MMT's Affordable Housing Initiative aims to preserve and increase Oregon's supply of quality affordable housing and to help low income renters achieve stability and self-sufficiency.
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MMT's Affordable Housing Initiative aims to preserve and increase Oregon's supply of quality affordable housing and to help low income renters achieve stability and self-sufficiency.
MMT invested nearly $17 million in support of Quality K-12 Public Education between 2003 and 2010. The aim of this initiative is to improve the quality of Oregon's K-12 public schools and to close the achievement gap and raise graduation rates and college or work readiness for high school students across the state.
This Initiative has funded Chalkboard Project since that project began. Previously, MMT supported Oregon Small Schools Initiative until it ended in 2010.
The Chalkboard Project is a non-partisan nonprofit working to unite Oregonians to make our K-12 public schools among the nation's best and to create a more informed and engaged public that understands and addresses the tough choices and trade-offs required to build strong schools.
Chalkboard combines independent research with the opinions of Oregonians, designs and implements pilot programs to test promising practices and convenes a neutral, independent discussion about educational practices and policies.
Meyer Memorial Trust has historically been a strong supporter and funder of public education and related programs, and we expect to continue to be a leader in improving K-12 education in the state. In 2003, budget shortfalls prompted some school districts in Oregon to announce schools would shut early – several weeks early in some cases. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau quickly made Oregon schools a national joke when he featured these events in his Doonesbury comic strip. During that crisis, leaders of Oregon's largest foundations stepped forward to take collective action, combining their resources to strengthen public education in Oregon by forming Foundations for a Better Oregon. The Chalkboard Project is the sole project of Foundations for a Better Oregon. Current FBO members include Collins Foundation, The Ford Family Foundation, JELD-WEN Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, The Oregon Community Foundation and James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.
Chalkboard explains why it selected its approach:
"Oregonians are clearly interested in changing their schools for the better. Tens of thousands of them have told us so directly, and helped us establish priorities. We've found where those priorities align with research that shows us how we can invest time and resources to best create change. Chalkboard is independent and non-partisan, and our proposals are heavily backed by research about what will work and what Oregonians want. That matters to legislators and other leaders, and we already have seen a statewide conversation shift from how much money schools should have to how that money should be spent.
"Our research has shown that while adequate funding for schools is important, it's what you buy with your money that is far more important – things like ensuring every classroom is led by an excellent teacher, and making sure every child is a great reader by third grade. If just spending more money on schools solved all problems, Washington, D.C. would have the highest achieving students in the country. It's just not that simple.
"Another important factor to consider: Oregonians are deeply divided on school funding. Just over half of citizens think schools need more money, while at least 40 percent believe schools already have all the money they need and just need to spend it more efficiently. There is just no agreement about what "adequate" funding is.
"Without question, Oregon needs a more stable school funding system, and we've promoted proposals for a stronger "rainy day" fund and a per-student spending guarantee to help us get there. At some point, Oregon will need new revenue to become a top 10 school system, but the conversation can't start there. The public first needs far more assurance that they are getting the most out of their current K-12 investment. They need to see that targeted investments in helping young children learn to read and keeping talented young teachers in our school system are paying off in higher student achievement. Only then will they be ready to talk about more resources for schools."
Chalkboard's primary focus has become working on teacher effectiveness because research shows that having a highly effective teacher in every classroom is the most important factor in raising student achievement. The CLASS Project, its largest initiative to date, aims to put research into practice through better classroom instruction, more successful teachers and higher student achievement. CLASS (Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success) focuses on four components of effective teaching to raise student achievement: Expanded Career Paths, Effective Performance Evaluations, Relevant Professional Development and New Compensation Models.
In addition to the CLASS Project, Chalkboard has a number of other ongoing activities:
Many of Chalkboard Project's activities include all K-12 public school districts in Oregon. The CLASS Project is taking place in districts in Sherwood, Tillamook, Forest Grove, Salem-Keizer, Bend-LaPine, Redmond, Sisters, Crook County, High Desert ESD, Lebanon, Oregon City and Vernonia.
2004 to present.
CLASS (Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success) Project
Kim Marshall – from New Leaders for New Schools, a non-profit that recruits, trains, and supports urban principals – provided training for 150 district administrators, teachers and other education leaders in February. His nationally-regarded coaching focuses on improving teacher supervision and evaluation and the effective implementation of interim assessments. His training provided practical ways to evaluate teacher performance as well as tools that could easily be implemented in CLASS/TIF districts. Kim offered a broad context for the need to reframe the traditional clinical supervision model.
Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) Grant
The $13.2 million federal grant Oregon received to explore career and compensation reforms has been increased by $11.2 million for a total of $24.4 million. Three Oregon educators attended the TIF Technical Assistance Meeting, Washington DC in February. Chalkboard has been made aware that the US Department of Education intends to fund a fourth round of TIF this Spring. We will not know the eligibility requirements or priorities until the notice is published, but Chalkboard is monitoring this closely and assessing our ability to apply.
Teacher Preparation Research
Kate Dickson is researching teacher preparation issues and will provide a white paper to the Chalkboard board of directors that reviews research on teacher preparation, best practices and how teacher preparation links to the recruitment and retention of effective teachers, particularly in relationship to the vision and goals of the CLASS Project.
In support of this work, Chalkboard hosted Linda Darling-Hammond, a nationally recognized professor of education at Stanford University, on February 6th to discuss the significance of teacher preparation in a teacher’s career and the qualities of effective teacher preparation programs. Dr. Hammond also provided an overview of the current state of teacher preparation and highlighted leadership and policy strategies for improving the quality of preparation programs. We are very encouraged by the initial research, conversations, and stakeholder responses about exploring key leverage improvements for teacher preparation that would particularly be aligned with strategies to strengthen and expand the teacher effectiveness model for CLASS school districts.
After initial hearings and work sessions, Senate Bills 252 and 290 have gathered support and are getting closer to becoming Oregon policy.
Support for the Oregon Mentoring Educators Program for new teachers and administrators continues to be strong. The Governor's budget has funded the program at $3.89 million.
The Professional Development Clearinghouse, which received initial funding in 2009, is expected to see continued funding to bring high-quality professional development to districts across Oregon.
The issue of an appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction has been heard on both the House and Senate side. We testified in support, along with our partners from COSA, Stand for Children, OBA and others.
Sue and Dan traveled to Washington DC in early March to meet with a series of key stakeholders from the Congress, federal agencies and national organizations. In addition, Chalkboard signed onto a letter with other members of the Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network expressing key design principles for the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act: increase local flexibility, spur innovation, reward success and ensure transparency and equity.
Shared Business Services in Yamhill County
Chalkboard has embarked on an assessment of the IT capability and cost across seven school districts in Yamhill County. The review will be conducted by ECONW and will be completed by June. In addition to the assessment, it will provide recommendations for cost-savings models for on-line learning options that we believe will be instructive statewide.
Streamlining Business Practices in Central Oregon
After an initial study by Chalkboard Project in 2010, several school districts in central Oregon have combined business services to save money. The superintendents of High Desert ESD, Sisters, Redmond and Crook County have announced plans to share services in special education, human resources, information and instructional technology, maintenance and other business services. They expect to save more than $460,000 over the next school year.
Communities of Color
Working with the Collaboration Committee of the Portland Children’s Levy, we assisted in bringing forth proposals from the Black Parent Initiative and the Latino Network for funding to conduct parent advocacy trainings. Each organization was funded at $12,500 – approximately half of their requested amount. Chalkboard has agreed to add an additional $5,000 to each organization to help broaden the training to include issue advocacy and to pay for planning and transportation costs for a joint lobby day in Salem during the current legislative session. Chalkboard staff also recently worked with Eduardo Angulo of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality to translate our “Conditions Report” into Spanish and to distribute it to his parent network (over 1000 members). Staff also participated in the Oregon Latino Agenda for Action (OLAA) post-Summit Salon on January 26th, which focused on the next steps for the organization development of OLAA.
Evaluation of FBO/Chalkboard Project
All evaluation documents are completed and we are working with the Kellogg Foundation on a distribution plan.
Teacher Incentive Fund Grant. Chalkboard and a consortium of seven Oregon school districts were awarded $13.2 million from the federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) to support the local design and implementation of CLASS (Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success). Participating districts are Albany, Bend-La Pine, Crook County, Lebanon, Oregon City, Redmond, and Salem-Keizer. The Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Leadership Network are project partners.
Participating districts will define effective teaching based in part on multiple measures of student achievement, and then redesign evaluation and compensation to recruit, reward, and retain effective teachers. Districts will design and integrate new career paths, professional development, performance evaluations, and compensation models. Bend-La Pine and Albany will take part in a national evaluation of the TIF grants.
