Aiming for a cohort of 50 district administrators, Chalkboard Project launches its school leadership initiative with 71 participants, thanks to overwhelming interest and demand among existing administrators. Leading for Learning—a two-pronged initiative focused on instructional leadership and a shared commitment to equity—will begin by working with superintendents and other district administrators who supervise principals. For the second prong, currently in the design phase, Chalkboard will partner with one or two nationally accredited institutions to pilot new approaches in administrator licensure preparation programs for teachers aspiring to enter school administration.
“We are impressed with the caliber of the program’s participants,” remarks Frank Caropelo, vice president of education policy at Chalkboard Project. The 71 participants represent 31 districts across the state, and 48 focus and priority schools. These leaders are responsible for 41 percent of Oregon’s K-12 students, 40 percent of who are students of color. “Ranging from large, urban districts such as Portland Public Schools, to small, rural districts such as Jewell School District, our reach is truly statewide,” adds Caropelo.
Starting in January, participants embark on an 18-month training that combines seminar- and school-based training with an intentional focus on closing achievement gaps. The training—provided by the nationally acclaimed Center for Educational Leadership from the College of Education, University of Washington—will emphasize the skills needed by principal supervisors to develop in the principals with whom they work. “There’s a new set of skills that must be mastered when one shifts from leading a school to leading leaders of schools,” Caropelo explains. Effective principals prioritize their time to improving what happens in the classroom. Through coaching teachers in the classroom, working with staff to respond to student assessment data, and managing human capital, principals become a key lever in school improvement. Effective principals are highly visible in their schools. They provide useful feedback and ensure high-quality professional development resulting in strong school cultures characterized by support, trust, and continuous improvement. They lead through an equity lens to develop and advance culturally responsive practices and close achievement and opportunity gaps. “It is the central office’s responsibility to ensure these practices permeate all schools,” emphasizes Caropelo.
Recognizing the urgent need for strong and effective leadership, Chalkboard commissioned the Distinguished Leaders Council, a 16-member group of distinguished school leaders, to develop recommendations based on national research, best practices, and a candid appraisal of Oregon’s current practice of the principalship. The training program is built on the framework and recommendations put forth by the Council. Foundations for a Better Oregon/Chalkboard Project is investing nearly $500,000 to jumpstart Leading for Learning by covering the cost of design and training for the first cohort of participants, and by designing the program for aspiring leaders. “We are investing significant funds to accelerate improvement in school leadership, but we expect the state to take the lead in funding something that is so critical to raising student achievement, “ says Sue Hildick, president of Chalkboard Project and Foundations for a Better Oregon.
Full implementation of both programs will require additional state funding. “Strong leadership is imperative as we improve our education system to increase student outcomes. School and district leaders must be equipped with the necessary skills and training in order to accomplish our state’s goal of 40-40-20 by 2025,” says Rob Saxton, deputy superintendent of the Oregon Department of Education.
About Chalkboard Project
Chalkboard Project is an independent education reform organization dedicated to making Oregon’s K-12 public schools among the best in the country. We are funded by a consortium of Oregon’s leading philanthropic foundations with a central belief that expert research is essential to identifying policies and practices that improve outcomes for students. Launched in 2004, Chalkboard is the first initiative of Foundations for a Better Oregon (FBO). FBO founding foundations are: Meyer Memorial Trust, The Oregon Community Foundation, The Collins Foundation, The Ford Family Foundation, JELD-WEN Foundation, and The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.