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Sunny Petit is the Associate Director for the Center for Women, Politics, and Policy which promotes the education and empowerment of women and girls through civic leadership programs and research. Prior to joining the Center, she was Regional Director for a counter-human trafficking organization in South Asia and ran programs in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. She lives in North Portland with her husband and two children.
Remember the posters of US Presidents on your wall in your middle school? It’s the literal evolution of executive leadership in our nation on display. In each photo, you saw the changing social fabric of our country, you saw military leaders and governors and great orators, but there was always something missing. I didn’t see any women on those posters, and thus, I didn’t see myself. While I loved hearing about women like Amelia Earhart and Rosa Parks, the role models offered for girls were minimal- segments on women’s history often felt like a footnote. I managed to make it through a complete K-12 education in Oregon, never knowing the name of Oregon’s first female Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts, let alone the names of the Oregon suffragists who made that historic event possible.
A few years ago as the Center for Women, Politics & Policy at PSU started planning around the centennial for Oregon Women’s Suffrage in 2012, we discussed what other women’s stories were out there to discover and share. Over the past year, I’ve worked together with Gayle Thieman, an expert curriculum designer and Past President of the National Council for Social Studies, to develop a grade 6-12 curriculum that brings to life the stories and achievements of Oregon’s women pioneers who have shaped our state for generations. (more…)
CHALKBOARD NOTE: Our President, Sue Hildick, worked closely with Senator Hatfield in the early years of her career. A version of this tribute first appeared on PSU’s Center for Woman, Politics and Policy’s website soon after his death last month. There will be a public tribute to Sen. Hatfield’s life and work later this month at the State Capitol in Salem. Find out more details and read more remembrances on the PSU Center for Public Service memorial site.
Although we lost one of Oregon’s greatest statesmen on August 7, I have been missing Senator Mark O. Hatfield for a number of years. He was my first employer and greatest teacher of my professional career.
For those of us who had a calling to work in Washington, D.C., Oregonians could find an oasis on the seventh floor of the Hart Building. It was a classroom. A museum. A place of hard work and difficult decisions. Most importantly, it was a home for Oregonians who wanted to do good things for their beloved state.
At the age of 26, I was asked to serve as his legislative director; at the time, he was the second most senior Republican on the Hill. I told the Senator that I wasn’t sure I could handle the responsibility and he said, “Don’t worry. We’ll do it together.” He had so much confidence in the people who worked for him and always brought out the best in all of us—an important quality of a great leader.
Pictured: Sue Hildick (upper left) and Senator Hatfield (lower right) and staff in his Hart building office on Capitol Hill in 1995.
I had lunch recently with an American friend working in Singapore. I explained to him how I conduct an international trade simulation with my economics students, and in the simulation, Singapore is one of the economic powerhouses. I asked him about the Singapore government, and whether it helps or hinders economic growth in that city-state.
He replied that government is one of Singapore’s strengths. How do they do it, I asked, when in much of the world government is viewed, at worst, as helplessly corrupt, and at best, inept.
It’s simple, he said. The Singapore government pulls the best and brightest from their high schools, sends them all over the world for top-notch higher education, then obligates them to serve in the government in exchange for the education, albeit with handsome salaries and benefits. The education, he explained, is to keep candidates beholden to the state, while the salaries are to keep them content and above reproach. The result, he suggested, is one of the most efficient and effective governments in the world.
Interesting model. Why not apply it to education?
I love reform. I’m excited that as a state and nation we are looking at making changes to public education. But sometimes in moving forward, it’s good to look back.
I’ve been moved to look back at my earlier career by the publicity around Jose Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and product of the California middle school where I taught. I’ve been thinking about the Jose days (mid-90s) and the staff and organization of that school. Of course, he is only one student, but there were many new immigrant kids who did quite well there. So what were we doing there that worked?