The McMinnville School District was awarded a separate $6.7 million TIF grant. Chalkboard hopes to work with McMinnville to share information and opportunities as work under the grants moves forward.
CLASS Outcomes Update. Two years after implementation of CLASS, the Tillamook and Sherwood Districts have seen significant increases in the number of students meeting or exceeding benchmarks on State reading and math tests. For example, the increase in Tillamook students meeting or exceeding the math and reading benchmark was nearly three times higher than the increase for the state as a whole. In 2009-10, Sherwood’s meet/exceed rates were between six and seventeen percentage points higher than the state average, depending on grade and subject.
Evaluation. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has funded a two-part evaluation that document the results of Chalkboard’s civic engagement efforts in 2007-09 and lessons learned from its philanthropic collaborative as well as a prospective evaluation model that focuses on future opportunities.
New Staff Members. Bev Pratt, has joined the Chalkboard team as project manager for the TIF grant. A long-time Oregon educator, Bev taught math in the Salem-Keizer School District for many years. More recently, she worked in the Oregon Department of Education coordinating federal grants and leading the Oregon Mentor Project. Abby Block is a new Chalkboard intern. Abby studied sociology and education at Colorado College and brings a strong interest in education policy to her role. Sally Jansen is replacing John Hamilton as Chalkboard's finance specialist. John Hamilton is retiring and plans to spend half of the year in sunny Arizona. Sally's experience includes serving as the Controller for Camps Lumber & Building Supply, Inc. and Columbia Sportswear.
Press Release from Chalkboard Project:
Oregon CLASS districts granted $13.2 million in federal dollars
Teacher Incentive Fund provides for the implementation of career and compensation reform
PORTLAND-September 23, 2010-- A consortium of seven Oregon districts was informed today that it will be granted a total of $13.2 million dollars from the federal Teacher Incentive Fund to locally design and implement career and compensation reforms.
Each district is participating in the CLASS Project, an initiative that provides school districts with a framework to integrate expanded career paths, effective performance evaluations, relevant professional development and new compensation models. CLASS is an initiative of the Chalkboard Project, an independent, non-profit organization working to strengthen education in Oregon.
"In the four years since the development of the CLASS Project we have seen outstanding results both in terms of student achievement and in the degree to which teachers feel engaged in their own continued learning and in school improvement efforts. The US Department of Education recognizes the importance of supporting effective teaching and we believe we have a model that works," said Sue Hildick, Chalkboard Project President.
The full TIF grant will provide funding for five years. Today, the districts were awarded the first two years of funding with the rest of the funding contingent on congressional action.
Each of the seven districts will spend a year planning during which time they will make such decisions as: how to take multiple measures of student achievement into account as one part of a meaningful evaluation; how to recognize and reward effective teaching; how to provide leadership opportunities for educators; and how to integrate their efforts to best serve students.
The participating districts are: Albany, Bend- La Pine, Crook County, Lebanon, Oregon City, Redmond, and Salem-Keizer.
"The TIF funds will allow Bend-La Pine to continue our focus on excellence and to become an example for the state and the country of how to have tough, meaningful conversations about teaching and learning. We plan to implement reforms that honor effective teachers for their work, create a culture of continuous improvement, and ensure that we are serving all students to the best of our ability," said Ron Wilkinson, Bend- La Pine School District Superintendent.
More information about the CLASS Project can be found at www.educators4reform.org.
CLASS (Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success) Project
Chalkboard submitted two major federal grant applications and a federal appropriations request in support of the CLASS Project:
Chalkboard’s Kate Dickson was invited by the National Governors Association (NGA) to New Orleans to present at a May 13th academic policy institute for a six-state consortium. Kate’s presentation of CLASS, and the resulting interest, garnered a second invitation to a Rhode Island session of 250 teachers and administrators gathered to discuss education innovation and reform.
On May 26th, each of the 12 CLASS school districts sent a team of 10-12 people to Salem to participate in an all-day gathering to share their points of progress, successes, and challenges. The event highlighted innovations occurring in each district and fostered shared learnings through table-talk discussions on CLASS design principals and components.
All 12 of the CLASS school districts submitted final reports for the 2009-10 year of their CLASS Projects on June 15th. Based on the findings of a thorough review process conducted by Chalkboard staff and external experts, the board of directors will receive a set of recommendations at the July board meeting on next steps.
