Posts Tagged ‘ student achievement ’

When I did my student teaching I was told both by university professors and by my mentor teachers that once I had my own classroom, I could close my door and basically do whatever I wanted. At most, they said, my class might be observed by the principal a couple times each year. This was true for me, and it was true for my mentor teachers who started in the profession decades before me. Unfortunately, despite great improvements in education today, it is still too much the case that teachers are on their own to develop their skills and meet student needs.

I am more confident than ever that we can change this aspect of the professional teaching culture because we have the practical and research bases needed for real change. (more…)

Guest Blogger September 5th, 2012 | Guest Blogger

Making Money Matter

John Tapogna is President of the economic consulting firm, ECONorthwest. He oversees the firm’s overall business strategy and operations and has built practices in education, healthcare, human service, and tax policy. In education, he has directed evaluations of dropout prevention programs, the impacts of small class sizes, and the efficacy of small schools for clients like the Chalkboard Project, Washington’s League of Education Voters and Seattle Public Schools.

For much of the last 15 years, Oregon K-12 educators have waited for additional revenue to boost school quality and achievement. A weak economy and growing medical and corrections costs have gotten in the way. And looking forward, the costs associated with an aging population, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and rising public pension costs will compete with classroom dollars. In short, K-12’s fight for sustained, significant increases in funding will be as tough in the next decade as it has been in the past.

While educators can, and should, advocate for additional resources, they must simultaneously evaluate how well they are deploying the dollars they have. Evidence suggests a weak relationship between per-student spending and achievement. In a classic debate, competing economists from Princeton and Stanford dug into the same set of rigorous K-12 spending studies. The Princeton economist concluded spending had improved achievement in about half of the studies’ findings. By the Stanford economist’s accounting, only a quarter of the studies exhibited a spending-to-achievement link[1].

So, does money matter? These dueling economists might say the answer ranges from “maybe” to “probably not.” (more…)

Two recent events provide the opportunity to revisit a couple of recurrent themes in my blogs. The first of these events was the release of the NAEP science results from the 2011 administration. The results were predictable – no significant growth in the number of students achieving at the proficient level. Only about a third of all students tested performed at this level or better. Sound familiar?

The same general pattern was apparent when I reviewed the results from the last NAEP reading and mathematics assessments. And the reasons are also the same. There are no “breakthroughs” in NAEP results because this snapshot assessment program tells us as much about student ability as it does about student achievement. Not all students of a given chronological age will reach the same achievement levels at the same time – particularly when the resources invested per student are essentially uniform. The number of hours of instruction per day, week and year are broadly equivalent across the United States and students are focused on the same relatively narrow curriculum. (more…)

On Wednesday, January 11, Chalkboard Project successfully held its first virtual brown bag as a part of a series of webinars that will focus on relevant news about education issues in Oregon. It was titled, “Educator Evaluation: How it drives student achievement,” and it featured talks from local, state and national policy experts and educators.



Nearly 60 years ago, the court ruling Brown v. Board of Education recognized that “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.  It is the very foundation of good citizenship.” The ruling also made the claim that desegregation would benefit all students and that providing students with inclusive educational opportunities from an early age is crucial to achieving the nation’s educational and civic goals.  Years later, however, we continue to struggle with this issue.  Some people still ask the question: what kinds of benefits stem from a diverse classroom?

As a product of a racially diverse public school system outside of Chicago, I believe that my classroom experience provided me with incalculable educational and civic benefits.  However, I find measuring and identifying those benefits extremely difficult.  While growing up, it never occurred to me that I was actively breaking down racial stereotypes or becoming a more culturally sensitive person.  Instead, I found that being around students and teachers who were different than me was just the norm.  In a way, I believe that that is the overall intended outcome: being comfortable and motivated to participate in a heterogeneous and multifaceted society.  Right?


“The essential question is not, ‘How busy are you?’ but ‘What are you busy at?’”

~Oprah Winfrey

It’s probably safe to say that public education professionals in Oregon have never been so busy.  They have larger class sizes, fewer staff to do more work due to budget cuts, a need to invest time in professional development to keep pace with changing technology in the field, and strong pressure to adopt fundamental changes to boost student achievement.

In a word, they are being expected to continuously improve at a time of historic cutbacks in education funding.

Needless to say, these are challenging times.  But with the third year of Sisters School District’s CLASS grant under way, a significant culture change is evident.  Teachers are operating less in silos, and collaborating across grades and school levels to close gaps in student knowledge.  They are more open to being mentored and evaluated by peers, and see these evaluations as valuable tools for improving their instructional practices.  Student achievement data is posted prominently in the District office and in all teacher lounges, and helps shape what goes on in classrooms.


The following was emailed to Oregon’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Susan Castillo, on 11/07/2011:

Hi Susan – I know you’ve reviewed the most recent NAEP results as have I. The distribution of reading achievement scores for grades four and eight remained essentially unchanged as they have for roughly the last two decades. How can this be? For the last decade, in particular, on a nationwide basis we have spent billions of dollars trying to improve reading achievement. We have spent lavishly on special education, the latest curriculum programs, response to intervention strategies, early childhood literacy programs, staff development programs, technology-based remedial programs – and yet achievement has not improved. Again, how can this be?

The answer is surprisingly straightforward.

In the NEAP results we are seeing the intersection of two controlling variables, differences in cognitive ability among students and the standardization of access to learning.

If you administered a high quality cognitive ability assessment to the same students who took the NAEP reading exam, you would see that the results map to each other to a very high degree. Lower ability students present lower reading achievement and higher ability students present just the opposite.

But if you also overlaid the time provided for learning to these same students you would find it almost identical for all levels of ability – about 6 hours per day for about 180 days per year.

Ability varies (as it always has), yet instruction time is about the same (as it has been for decades). More than three quarters of the variance in test scores can be explained by these factors alone. (more…)

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…)

Ron Smith October 27th, 2011 | Ron Smith

Eyes on the Right Prize

In my last blog, I explained why international comparisons of student achievement like the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) provide an inadequate basis for justifying education reform. At the end of that blog, I suggested that there are other data sources that challenge us to think about a range of changes to public education. I now offer three data-driven rationales for reform.

The three data sets justifying serious consideration of education reform are these: (1) cohort dropout rates, (2) changes in workforce requirements, and (3) dramatic recent changes in the scope and content of the human knowledge base. Let’s consider each of these in order.

The cohort dropout rate describes the percent of students of each high school class who graduate on schedule at the end of the senior year, regardless of when a student leaves school. This statistic has drawn recent interest, as a result of the current ESEA regulations that require states to report cohort dropout rates at the state and school district levels.

The results are of concern, though they have been long recognized by educators. In Oregon, the state cohort dropout rate is about 34 percent, with a range of district rates from 14 percent to 66 percent (for districts with a least 100 students in the cohort). On a national level, the rate is estimated at around 30 percent, though we should be cautious in believing that this statistic is accurate. The national data set is compiled from state data and it is unlikely that reporting standards are identical in every state (though federal regulations should theoretically ensure consistency).

Considered independently, the cohort dropout rate is distressingly high. (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!