In 2005, faced with education outcomes that did not match our state’s goals, six Oregon philanthropic foundations came together to explore how they could better support public schools and in turn strengthen our state. Oregonians were invited to public meetings to talk about what they wanted for their schools and responded to surveys online and by phone. Among a wide range of opinions, several key ideas rose to the top: a desire for more transparency about how school districts spent public funds; a better understanding of how schools were doing comparatively; and a plea for classroom teachers to be better supported in their work. The foundations launched the Chalkboard Project to address these challenging but critical issues.
In its early days, Chalkboard worked with partners across the state to advocate for the revival and revision of a statewide mentorship program for new educators, published several key research reports and best practices papers, and launched a data website, Open Books, to add to the public’s understanding of what was happening in Oregon schools.
To accelerate progress, Chalkboard began to invest in pilot project in school districts throughout the state that it believed could move the needle locally and provide proof points for future advocacy. Through pilots such as the CLASS Project and TeachOregon, Chalkboard built relationships in a number of school districts and saw both the tremendous impact of working locally and the challenge and opportunity of translating that work to statewide impact.
Fourteen years later, much of Chalkboard’s work has been adopted into state policy and is now managed by the Oregon Department of Education. We have seen outcomes improve through our efforts with districts, successfully changed policy at the state level, and learned many important lessons. But on the whole, our state has not moved as far or as fast as we had hoped. Our vision had been to make Oregon’s public schools among the best in the nation, and we are still far from that goal. Perhaps most troubling, the past 14 years have highlighted broadly the unacceptable disparities that exist for students of color and for rural communities. In short, there is still significant work to be done.
What comes next? Chalkboard remains deeply engaged in making sure educators are supported to do their best work in every district across the state. Many of the state-level supports we advocated for are now stewarded by the Educator Advancement Council (EAC), a state council of educators and community charged with investing in a statewide system of support for educators. We strongly support the EAC’s core beliefs around centering local needs, elevating teacher voice, and using inclusive process to ensure that supports for teachers are meaningful and effective. Through the 2019 legislative session, we will continue to advocate for resources and structures that allow the EAC to operate as an effective and robust system of supports for all educators.
In the coming year, we are also actively seeking, building, and renewing partnerships with organizations and leaders across the state who share our commitment, values and beliefs. We want to start by launching an engagement process with our partners to ensure that our internal reflections align with those of community, identify common values and vision, and imagine what roles Chalkboard could play in the future. We welcome your perspective, input and ideas, so please reach out to Executive Director Whitney Grubbs, firstname.lastname@example.org, or any member of our team to share.