Chalkboard Project Messaging & Outreach
In coordination with the submission of the TIF grant application, Chalkboard launched ChalkBloggers, a blog intended to provide the latest news and opinions on education in Oregon with the hopes of sparking meaningful, solutions-based dialogue. The blog is a key element of Chalkboard’s overall strategy to include the voice of the teacher in the debate on education in Oregon and evidence of Chalkboard’s increasing social media presence.
The Chalkboard Project impact evaluation committee met with Organizational Research Services (ORS) and a W.K. Kellogg Foundation program officer on July 8th to conduct a Learning Circle on early findings and themes emerging from the two-part evaluation of Chalkboard’s civic engagement efforts (retrospective and prospective). Evaluation procedures have included a variety of interviews (pulse, bellwether, and stakeholders), a rating of policymakers, and an in-depth media analysis. A second Learning Circle is likely to happen in Fall 2010, prior to a final report of findings in November 2010.
In the CLASS (Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success) Project, all 12 participating school districts net their most recent deliverables. Highlights include:
On May 26th, all twelve districts gathered for a day-long meeting to hear about each other’s work, plan for next steps and celebrate their progress.
Chalkboard introduced the Oregon Teacher Effectiveness and Career Enhancement Initiative (OTECEI) in the February short session, using the bill as a means to begin a conversation that will continue throughout the interim and create solid groundwork for the legislation in the 2011 session. OTECEI sets the statutory structure for a grant fund for school districts across the state to implement programs that:
The U.S. Department of Education has released the final priorities for the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) and the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant programs. Chalkboard has submitted comments on these priorities and has begun the process of crafting a strong grant proposal in support of the CLASS Project. We are generally encouraged by alignment of CLASS with the grant priorities and requirements. The i3 grant application was submitted on May 11th and the TIF grant application will be submitted the first week in July. Funding decisions for both grants should be made by Fall 2010.
March marked the beginning of Chalkboard’s media tour on CLASS and the first year of results. We focused on CLASS communities with multiple events around the state, including several OCF Leadership Councils. CLASS Project materials include an executive summary of the three district CLASS Scorecards and prospectus piece that frames the project for both local and national audiences.
Quality Counts Report & Response: Education Week released its annual "Quality Counts" report its grades states on a number of education related issues. This year Oregon received an 'F' in "The Teaching Profession" category. Chalkboard worked with ECONorthwest and the Oregon Coalition on Quality Teaching and Learning (State Partner of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future) to determine whether or not the report accurately reflected the state of the teaching profession in Oregon and to craft a response based on their findings.
The response states, "...Oregon's ranking–at the tail end of the distribution–simply doesn't ring true. Specifically, we find a number of design flaws in both the wording of the survey questions and research methods." However, Quality Counts could help Oregon lawmakers identify areas where the state does lag behind in its support of effective teaching. The report highlights "the areas of employment evaluations and incentives for teacher leadership and performance" as areas where the state has lacked progress.
Early Childhood Advocacy Coalition: Chalkboard is a member of this coalition with Stand for Children, Children’s Institute, Children First for Oregon, Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children, and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Oregon. The group has generated a draft “Early Childhood Policy Framework,” which includes Chalkboard’s K-3 interventions along with our recommendations on professional development, mentoring, and evaluation processes for teachers. The framework also covers early education (P-K) and care, health and child abuse and neglect. The coalition is working together to plan a gubernatorial debate for September.
High Desert ESD Regional Efficiency Project: Chalkboard partnered with ECONorthwest and the High Desert ESD to conduct a regional efficiency study for the High Desert Education Service District. The goal of the study was to see if improvements could be made by the ESD and its four school districts that would yield savings to be used in the classroom. Key findings from the report included:
Closing the Achievement Gap: Chalkboard continues to meet one-on-one with interested stakeholders on possible next steps on specific reforms, including the Oregon Latino Agenda for Action (OLAA), Coalition of Communities of Color in Multnomah County and the Urban League of Portland.
New VP of Education Policy: Dan Jamison, Superintendent of the Sherwood School District, will join the Chalkboard Project as the new VP of Education Policy as of August 1, 2010. Kate Dickson will be leaving Oregon for a year to travel the United States with her husband. She will remain as a strategic advisor to Chalkboard and work with Dan in the coming months to help ease the transition. Dan has already met with positive reviews from our stakeholders, CLASS participants, state leaders and others.
