Our Northwest Matters blog discusses ideas and innovations in education from a Northwest perspective. Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

Steve Fleischman March 13, 2015
I was excited to read Thomas J. Kane’s March 5, 2015 piece for the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings on how to promote improvement in education. He had my attention from the title onwards, “Frustrated with the pace of progress in education? Invest in better evidence.” As someone who has been making the case for more and better evidence and promoting its widespread use in education for...
Steve Fleischman March 12, 2015
Educators and community members often view evaluation in the same way as they think of the work of Dr. “Ducky” Mallard, the fictional medical examiner on the popular TV series, NCIS. While viewers may think that what Ducky does is important—examining corpses to determine their time and cause of death, while searching for clues for the investigators—they also know that Ducky’s efforts are a little...
Jerry Colonna March 10, 2015
Jerry Colonna's blog post kicks off our March series on collective impact—an approach that mobilizes the community to form a long-term and permanent solution to a societal problem. Subscribe to our blog so you never miss a post. As Oregon starts a new legislative session, I am encouraged that public education is a matter of such attention and importance. But, I am also reminded that Oregon’s...
Mike Siebersma March 3, 2015
Last year, we unveiled Success Now!—our new approach to school improvement . Unlike other approaches, the Success Now! framework helps schools focus their efforts and see quick gains in student success while working toward long-term goals and sustainable change. The Mary Walker School District in Springdale, Washington—a town of less than 300 people located an hour north of Spokane—was one of the...
Jacqueline Raphael February 19, 2015
An important feature of Education Northwest’s Success Now! school improvement approach is the development of shared leadership throughout a school. Shared leadership does not minimize the need for a strong principal leader; rather, it adds to “leadership” the concept of creating the conditions for sharing influence, responsibility, and accountability among staff for achieving the school’s goals...
Steve Fleischman February 17, 2015
At the beginning of our second annual Northwest and Pacific Equity Convening , I asked participants to shout out the temperature it had been at home the day before they arrived at our meeting in Honolulu. I wanted to see who came from the hottest and coldest location—to give folks a sense of the range of participants we had at the meeting. Several residents from the Pacific islands shouted out...
Caitlin Scott February 12, 2015
I just finished facilitating one of the most satisfying evaluation meetings of my career. No, I did not present results of outstanding successes or reveal the secret to improving schools. Drawing on materials from the Wallace Foundation , I helped project leaders create a logic model to inform the evaluation activities scheduled for later this summer. The logic model broke down and described the...
Rich McBride and John Welch February 10, 2015
The authors wrote this post on behalf of the Association of Educational Service Districts Network (AESD Network). In Washington state and around the country, educational service agencies—or ESDs, as they are known in our state—play an important role in delivering professional development, financial, and administrative services that school districts might not be able to provide efficiently on...
Nanci Schneider February 5, 2015
A parent once asked me where I had gone when I was no longer a principal at his neighborhood school. I replied that I was working in school improvement. He said, “That’s great! Our playground needs more stuff to play on.” That would have been an easy fix. Instead, I chose the simple task of school improvement—a term that at its core means increasing student learning. What I do is manage a network...
Ashley Pierson January 29, 2015
This blog post examines ways education leaders in Oregon are working to address the problem of rural students struggling to get a head start on college while still in high school.
Kyle Cole January 22, 2015
As the director of Oregon State University’s Precollege Programs , I was naturally disappointed when I had to turn down a request by the I Have a Dream Foundation (IHD) in 2012 to “adopt” one of their classrooms at Alder Elementary in Portland. Adopting a high-need classroom fits perfectly within our mission to inspire Oregon’s youth to pursue higher education and help them understand how to...
Sarah Frazelle January 20, 2015
The idea for the early warning system (EWS) work came out of a meeting I had with superintendents and other leaders from the AA districts of Montana—the seven largest districts in the state. What I heard over and over was, “We have students in our districts who are struggling, and we’re providing those students with interventions. We think they’re working, but we really have no concrete evidence...
Michelle Hodara January 15, 2015
For many Americans, high tuition costs are a primary barrier to attending college and earning a postsecondary credential. President Obama’s new plan to make community college tuition-free seeks to alleviate this barrier, but the plan is not just about working with states to provide a more accessible college education. America’s College Promise proposal also expects community colleges to adopt...
Caitlin Scott January 13, 2015
In my previous job as a teacher of students with disabilities, I often wished I had more time with my class—more time for quiet reading, more time for raucous games, more time to connect lessons to the real world. In short, I wanted more time for everything in the curriculum to sink in and take root. Now, as an Education Northwest researcher, I know that expanded learning time is not just...
Nettie Legters and Christopher Mazzeo January 8, 2015
It’s a new year, a time when many of us resolve to be healthier and happier. This typically involves making changes, like becoming more physically active, giving up smoking, or learning how to be a more effective parent. Then, despite our goals and plans, we inevitably encounter the very human experience of the divided self. We may believe, even know, that change will produce more of what we want...
