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The Chalkboard Project, launched in 2004, is a non-partisan nonprofit working to unite Oregonians to make K–12 public schools among the nation’s best. Chalkboard aims to help create a more informed and engaged public that understands and addresses the tough choices and trade-offs required to build strong schools.
Chalkboard is the first initiative of Foundations for a Better Oregon, a collaboration of six of Oregon’s leading foundations: The Collins Foundation, the Ford Family Foundation, JELD-WEN Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and The Oregon Community Foundation.
For years, Oregon's most influential foundations had been spending millions on education reform by fighting individual battles with isolated results. Frustrated by the slow pace of change that failed to impact the system statewide, they decided to come together to form an independent, nonpartisan, charitable organization for Oregon schools. The Chalkboard Project was founded in 2004 and with the idea that combining grassroots engagement with Oregonians and best practices research would lead to policy to raise student achievement in grades K–12.
In its first two years, Chalkboard collected data nationally and internationally on best practices to raise student achievement. They had more than 400 conversations with citizens in every one of Oregon's 36 counties to learn what priorities they had for Oregon schools. Their June 2005 action plan emerged from this intersection of public will and best practices.
Chalkboard Project is the sole initiative of Foundations for a Better Oregon (FBO).
Foundations for a Better Oregon was formed in 2003 by five of Oregon’s leading foundations: The Collins Foundation, The Ford Family Foundation, JELD-WEN Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust and The Oregon Community Foundation. In January 2008, The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation joined the FBO consortium.
FBO engages Oregon’s philanthropic community in discussions about – and ultimately, solutions to – the many challenges facing Oregon. Member foundations have different individual giving philosophies and priorities, and their participation in FBO allows them to combine some of their resources to effect change.
According to the Statesman Journal, the Chalkboard Project has "emerged as the most trusted voice on education reform in Oregon... by supporting effective, research-based strategies; honoring Oregonians' passion for public involvement; and respecting local decision-making."
Chalkboard began with a focus on three main areas of education: 1) Teacher Effectiveness 2) Accountability and Finance 3) Student Success. In 2009, the Chalkboard Project shifted focus to concentrate primarily on teacher effectiveness. By focusing on teacher effectiveness through the CLASS Project, Chalkboard felt it could make the biggest impact on student achievement in Oregon.
The CLASS (Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success) Project, Chalkboard's largest initiative to date, includes 12 Oregon school districts and engages in work strengthen educator effectiveness and raise student achievement.
CLASS focus on four components of effective teaching: expanded career paths, relevant professional development, effective performance evaluations and new compensation models. Each district participating in the CLASS Project designs the components to meet the needs of their staff, students, and community.
"In the Central Oregon districts’ grant proposal, grant writer Bruce Abernethy highlighted the districts’ development of professional learning communities, in which teams of teachers visit one another’s classrooms to observe lessons and provide constructive criticism.".
CLASS school districts include the original three districts which began implementation of the project in 2007, Forest Grove, Sherwood and Tillamook. In addition, an additional nine school districts were awarded planning grants in 2009 including: Salem-Keizer, Bend-LaPine, Redmond, Sisters, Crook County, High Desert ESD, Lebanon, Oregon City and Vernonia.
Open Books project
The Chalkboard Project's Open Books website features student achievement and demographic data, in addition to updated financial information.
In 2007, Oregon launched the Beginning Teacher and Administrator Mentor Program which supports nearly 1,000 new educators in the most crucial stage of their careers by providing them an experienced educator mentor.
The Chalkboard Project, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), created a website, MentoringEducators.org to provide information and resources for beginning and experienced educators, policy makers, and the general public. MentoringEducators.org is a hub where Oregonians can find an overview of the mentor program, a list of participants and program locations, a mentoring calendar, general educator resources, research and much more.
School business practice reviews
In the summer of 2007, the Chalkboard Project and the Oregon Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) joined forces to launch a pilot project reviewing business operations practices in six Oregon school districts. Their goal: to develop a set of “best practices” that can be shared with districts throughout the state.
School districts involved: Salem-Keizer, Eugene, Greater Albany, Beaverton, Harney County, and Yoncalla.
"Chalkboard leaders want the program to expand, either as a fee-for-service or through state funding as an alternative to the secretary of state reviews now offered. Chalkboard funded the six district reviews, totaling about $105,000."
Achievement gap work
In February 2009, the Chalkboard Project, in partnership with the Black Parent Initiative and ECONorthwest, conducted a study analyzing the Black-White Achievement Gap in Multnomah County. The report found that although the achievement gap does not widen from 3rd to 10th grade, black students enter third grade roughly 1.5 grades behind white students and the gap does not narrow.
In the Summer of 2009 Chalkboard partnered once again with ECONorthwest to study the Hispanic-White Achievement Gap in Oregon. The report, which based its findings on data from the Oregon Department of Education, shows an early and persistent gap between the achievement of Hispanic students and that of their white peers. The gap appears by the time students have reached the 3rd grade and remains fairly consistent throughout their school careers. Other conclusions of the report were: ESL (English as a Second Language) programs may accelerate student learning and Oregon's Hispanic student population faces significant barriers to academic success.
- Our Voices, Our Schools: 2008–2009 Education Report to Oregonians. Chalkboard Project. Winter 2008
- "Chalkboard deserves our support." Statesman Journal. September 8, 2009.
- "Vernonia School District to receive CLASS Program grant." The Daily Astorian. August 31, 2009
- "Improved learning through teacher advancement is this group’s goal." Sheila G. Miller. The Bulletin. August 16, 2009
- "Grant's goal to improve teachers." Mackenzie Ryan. Statesman Journal. August 13, 2009.
- "Chalkboard Project expands Web site."Tracy Loew. Statesman Journal March 5, 2009.
- "Oregon launches educator mentor program Web site." Bend Weekly News. March 20, 2009
- "School Group Gives S-K High Marks." Mackenzie Ryan. Statesman Journal. September 25, 2009.
- "A Deeper Look at the Black-White Achievement Gap in Multnomah County: A Report to the Black Parent Initiative." Chalkboard Project. Black Parent Initiative. ECONorthwest. Winter 2009.
- The Hispanic-White Achievement Gap in Oregon"Chalkboard Project. ECONorthwest. Summer 2009.