement and creating meaningful accountability.
I consider the monograph a work in progress. Consequently, I welcome feedback based on all points of view. I intend to revise it periodically based on suggestions for improvement and the availability of new evidence.
I hope you find my proposal interesting and that you’ll join me in an ongoing discussion.
The State Board of Education is meeting today to discuss and vote on adoption of national common core standards as well as Oregon’s math achievement standards.
The Common Core Standards Initiative was started to determine best practices and recommendations for what every K-12 student should know and be able to do regardless of where they live. The educational standards that were developed over the course of the initiative are intended to prepare all students for college or career.
A majority of states have already adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and today the State Board of Education will discuss Oregon’s adoption of the standards.
In preparation for today’s meeting, an issue brief has been prepared by the Office of Educational Improvement and Innovation at the Oregon Department of Education. The brief provides an overview of the work that has been done in the state thus far as well as potential changes and challenges that would come with adoption of the standards.
According to the brief, possible challenges are:
- Due to the larger amount of content in the English language arts (ELA) and Math Kindergarten standards, districts that do not offer full-day kindergarten will need to develop strategies to ensure first graders do not fall behind.
- The expectation in the ELA standards that reading is to be a shared instructional responsibility across content areas will require professional development (e.g., vocabulary, comprehension of grade-level text) for middle school and high school non-ELA teachers.
- The math knowledge and skills that have been “pushed down” to lower grades throughout grades K-8 will require some teachers at those grades to become more proficient in the new content itself, in addition to developing effective instructional practices to help students learn.
- Due to the large number of math standards at most grade levels, math departments will need to determine the best way to cover the required content while still teaching to proficiency. (more…)
A September 27, 2010 headline in the Denver Post reads: “Jeffco Schools to Increase some Teachers’ Pay to more than $100,000” http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16159862. The article goes on to explain that the district has received a federal grant to study how peer support, professional development, and additional pay affect student achievement in high poverty schools. That study will include both a control group (without increased pay) and a full implementation group, certainly a necessary and important follow up to the Vanderbilt study released last week.
The most interesting part of the article, though, is the response by readers. Many of them use very strong language to decry the salaries: “Those are absolutely obscene salaries (plus lavish benefits) for public school teachers to be making …. There are plenty of highly educated long-timers who are terrible teachers. Looks like property taxes will continue going up!” “How about hiring more teachers instead this is a real waste of tax payers money….or keeping some of those recently closed schools open?”
Or this “conversation” between a teacher: “I am a high school science teacher – all who think it is an “easy” profession need to try it for a week. Most of you would run back to your little 8-5 by Wednesday- if not sooner.” And the non-teacher’s response: “Good bet you’ve never tried any jobs other than teaching. You’re still just getting used to working again after your three-month vacation.”
(On the other hand, the comments also included some applause for at least trying something different – as long as the NEA was not involved).
These responses remind us how many myths surround schools and how these myths make it difficult it for schools to try new ideas. For example, the notion of “obscene salaries” grows out of a conviction that people become teachers because they love children and that money will corrupt that value. (more…)