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Nov. 13 guest opinion: State must rethink the way it delivers public education

Education chief says the system is not built to meet the needs of all states students


Every student in Oregon deserves a high-quality education and a pathway to a promising future.

I took on the role of chief education officer because I believe deeply that we have a tremendous opportunity before us to reconfigure the way we think about and deliver public education in the state to better support students.Nov. 13 guest opinion

In conversations about education reform, the discourse is often about serving “all” students, but what does that really mean? To me, using the world “all” lumps students into one large homogenous group and doesn’t challenge us to push for understanding about what an individual student or segment of students actually need to be successful.

When we take a closer look, we see that today 35 percent of students in the state of Oregon are from communities of color, are immigrants or English Language Learners. This number is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades. This same group of students is most often not adequately prepared to start school. As a result, they remain behind throughout their educational experience.

Our current education system is not designed to support each student. The future prosperity of our state is dependent on our ability to build a system of education that meets the needs of today’s students. Each and every one of them.

A recent study by True North, a partnership of Oregon Health & Science University, The Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Oregon State University, found that 81 percent of Oregonians cited education as their top concern.

We have good reason to be concerned with a graduation rate of 65.8 percent and lower than 60 percent for students from communities of color. Yet, we also have a powerful vision set forth by the state to fundamentally alter this course for students and put an unprecedented number of them on track for degrees and a promising future.

Achieving the state’s 40-40-20 goal (40 percent of students receive a bachelor’s degree or higher; 40 percent receive a two-year degree or certificate; and 20 percent graduate high school and are career ready) will require us to: shed conventional thinking and “we’ve always done it this way” attitudes; have difficult conversations about what isn’t working; increase collaboration, idea-sharing and innovation across the state; and ultimately change our current system into one that puts students at the center.

As chief education officer, I’m focused on four critical opportunities that I believe will help us in this pursuit:

— Equity: Ensuring that each and every student regardless of circumstance receives a quality education.

— Outcomes: Building a seamless system from birth to college and career that ensures a high quality education for all Oregonians.

— Transitions: Working across the system to better support students during key educational transition points (from pre-school to elementary and from high school to college or the work force) and to driving policy efforts to more effectively move students along the educational pathway.

— Investments: Recommending outcome-driven investments to the governor and Legislature that best support student success.

I believe that realizing the state’s vision for a dramatic increase in achievement for our students is going to call on all of us to play a role. It means working closely with businesses to understand the skills students need to be successful; facilitating opportunities for parents to be increasingly engaged in their student’s learning; collaborating with teachers on curriculum and instruction design; working side by side with nonprofits and other community partners to help keep students on the educational path; and for a continued commitment and investment from the governor and Legislature in education.

You can count on me to listen, to be accessible and to collaboratively bring stakeholders from around the state together in support of students. I believe that affecting change at this scale is possible, but we can’t do it effectively or sustainably without a deep understanding of the unique challenges communities across the state face.

Our students deserve a high-quality education. Each and every one of them. I hope you’ll join with me to ensure we do just that by reaching 40-40-20.



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