Impact Evaluation: Chalkboard has hired Organizational Research Services to conduct the retrospective and prospective evaluations of our advocacy efforts. ORS will contract with Julia Coffman at the Center for Evaluation Innovation and the Harvard Family Research Project to conduct an external third party review of the designs and products of the evaluations.
Chalkboard Project Advisory Council: Chalkboard had a well-attended and robust meeting of our Advisory Council in late February. Items covered included a presentation by Oregon Department of Education on the student achievement growth model, discussion of the upcoming reauthorization of the federal Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and how to best leverage state policy leadership from the field.
Chalkboard Project will devote 80% of its efforts over the next five years on maximizing teacher effectiveness and will maintain a secondary focus of 20% on education practices proven to drive student achievement and which hold districts, schools, teachers, students, and parents accountable for academic success and sound fiscal decisions. Chalkboard will demonstrate through the CLASS Project a systemic model around teacher effectiveness that will be adopted statewide.
Three Pilot CLASS School Districts - Sherwood, Tillamook, and Forest Grove school districts have been awarded a second year of CLASS Project implementation funds. The districts completed their Year One student achievement scorecards, which include measurable student achievement metrics and baseline data with very promising early indicators of success. These include increases in reading and math student achievement and organizational changes that include greatly improved performance evaluation systems, professional development aligned with student achievement goals, expanded career paths, and new compensation models, including variable pay and career progression pay based on performance rather than seniority. The three districts have made significant progress on their student achievement targets, school improvement plans, and alignment of teacher goals and performance evaluations with the school improvement goals. All three school districts have continued the implementation of their expanded career paths, performance evaluation systems and new compensation models.
Nine New CLASS School Districts - Chalkboard's board of directors awarded a second round of design grants to nine new school districts in July 2009, represented by five applications: 1. Central Oregon Collaborative: Bend/La-Pine, Redmond, Sisters, Crook County, and Deschutes ESD; 2. Salem-Keizer; 3. Lebanon; 4. Oregon City; and, 5. Vernonia.
With these new grants, CLASS now reaches 16% of Oregon's students and 18% of Oregon's teachers.
CLASS Project Evaluation
In addition to the district level scorecards, Chalkboard has contracted with PSU's Center for Student Success and ECONorthwest for an independent and comprehensive evaluation of the project. This will include a uniform scorecard for all of the participating districts, utilizing components of the unique district scorecards. The evaluation is also using teacher surveys, school district self-evaluations, and focus groups conducted over the grant period.
Chalkboard Project is applying for federal funds via the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) and the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant programs. CLASS is well-positioned with a point team, grant writer, and a deep and diverse group of stakeholders that will provide partnership and support in the application process. Chalkboard has also participated in the Race to the Top (RttT) teacher effectiveness working group, with all four components of CLASS woven into the state's grant application. Key leaders in the three pilot districts have been advocating for the CLASS Project at the state and federal level.
Government Relations & Public Policy
Chalkboard has a piece of draft legislation prepared for the short February legislative session that would allow for the creation of a state incentive fund for CLASS-type projects to be undertaken by interested districts (the legislation does not dedicate any state money at this time). If budget issues do not overwhelm the session, Chalkboard believes this legislation could be key in making Oregon's federal Race to the Top grant application more competitive and help bring significant funds to the state.
Reports: PERS & Kicker Reform Updates
Chalkboard re-released our PERS Report in November with an updated memo from ECONorthwest that addresses: 1. Why haven't the 2003 legislative changes kept PERS out of the news; 2. How costly could pensions become to public employees; and 3. What are the policy options to address these higher costs.
Chalkboard conducted best business practice performance audits on school districts in Albany, Beaverton, Eugene, Harney County, Salem and Yoncalla. Additionally, Chalkboard worked to "defund" the Secretary of State's costly review process and facilitated OASBO (Oregon Association of School Business Officials) creating a fee-for-service process built upon the Chalkboard Project model.
Achievement Gap Studies: Building Statewide Momentum
Chalkboard convened representatives of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equity, The Black Parent Initiative, Hispanic Metro Chamber of Commerce, Latino Agenda for Action, Latino Network, Children's Institute, and Stand for Children to begin a definition of measurable objectives for closing the achievement gap over the coming year.