Steve Fleischman January 6, 2015
Whenever I get together with my fellow members of Knowledge Alliance , we spend time discussing how research, evaluation, and data use can further support the improvement goals of state education leaders. Daily, staff from our nearly 20 member organizations help apply research and data to address educational challenges ranging from improving early-childhood education to increasing postsecondary...
Charles McGee December 29, 2014
I recently reminded supporters of the Black Parent Initiative (BPI)—a community-based, “culturally specific” nonprofit in Portland that I co-founded—that their actions empower a parent just down the street, protect a child who sits next to theirs in school, and make the community in which we all live stronger. Madeleine Leininger, a nursing expert, defined culturally specific organizations as...
Theresa Deussen December 18, 2014
So much of the discussion on English language learners in U.S. schools focuses on what they don’t have (for example, academic English) or what they haven’t been able to do (such as graduate in rates comparable to proficient English speakers). These are real problems that deserve our attention. But, sometimes it is important to turn around the conversation and talk about what English learners can...
Kendra Hughes December 3, 2014
Our work as the Region X Equity Assistance Center (EAC) covers more than just the five Northwest states and Hawai’i. It also covers quite a bit of the Pacific, including American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Kosrae, Yap, and Pohnpei). Our EAC helps K–12 public schools become safer and more...
Claudia Rodriguez-Mojica November 19, 2014
In the classroom, the ability of students to provide explanations while talking to the teacher is an important skill. I looked closely at what English learners are able to do with their emerging English in a school setting while I was working on my dissertation in California. Among my findings, I found that when situations called for students to provide an explanation, the teacher wasn’t always...
Hella Bel Hadj Amor November 6, 2014
When you approach a district with a request to conduct research or receive data, you probably won’t be the first. Districts are likely to have a process for managing requests, especially districts like DC Public Schools where I used to manage this process and everyone wants to do research. The request process is not in place to bug or discourage you but to follow laws and regulations. (Heard of...
Hella Bel Hadj Amor November 5, 2014
When I led the data and research request process at DC Public Schools, I heard a range of arguments from researchers who wanted to conduct research or receive data. Some were funny, others outrageous. That’s why I am writing an introduction on how to do this right. Believe it or not, doing research in a school district is not primarily about researchers. The best way to start is by thinking about...
Jason Greenberg Motamedi October 22, 2014
English learners entering high school have to learn both English and grade-level content to begin accumulating credits to graduate. Unfortunately, in many cases, English language development courses do not provide the necessary credits. So how are students supposed to graduate if their required classes don’t count? Highline and Seattle Public Schools had a solution to this problem: Give kids...
Michael Magone October 8, 2014
As most folks know, Montana is geographically large. As a result, it’s not always easy to attend conferences across the state. For that reason, many districts provide practical and closer-to-home options for employees to obtain training to fulfill their required in-service hours. Several years ago Lolo School District, a small district 10 miles outside Missoula, launched the “book discussion”...
Steve Fleischman October 1, 2014
Have you seen The Maze Runner ? Here is a spoiler alert. I have not, so don’t read any further if you’re looking to learn more about this popular movie or book series. Sorry. However, hearing about the movie reminded me how much the effort to improve low-performing schools feels like trying to get through a maze. We know what we want at the other end of school improvement: students who can...
Nancy Henry September 24, 2014
As a former teacher, I often run into adults I taught years ago when they were children and marvel at what they’ve achieved. Sometimes my mind scrambles, though, to square the confident, accomplished person in front of me with the child who struggled to write an expository paragraph or make sense of a reading. Why do some young people overcome initial challenges, do well in school, and go on to...
Danette Parsley September 17, 2014
Do you all remember the classic “Now & Later” chewy candy? After having gone many years without popping one of those tasty morsels in my mouth, I thought about the candy as I began to write this post about Education Northwest’s school improvement approach, called Success Now! In this data-rich era of accountability, schools are increasingly called upon to zero in on improving classroom...
Bill Keim September 10, 2014
In education, we are always hearing about research that points out a strong negative correlation between poverty and student achievement. In other words, the greater level of poverty, the lower the level of achievement. That’s not always the case. As I pointed out in an article for the WASA Hotline newsletter and on my own blog , there is good news in Washington state’s recently released...
Claire Gates August 27, 2014
When I started at Education Northwest, I never imagined I would be making trips to Pacific islands to lead math workshops. I made my third trip this past July to the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) along with my colleague, Malkeet Singh , to do a series of four-day workshops. In our first two trips to CNMI, we worked mainly with middle and high school teachers, but this time, the...
Steve Fleischman August 13, 2014
Like many educators, I try to take time in the summer to reflect and recharge. For many of you, a new school year is about to begin—or already has. For others, the summer break will last just a few more weeks. I know that when I taught, this was when I asked myself, “How can I do better by my students this year?” It’s a tough question, because great teachers are only one of the many things...