In 2005, faced with education outcomes that did not match our state’s goals, a coalition of Oregon's largest philanthropic foundations came together to explore how they could better support public schools and in turn strengthen our state. Oregonians were invited to talk about what they wanted for their schools and 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 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 to bolster public understanding of what was happening in Oregon schools.
Partnering with 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 and successfully changed policy at the state level.
IN PARTNERSHIP, WE HAVE:
Helped amplify teacher voice, highlighted the importance of teacher leadership and autonomy, and worked to ensure policy decisions are informed by on-the-ground practitioners.
Helped pass 12 pieces of state legislation that prioritize quality support for teachers, including expanding mentoring programs, rethinking teacher preparation, and formalizing teacher leadership roles.
Worked hand in hand with over 85 school districts. Our amazing cadre of coaches have built capacity, coming alongside local educators as they engage in the collaborative work of designing, measuring, and continuously improving practices and systems.
Secured over $40 million in state funding available to districts to leverage what works.
Collaborated with other organizations and institutions to publish important research reports including: Black Students in Oregon, The Condition of Education for Members of Oregon’s Tribes, and Rural Education in Oregon: Overcoming the Challenges of Income and Distance.
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. We understand the root causes of inequity impacting student outcomes exist inside and outside school buildings. This belief is driving our evolution.