One thing that we did have was lots of faculty communication across the grade levels. I taught an intense and rigorous program partly because it was jointly developed by all the teachers on the 5th grade team. We met every Wednesday during prep, opened our plan books and shared. As a 5th grade teacher in a 5-8th grade school, I was reminded in staff meetings and in passing about where kids needed to be in order to be successful in later grades. There was a mindset that we were preparing kids for college. It helped that we were a Silicon Valley school sitting in the shadow of Yahoo, Netscape and SGI, where innovation and hard work were cultural norms in the neighborhood.
There are some very inspirational leaders in the education profession. These are the people who seem to have the capacity to view the big picture and articulate so clearly what they see and hear. Linda Nathan, headmaster of Boston Arts Academy, author, and Harvard instructor in democratic schools, is such a leader.
Linda came to Oregon in May as the keynote speaker at the Oregon Small Schools Leadership Institute in Ashland. The theme of the one day Institute, led by E3 Small Schools Director Kathy Campobasso, was “moving forward.” Linda spoke with rich and vivid examples on the importance of leadership with a strong and clear vision and about the complexities of sustaining the work of personalizing education through the power of small. Principals, teacher leaders, teachers, superintendents, and board members from 22 small high schools participated in a variety of break-out sessions. They shared outstanding practices that are happening in their schools and celebrated the positive results.
Students from southern Oregon small schools presented a panel on their small high school experiences. The concluding forum was presented by Duncan Wyse, Executive Director of E3, Barbara Gibbs of Meyer Memorial Trust, and Linda Nathan on the importance and challenges of moving forward with positive school change on the state and national level. All were inspirational!
Chalkboard was busy last week getting ready and co-hosting (with Social Venture Partners Portland) an inspiring evening with the author of Do More Than Give, Leslie Crutchfield. Over 150 foundation leaders, philanthropists, community organizers, teachers, and trustees gathered at Friends of the Children in Northeast Portland to hear the esteemed nonprofit strategist and author speak about re-conceptualizing philanthropy and discuss how donors can address world issues by going beyond just donating money. It’s a call to action. Leslie’s book highlights donors who have already committed to catalyzing real change in the world.
As Leslie walked among the seated guests, she informed the crowd that philanthropy is growing and changing. It is not just the top 1% of the country giving to charities. In fact, the average household now gives $1,400 a year. Today, over $300 billion is donated annually to nonprofits, while private foundations have nearly doubled and community foundations nearly tripled in the last two decades. Whatever the good intentions, this still begs the question: Is giving money to a cause simply enough? Well, no.
There is so much education research out there focused on the myriad details that it’s hard to keep track of it all. But the latest study that’s generating buzz—and standing out—in reform circles zooms out and examines education from a big picture, global perspective.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform by Marc S. Tucker is a report that actually stems from the last two chapters of a book that will be published in September by Harvard Education Press. The project began when Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to study the education strategies that other countries have used to outpace us.
American students are now ranked below those in almost 40 developed nations in terms of science, math and reading according to a study by the Programme for International Student Assessment, and this new report shows that the most popular tactics in the US—like smaller class sizes and charter schools—are not making the significant difference that has been hoped for.
The National Center on Education and Economy, a Washington DC think tank, picked up the work and focused on education systems in the highest performing countries—Finland, Singapore, Japan, China (Shanghai), and Canada (Ontario)—to see what we may learn from their successes.
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?
At the Chalkboard Project, this is one of our favorite times of the year: National Teacher Appreciation Week! Of course, we believe the hard work and dedication of our educators deserves recognition all year long, but it’s been great to have a chance to pause in our busy schedules and really take the time to show our gratitude.
If you’re a teacher, let those who inspired you to this career know about the impact they had on you. If you’re a parent, remember to thank the teachers who are partners with you in your children’s learning. And if you’re a student, well, just be extra nice!
In that same spirit, we’d like to share a big THANK YOU to the memorable teachers who made a difference in our lives. And to all the teachers doing the most important work in Oregon, thank you!
What teacher did you most appreciate? Share your memories with us in the comments.