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Organizational Change

Siletz Valley Schools Organizational Change Evaluation

Change is everywhere, and nowhere is it more prevalent than in our school system. At least it is in the school where I work. Making the change from paper-based assessment testing to electronic-based assessment testing has been a long time coming. The new method for testing is changing the way students are evaluated for the better. Students and teachers alike continue to be affected by this drastic change in testing methods. Administrative staff continues to move forward in applying this new method for evaluating students to ensure they continue to meet the state mandated guidelines for adequate yearly progress. Resistance to change has been minimal at Siletz Valley Schools (SVS) as stakeholders embrace this more efficient method for assessment and feedback.

No Child Left Behind

Back in the 1980’s, education in America hit what could be considered an all time low; at least in recent history. Jorgensen and Hoffmann (2003) pulled information from the 1983 U.S. Dept. Ed., 1983c report to garner such information as the fact that “About 13 percent of all 17-year-olds in the United States can be considered functionally illiterate.” And that, “Functional illiteracy among minority youth may have run as high as 40 percent” (p. 2). With scores consistently declining in mathematics, physics, English, and verbal communication skills, only 40% of graduating students could make deductions from something they’d read. Only 33% of them could solve a marginally difficult math problem, and 80% of them were unable to write a persuasive essay. (Jorgensen & Hoffmann, 2003)

Obviously, something needed to be done. According to Jorgensen and Hoffmann (2003), The Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 (IASA) reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), first enacted by President Lyndon Johnson, in an effort to provide funding for impoverished schools filled with under motivated students. Known as Title 1, this act was designed to help improve education opportunities for students in under-privileged areas. (p.4) However, it soon became apparent that this was not enough to make the drastic improvements required in the American educational system. Something had to be done so that all children, regardless of race, location, or privilege, were guaranteed the right to an effective education.

“On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), which reauthorized ESEA in dramatic ways” (Jorgensen & Hoffmann, 2003, p. 6). Suddenly, accountability was at the forefront, and parents were encouraged to get involved with their children’s education. Funding was tied to performance, and if a school was not meeting Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements, the law required that somebody find out why. Teachers were charged with the task of closely evaluating skills, and then attending to a student’s educational needs in an effort to ensure that all students were given the opportunity to excel. (Jorgensen & Hoffmann, 2003)

Jorgensen and Hoffmann (2003), conclude their report on the NCLB with this fitting epitaph:

Education opens doors to children for a lifetime and leads to their success. NCLB is the engine driving a new era of accountability for every child’s learning journey. Children who are being left behind must be identified and states will have the responsibility to provide the resources to teach every child how to read, to apply mathematics, to study, to learn—to succeed. (p. 7)

Although the NCLB act is not without flaws, when used properly and diligently, schools can take advantage of the muscle behind a program that’s rooted in the belief that excellence in education is the key to a successful future. (Jorgensen & Hoffmann, 2003)

History of Assessment Testing in Oregon

“In 1996, Oregon set standards for student learning, giving teachers and students a common goal” (Oregon Department of Education, ND, p. 1). These standards, used to measure student progress, can consistently evaluate, and assess student progress at a local level, within the school district or throughout the state. These paper-based tests were kept under lock and key until they were administered to students and were kept secure throughout the testing process. Questions were not to be reproduced for any reason, and all testing materials were returned to the Department of Education upon completion. (Oregon Department of Education, ND)

The Oregon Department of Education requires testing of all students in the areas of math, reading, and writing. Science and social sciences are also tested on a regular basis with different students receiving all or some of the tests depending on their grade level. In fact, “Since 1991, the state has required that the Oregon State Assessment Tests (OSAT) be given to every student in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10/11” (Perry, 2003, p. 2). The point of these standardized tests is to create a snapshot of a student’s ability in these core classes to provide personalized assistance in areas where the student needs help. This enables teachers to assist students in the areas where they need it most, and helps the students learn at a pace that is right for them. (Perry, 2003)

History of Siletz Valley Schools

SVS/SVECA is a charter school, a high school, and a Title 1 school. We received charter status in 2003 thanks to efforts made by The Siletz Tribal Community School partnership. When the Lincoln County School Board closed the local elementary school in 2003, they began working to provide “the best education experience for students to live, work, and progress in a diverse society” (Busey, 2009, Para. 1). In that first year, most of the students were Native American. Three-quarters of the students qualified for free/reduced cost lunches, and 24% of the students had a diagnosed learning disability. Student attendance and achievement were at an all-time low. (Busey, 2009)

Things have changed a lot since then, and SVS continues to improve. “The elementary K-8 school met AYP targets under No Child Left Behind for the last three years, and they received a strong rating on the 2006-07 Oregon school report card” (Busey, 2009, Para. 2). Due to the success of SVS, the community reopened the Siletz Valley Early College Academy (SVECA) for high-school students in 2007. Seven students graduated that year, and while SVECA is still suffering from growing pains, the classes are starting to thrive in their new environment. (Busey, 2009)

Systemic Nature of SVS

SVS would be considered an Open organization. Although there is a Board of Directors at the top of the hierarchy, the principal acts as go-between linking the teaching staff and the board. The organization depends on continuous communication with each other, the students, and the community where we are based. Focused on collaboration, we utilize a horizontal design structure where everyone relies on everyone else for information, support, and assistance. The Principal, Bob Lines, is very much a team player who encourages us to utilize the talents we are surrounded with and makes a point of getting involved in day-to-day classroom activities. (Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009)

Taun and Ryan (2000) tell us that the, “systemic organization is not a goal-achieving device, but a goal-seeking system, which regulates itself to adapt to environmental change” (p. 4). SVS is a goal-seeking system. Our common goal, succinctly stated in the following mission statement, found on the SVS Website (2009), is “to create a nurturing environment that encourages a love of learning, motivates students to reach their full potential, and provides opportunities to achieve happiness and academic, social and cultural success” (Para. 3). Through working together with our students, their parents, and our peers, we seek to achieve our goal as effectively as possible.