Early Childhood Advocacy Coalition
Chalkboard is a member of this coalition with Stand for Children, Children's Institute, Children First, Oregon AEYC and Fight Crime that is working on a joint policy framework for Oregon covering children from birth through 8 years old. We will be proposing work towards that end, specifically to identify elements necessary for a child's success in that age range and creating a joint campaign to promote the framework. Chalkboard's piece of this work is promoting our early age investments in smaller class size in K-1, reading tutors in K-3, and professional development throughout the early age continuum.
Open Books Website
Open Books added a new section highlighting school districts and the effects of budget cuts on their 2009-10 school year. Chalkboard is currently reaching out to additional districts to tell their story to their communities, especially as we go into the February short session. The site continues to be updated as more current information is released.
Kellogg Funded Impact Evaluation
Chalkboard Project has contracted with Organizational Research Services (ORS) to design an evaluation that is both retrospective, evaluating our civic engagement efforts since the Chalkboard Chronicle was published, and prospective, informing our work going forward on teacher effectiveness and the CLASS Project.
The Oregon Small Schools Initiative was a seven-year, $28 million high school reform effort funded by MMT and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The initiative sought to raise academic standards, close the achievement gap and improve graduation rates through "rigor, relevance and relationships" in autonomous high schools of not more than 400 students. Teachers in these schools team up to provide personalized learning environments and innovative instructional strategies that enable every student to succeed. OSSI is the largest high school reform demonstration project in Oregon history.
Over the past two decades, Oregon students have made significant achievement gains in the lower grades, but improving high school achievement has been particularly challenging. The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research gave Oregon a "lowest-in-the-nation" score for high school graduation (along with 11 other states) because only a third of Oregon students earn a high school diploma in four years. Nearly one out of every two of Oregon's African-American and Latino students do not graduate from high school. Only 1 in 4 Oregon high school students graduate ready for college, and around 50% do not meet 10th grade standards for reading, writing and mathematics.
OSSI is based on the premise that large, comprehensive high schools are unable to meet the educational needs of every student. While comprehensive high schools can provide an excellent education to some students and a good education to others, they leave significant numbers of students inadequately prepared for college, work and citizenship, particularly low-income students and students of color. Three decades of research indicate that small high schools can create conditions in which all students are better able to achieve to their full potential.
OSSI schools have greater numbers of economically disadvantaged students and students of color than those in the state as a whole. In 2008-09, 52% of students at OSSI schools qualified for free or reduced-price lunches versus 37% at non-OSSI high schools. Thirty-five percent of students at OSSI schools were students of color versus 26% at non-OSSI high schools. The initiative provided school and district leaders with planning resources to convert from comprehensive high schools into small schools and to launch new small schools. A cadre of master teachers provided intensive school change coaching. Teaching and learning facilitators were designated change leaders within the schools. Annual conferences were tailored to the specific needs and concerns of community education leaders, including superintendents, school board members, principals, school change coordinators and teaching and learning facilitators. OSSI schools committed to wholesale structural change, rigorous instructional design models and detailed reporting of quantitative and qualitative measures.
Each small school had latitude in designing curriculum, hiring staff and assessing student learning. Numerous influences shaped student experience and outcomes, such as district budgeting practices, which were not targeted by the Initiative. OSSI's work has been geared toward systemic change of high schools on a human scale, first by redesigning school structures, then by supporting professional development and improved teaching practices in the classroom.
Effective small schools take different forms, but are uniformly characterized by "rigor, relevance, and relationships." Key attributes include:
This initiative began in 2003 and ended in 2010. OSSI schools opened in 2004, 2006, and 2007 in 13 districts across Oregon. OSSI coaches worked to help prepare schools for long term sustainability after the Initiative concluded.
As the funding for this project came to an end, Oregon Small Schools Initiative has made available two reports evaluating its results.
The Big Picture on Oregon's Small Schools: The Oregon Small Schools Initiative is a narrative report that traces the evolution of the project from inception to its conclusion in 2010, reporting on student achievement and classroom learning at 34 partner small schools across Oregon.
ECONorthwest completed a Quantitative Analysis of OSSI from 2004 through 2009, which provides an independent, objective analysis of student academic achievement and related measures of efficacy at Initiative schools.
Additional information about OSSI can be found at A Legacy of Student Achievement on the OSSI website.
Submitted by Kathy Campobasso, OSSI Project Director
The primary goal of the Oregon Small Schools Initiative during the 2009-10 school year was to bring the multi-year school transformation project to a successful sunset. Our focus was on three primary outcomes.
