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OUS Symposium in Corvallis

OUS Symposium in Corvallis
November 1, 2011

This symposium is a great example of the benefits a public university system brings to our state.

This fall, Oregon’s public universities are educating more than 100,000 students. Beyond that, the research taking place on our seven campuses and at OHSU is driving innovation and job creation we so badly need.

And as evidenced by the crowd here today, our public universities are also leaders in education reform. Our public universities are educators of educators and institutions that can help us reshape our Oregon education system to be more successful, from preschool through graduate school.

That is why we are all here today.

I have called the 40-40-20 goal our North Star, the compass setting that will guide us all. It may be difficult to get there, but together we can translate that aspirational goal into tangible action.

To succeed we must invest in an educational system better designed for the 21st century -- one that integrates early childhood services, K-12 and post-secondary education and training.

The question is not whether we could do a better job if we had more resources—I’ve said before and I continue to believe that our system of public education is underfunded at all levels.

But in the short term, we clearly have to do better with the resources that we do have.

Because Oregon must do better to keep up with our changing world. We want employers to know they can locate and grow in Oregon, and find highly skilled productive employees right here. We want Oregonians graduate ready to contribute to our economy, and we want them to feel confident that they have a career path to reach those family wage jobs. And we envision an Oregon where our per capita income is back up above the national average.
The shortcomings of the current system — for students and teachers — are all too familiar.

But if you look closely, there are signs of innovation at work across the state. At every level, we have educational leaders challenging the status quo, not just doing less with less, but shifting their funding to invest in services, programs and efforts to do better for our kids – no matter how limited the resources.

We see that in early childhood services, where in the last year alone we have increased the number of young children in our early Head Start program by 11 percent.

We see that in our public schools, where many districts have greatly increased their investment in practices such as early intervention, full-day kindergarten, and support for high school students to graduate and go on to college.

We see that in our community colleges and universities, which increasingly are investing in partnerships with high schools to offer dual credit, to offer first-in-their-family students a college opportunity, and to retain students through to graduation.

We have islands of excellence throughout our public education system – now we need to create a culture of excellence across the system.

We need to do everything we can to meet the challenge of doing better with the resources we have during tough times, and laying the stage for doing even more, better, in good times.

The stage has been set with Senate Bills 909 and 253 and the 40-40-20 goals.

At the Oregon Education Investment Board, we are discussing our outcome-based investment strategies, about the use of Achievement Compacts between the board and our educational institutions.

These achievement compacts are not abstractions; they are, in my view, key to our success in teaching and learning and building success for our students.

Those short agreements will define the outcomes we expect for students, given our state investment.

These achievement compacts will embody the tight-loose model. We will be tight on outcomes as investors of state dollars. But we will be loose in providing the flexibility our institutions need to achieve those outcomes – and to achieve better outcomes for all students–no matter their race, home language, disability or family income.

My intent is to have achievement compacts in place by next year – 2012-13 – to establish the first year of the data. In the next biennium, 2013-15, we will be able to measure progress against the outcomes we want for students.

Those school districts and post-secondary institutions that are meeting their goals may be rewarded through increased flexibility. Those who are not will receive support that could include help implementing best practices, peer-to-peer mentoring, leadership and professional development support and capacity building.

In K-12, these outcome measures and achievement compacts will become the foundation of a new improvement and accountability model. Oregon will apply for a waiver within months to replace the punitive No Child Left Behind law with a new accountability system. The goal is to inform, motivate and give school districts and institutions the tools to improve.

Throughout this work, I am asking educators at every level to think of themselves not in silos, but connected to the entire enterprise of education from early childhood to post-secondary, as active participants helping students along on their educational path.

If you work with our youngest students, how well are you preparing them to enter kindergarten ready for school and ready to learn to read?

If you work in our K-12 schools, how well are you preparing students not just to accumulate enough credits to graduate, but with the content knowledge, cognitive skills, academic behaviors and motivation to enter college truly prepared? And how well do your students fare in their careers and colleges once they have crossed the stage and received their diplomas?

If you work in post-secondary, how well are you reaching back down the pipeline. Are you working with our high schools and even younger students to build that college-going culture, to ensure a seamless transition from grade 12 to freshman year, and to help them graduate high school with college credit – perhaps even an associate’s degree – under their belt?

These are urgent challenges – not only because our report to the Legislature is due in 44 days. . . .

I know you feel the urgency, too. In times like these, we have to stay focused on our students. This is their one shot at a high quality preschool, their one chance at earning their high school diploma and their opportunity to gain the postsecondary training and education they need and to launch themselves as adults into their careers. They cannot wait until our economy recovers, or Oregon finally reforms its revenue system. They will never catch up if we leave them behind.

I think this is an amazing point of time, a once-in-a-generation alignment of policy and politics. We get an opportunity to do something profoundly important for our students, and for the entire state of Oregon. This is a great opportunity and we should seize it.

Thank you for coming here today and for participating in the symposium. I look forward to answering your questions, but I hope you will also use this time to share some of the insights you have had today. The outcome of this symposium -- the collective wisdom and experience in this room – will make a major contribution to our work.



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