History of Assessment Testing at SVS

Until this year, assessment testing was completed by filling in circles on a piece of paper, which was then fed into a card reader that deciphered the information. According to Katie Lindstrom (2009), testing coordinator at SVS, these old-fashioned, paper-based tests are cumbersome and inefficient. Not only are they inefficient, but it also sometimes took months before the results were returned to the teachers. This type of testing provided no usable result, and other than proving that the school is meeting AYP goals, they served no direct purpose. (Personal Interview with Katie Lindstrom, 2009)

Candy Spelbrink, the leader of the Title-One Team at SVS for the past six years, said that the old way of testing required at least three full-time staff members who sometimes sat for weeks just listening to children read. She feels these paper tests were ineffective, took way to much time away from teaching and learning, and produced no tangible results. They were inefficient and tended to lock teachers and aides into one task and one student for an extended period. (Personal Interview with Candy Spelbrink, 2009)

The Need for Change

The old testing methods were not helping the SVS staff meet the goals set forth by our Mission Statement. Tests that aren’t returned for weeks or months serve no basis for discovering where a child is having problems in school. Feedback is an essential component of assessment testing because it provides a foundation the teachers can turn to when designing individualized lesson plans for students who learn at different speeds. When feedback is not received promptly, it defeats the purpose of assessment testing because no benefit is gained. (Lindstrom & Spelbrink, 2009)

Not only does this lack of feedback affect the students, but it can also affect the entire school. “Schools that fail to make the required gains for two consecutive years begin facing a series of sanctions. The sanctions worsen each year that schools miss testing goals, culminating with a possible state takeover” (Diamond, 2005, p. 10). We would much rather continue to meet our goals rather than have to go through the disruption that would be caused by a state takeover.

Many of our students have been here since 2003 when the charter for SVS was granted. Children who started in the 6th grade are now graduating, having gone through the tough years of middle school, and on into high school with the same group of peers. They’ve become a family, and it’s important that they stick together. As previously noted, the reason the charter school was founded is that the county shut down the elementary school, so it makes sense that a state takeover would result in the same conundrum. It is essential that we maintain our charter and Title 1 status, so assessment results are crucial in our mission.

The Change Process

In looking at the problem of assessment tests that delivered results too late to be of any benefit, it was clear that changes needed to be made. Of course, change is inevitable in all types of business, and the educational field is no exception. Change is a process, and according to Phillips, Settoon, and Phillips (2008), “Logically, the process begins with identifying why a change is needed, assessing constituent needs, and articulating the goals to be attained.” (Para. 12).

The change needed at SVS was clear enough. There had to be a better way to assess student progress. After all, this is the 21st century. Teachers needed a way to assess student development quickly and accurately, while students needed personalized lesson plans according to their capabilities. These stakeholders were the most important factors to consider when considering and implementing the change from paper-based testing to computer-based testing. “Many academic departments, concerned with providing curricula that are both current and targeted to student and employer needs, are tailoring their curricula to target specific skill sets” (Phillips, Settoon, & Phillips, 2008, Para. 1). By tailoring our curricula to suit individual students, the teachers at SVS are closer to reaching the goals set forth in the mission statement mentioned earlier.

Although it’s been a long time coming, the teachers I spoke with are thrilled about the change to electronic testing. Although there is often great resistance to change, that was not the case here. According to Florence Stone (2005), in her article Making Change from Leadership Excellence, “You need to get buy-in at all levels” (Para. 1). This was certainly the case at SVS as teachers embraced a more efficient way to assess and assist their student through the learning process.

It helps that there was an excellent training process involved in making the decision to implement computer-based testing. Candy Spelbrink tells me that from ideation to implementation took about a year. During that time, she and the other teachers involved researched the new system, went to on-site training at venues where the product was already in use, and even now they continue to utilize the training sources that come with the program. Spelbrink felt there was plenty of time to train, and she felt all people involved were ready for the change when it finally happened. (Lindstrom & Spelbrink, 2009)

Online testing is still in the early stages here at SVS, but the teachers are exciting and enthusiastic about the results. Already they sense it is more efficient, more accurate, and more beneficial to the students. Spelbrink feels the new tests require less planning which saves time for everyone, and the increased productivity frees up both the teachers and the students, so they are able to concentrate on the important aspects of learning. Multi-tasking is at an all-time high, and best of all, teachers can see test results instantly instead of waiting weeks, or months, for them. (Lindstrom & Spelbrink, 2009)

Getting the test results instantly is perhaps the most important benefit derived from the new form of assessment testing. Spelbrink currently utilizes six part-time assistants, each working less that twenty hours per week. Not only has this saved the school money, it also provides for a more personalized atmosphere both during testing and in the classroom. Children are now guaranteed personalized attention, especially when they are struggling through tests, and their grades continue to reflect the improved method for testing. (Lindstrom & Spelbrink, 2009)


Change is simply a natural part of life, and here at SVS, we have wholeheartedly embraced the changes that enhance their students learning potential. Moving away from old-fashioned testing methods and towards 21st century technology has allowed for increased productivity and assessment testing that is now more accurate. Students and teachers alike have embraced the change because they prepared themselves properly, and truly recognized the need for change. By utilizing advanced technological tools while embracing the need for change, SVS continues to meet annual yearly progress assessments, and hopes to continue doing so well into the future.