We continued to work with ECONorthwest during the 2009-10 school year. The initial report was finalized in April. This comprehensive analysis clearly showed that the transformation of the OSSI schools into small high schools resulted in marked improvements in math, reading, writing, graduation and dropout rates, particularly among economically disadvantaged students. We now have strong evidence that OSSI small schools are indeed closing the achievement gap. In the initial report, EcoNW concluded “this statewide overview suggests that the Initiative has had important successes at improving academic achievement and high school completion for a student population with significant barriers to success.” ECONW will complete a final report by September 1.
In order to align conditions and factors within the schools that contributed to the achievement gains, the OSSI project director conducted a thorough process that included questionnaires to principals and teacher leaders, program analyses, and coach perceptions, observations and conclusions. The process resulted in a preliminary document which points to specific conditions, programs, and practices in the OSSI small schools that we believe have significantly contributed to the improvements as evidenced by the data report. These factors will be studied further in the coming school year and shared with OSSI schools in order to further embed them into existing OSSI schools, as well as other schools that participate in the demonstration sites.
In addition to the data collection already mentioned, we have engaged EcoNW to collect and analyze college-going rates of OSSI students compared to other Oregon students, and to conduct a cost analysis of small schools compared to traditional, comprehensive high schools. Those two studies are scheduled for completion by September 1.
A great deal of time and effort went into updating the OSSI website this year. Even though the project will end at E3, the OSSI website will continue to be available and accessible to our small school leaders and others who may benefit from our tools, resources, and lessons learned. The overall navigation of the website was greatly improved, and much of the previous material on the website was removed, revised, or updated. In addition, several components were added to the website, including a comprehensive matrix of coaching tools, a coaching document, several tools and resources related to equity, the EcoNW data report, and much more.
In order to help schools communicate their data, their successes, and their challenges with their communities, school “showcases” were held in nearly every small school community in Oregon during winter and spring of 2010. Each of the showcases was unique to the particular community, but in each case, leaders from E3, OSSI, and MMT were on hand to share and explain current data trends in our schools and to congratulate the community on the success of their small school(s). Principals and students from the small schools also attended the showcases, and students spoke articulately and passionately about the positive impact their small school had made on their lives. We heard several stories from students who had previously been disengaged from school and who had been on a path to dropping out. The personalization, coupled with high expectations in their small schools, provided the support and the encouragement to not only stay in school, but to excel. Each of the student speakers had a firm grasp of their future plans, which in every case included college.
An electronic survey was administered in May to OSSI principals and teachers. While we anticipated positive results, we were pleasantly surprised by the percentages. For example,
We were also overwhelmed by the volume and depth of the responses to three open-ended questions. Following is a sampling of those responses:
The sustainability of small schools will be severely tested in the coming years. Deep budget cuts could cause communities and school boards to question the viability and value of small schools. It is telling, therefore, that so many districts have made commitments to continue the Teaching and Learning Facilitator positions in their small schools. These were positions that previously did not exist, and they are positions that could potentially be considered expendable. The value of those teacher leaders, however, has been demonstrated and reinforced over and over again. Many superintendents and principals credit their “TLF’s” with guiding the instructional changes in their small schools that have resulted in student gains.
Other evidence of the sustainability of small schools can be seen by the number of small schools that have shown interest in becoming demonstration sites for other schools in the state and around the country. Many of our schools, including A3, the three small schools on the North Eugene campus, and the four schools on the Crater campus, have already hosted site visits for other school leaders. Through these site visits, our small schools are not only sharing their best practices with other educators, they are reinforcing those best practices with their own staff and students. As more and more educators look to the OSSI small schools for ideas and mentoring, the innovations and changes that have taken place in our small schools will be seeded in an even larger network of schools, and the educational expertise of the small school leaders will be respected and in demand.
The Oregon Small Schools Initiative (OSSI) began in 2004 as a five-year, $25 million partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust (MMT). A two-year extension of the initiative funded by MMT will formally conclude in September 2010.
