Posts Tagged ‘
education partnerships ’
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
It’s Chalkboard’s core belief that the best way to improve Oregon schools is to strengthen and support our teachers. So we’re thrilled to see this goal put into practice with the Oregon Educator Professional Development Commission’s new teacher resource website, which officially launched on Monday.
The site, www.OregonTeacherQuality.com, serves as a one-stop-shop for educator professional development tools and resources, including links to State and Federal standards, educator preparation programs, and a searchable database and calendar of over 100 useful articles, publications, websites, and events. It looks to be a great first step for anyone interested in becoming a teacher, and will also serve to reinvigorate and engage veteran teachers, keeping everyone up-to-date on the latest research, ideas, and available supports. Read the full press release here.
We’re especially excited about this development as an example of the public sector, private sector, non-profits, and the government coming together for the united purpose of improving educator effectiveness – and therefore, Oregon schools. The Oregon Educator Professional Development Commission was established in 2009 through Senate Bill 443, a joint effort of Chalkboard, the Oregon Education Association, the Oregon Department of Education (which, since then, has been responsible for coordinating the Commission’s work), and others. Two years later, we are now seeing their work reach teachers in a very real, meaningful way.
What do you think of the site? While the it is set to grow, check it out now and offer your own feedback to shape this valuable resource. We can’t wait to see where it goes.
Traci Price is the former Education Director of The Freshwater Trust, Board Chair of The Environmental Education Association of Oregon, and task force chair of the No Oregon Child Left Inside task force that completed the development of “The Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan: Toward a Sustainable Future” on October 1st, 2010. Oregon is the third state in the union with a completed environmental literacy plan.
Since the earliest evidence of humans in Oregon, our relationship with the state’s natural resources has defined the Oregon way of life. Our landscapes, waterways, coastline and wildlife have inspired our stories, supported our livelihoods and provided our legacy. Oregon’s natural resources serve as a foundation of our state’s economy and represent a vital heritage, one that Oregonians want to ensure for generations. Preparing Oregon’s children to protect this valuable legacy is complicated by the fact that many of our youth are disconnected from the natural world and have little understanding of their relationship to it.
In order to address this challenge, the Oregon Legislature passed a law in 2009 (HB2544, the No Oregon Child Left Inside Act) to create a statewide environmental literacy plan. As per HB2544, the Governor appointed an eleven-member task force to develop the Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan (the Plan). The Plan is directed to state policy leaders, schools, districts, teachers, nonformal educators, community partners and other interested parties, and is intended to serve as a roadmap for the development and implementation of an educational program for environmental literacy.