By 2009-10, OSSI schools served nearly 11,000 students, 5.8 percent Oregon’s total high school enrollment. Schools in 13 communities participated in OSSI for at least one year: Beaverton, Portland, Hillsboro, McMinnville, Newberg, Umatilla Indian Reservation, Woodburn, Lebanon, Eugene, Springfield, Medford, Central Point, Klamath Falls. Schools in 12 communities (Beaverton, Central Point, Eugene, Klamath Falls, Medford, Portland, Springfield, Woodburn) are continuing to use small school or small learning communities models. Of the 25 small schools that will continue in 2010-11, one has been open for five years, twelve have been open four years, and twelve have been open three years. By design, OSSI schools serve a higher proportion of economically disadvantaged students than non-initiative Oregon high schools, 58% for OSSI versus 36% for non-initiative schools.
Initiative evaluator ECONorthwest began analyzing student-level data in the summer of 2008-09. It produced its most comprehensive report to date in March 2010. The findings are positive and unequivocal:
The OSSI staff is working with the schools to document specific instructional strategies that account for the positive results. A final comprehensive narrative and data report on the Initiative will be published in September 2010.
It is important to note that OSSI’s positive results have been achieved in the context of a state school system that does not compare favorably to others, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which compares state proficiency standards. In addition, graduation rates may be influenced by “social graduation” practices. However, these realities can be seen as strong arguments in favor of initiatives such as OSSI and of the need for MMT and others to continue to press for school improvement.
A final meeting of the OSSI advisory committee was held on April 6, with the final Report of Progress (ROP) for principals, superintendents, and school board members April 26 in Portland. Public showcases, including Rotary presentations and local editorial board meetings, have been scheduled in small school communities outside of Portland.
A two-year high school redesign process in Portland has determined that students will be best served by neighborhood comprehensive high schools with equal enrollments of approximately 1,200 and substantially identical course offerings. The small schools at the Roosevelt and Marshall campuses will close, although a new small school open to students in the Marshall neighborhood and throughout the district may open. Leadership and Entrepreneurship Public High School (LEP), an OSSI “new start” school in Portland, earned its charter renewal last year. It has been selected by Social Venture Partners for a multi-year engagement that will include cash donations and volunteer involvement.
ECONorthwest will produce a final comprehensive report including 2008-09 graduation data, 2009-10 achievement data and college-going information in September. A final narrative report is in preparation. Foundation colleagues with deep education reform experience from around the country have provided comments and questions that will inform the final report. It is highly likely that MMT will fund an annual update by ECONorthwest for two more years, when all Initiative schools will have been open for five years.
A total of 10 comprehensive high schools and six new small schools in 13 Oregon communities participated in OSSI. Of that number, seven of the comprehensive campuses remain configured as small schools and all but one of the new starts remain in the Initiative. Where the model has been fully implemented, student achievement has risen, graduation rates have increased, and dropout rates have decreased. Students who had not considered college have applied and been accepted.
Schools joined OSSI seeking to improve student achievement levels and graduation rates that lagged state averages. At the end of the 2008-09 school year, it was clear nearly all had made significant advances. For example, between 2005-06 and 2008-09, OSSI schools reduced the percent gap in math from 7.1 to 3.3 below the state average, in reading from 4.1 to 1.2 and in writing from 9.5 below to seven-tenths of a percentage point above the state average. Furthermore, by 2008-09, graduation rates for OSSI schools exceeded the state average by 1.5 percent. In OSSI schools overall, 52% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch versus 37% in non-Initiative schools; 35% are students of color versus 25% in non-Initiative schools.
Most administrators and teachers remain strongly committed to the model. It's common to hear teachers say, "I'm working harder than I ever worked in my life, but I'm enjoying it more - I'm finally doing the work I trained to do." Teachers in small schools collaborate intensely and draw on numerous instructional strategies to meet the needs of all of their students. Classrooms in small schools are "de-privatized"; peer observation and shared learning is the rule, not the exception.
Challenges to the model have most often revolved around the issue of electives. While all high school students are necessarily limited in the number of electives they take, the idea of choice is often paramount in the minds of parents and students. Small schools compensate for fewer course choices by using resources such as community college classes and on-line courses. For example, a gifted junior at a Portland small school was enrolled in calculus classes at prestigious Reed College. Nevertheless, the lack of electives is often used as a wedge issue by those opposed to small schools.
OSSI evaluators at ECONorthwest analyzed student-level data provided by the Oregon Department of Education. Detailed outcome reports for OSSI are available. Education leaders intend to continue to track small schools outcomes to support the efforts of the schools. Click here to view a November 2009 report and a March 2010 report analyzing achievement and graduation data for Oregon Small School Initiative. Request printed copies from OSSI. For additional data, click here to visit SCHOOLS & RESULTS.