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August 2019 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

A Message from the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, Colt Gill

ODE Director Colt Gill 

The start of every school year brings a feeling of hope and promise, but this year seems even more special than most. On a personal level, this will mark my 30th anniversary in education.

I started teaching in Creswell, Oregon, in 1989. On the state level, this year marks the start of a new era in state funding for education. In November of 1990, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 5 that capped and gradually reduced the property tax rate that could be used for education. So in my 30 years in Oregon as a teacher, principal, district administrator and superintendent I have been part of a system that has been asked to do more with fewer resources each year (with few exceptions).

Now, after 30 years of underinvestment in our schools, Oregon’s leaders made a real commitment to our children, our educators, our schools and our state with the passage of the Student Success Act. When fully implemented, it will mean a $2-billion investment in education, the creation or expansion of 28 programs and a commitment to impacting student outcomes. This will bring us closer than ever to the Quality Education Model for funding.

The Student Success Act is a huge lift for our state and we will be doing work before we get resources and staff fully in place. Equity, engagement and accountability will be the values leading the effort to implement the Student Success Act.

Education equity is the equitable implementation of policy, practices, procedures, and legislation that translates into resource allocation, education rigor, and opportunities for historically and currently marginalized youth, students, and families including civil rights protected classes. This means the dismantling and restructuring of systems and institutions that create a dichotomy of beneficiaries over oppressed & marginalized peoples.

Engagement means state and local education systems must be inclusive of the voices of students and families, especially those historically underserved by our systems. We must also strive to include the voices of the local community, of educators at all levels and of other stakeholders.

Accountability means each district assessing their needs, setting goals to address them and getting input from the public and stakeholders along the way. It also means following up on whether those goals are being met and planning for ways to address disparities between goals and results.

Our students need something different and our educators need support. We are committed to doing this with you. Leading with you. Learning with you. We need educators, community, and districts to lead. We need to know your needs. We will tackle the challenges of implementation together. We will seek grace from one another. We will learn from our errors, iterate on them, and improve together.

In her inaugural address back in January, Governor Brown decried our current support for schools by saying:

“At one time, every Oregonian was proud of our education system. It was a promise that if you chose to put down roots in Oregon, your children would receive a world-class education and have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. But over the past couple of decades, we have failed to deliver on that promise. 

We have not significantly increased per pupil spending since the early 1990s. While other states were able to invest in schools and take advantage of economic recoveries, Oregon has had to rely on state funds to backfill local property taxes. 

How our state provides for the needs of our children is a marker of who we are as a community. After years of underinvestment, it’s going to take more than just additional funding to bring our schools back to a level we can be proud of. 

We have failed our students of color and we have left rural Oregon behind. Now is the time to close that opportunity gap.

Our education system is in desperate need of repair, reform, and reinvestment. It’s like an old house that hasn’t been maintained. The longer we wait, the more it will cost to fix it.”

In that speech Governor Brown put out a challenge to provide more early learning opportunities, reduce class size, add to instructional time, meet student’s mental and behavioral health needs and bring back a well-rounded education.

Now we have an historic opportunity and responsibility to meet that challenge. I’m excited to be on this journey with you.

Welcome Aboard, Scott Nine!

Scott Nine

The Oregon Department of Education has hired Scott Nine as the Assistant Superintendent for our agency’s new Office of Education Innovation and Improvement.

This new office, in collaboration with many at ODE, will steward the Student Investment Account, under the Student Success Act.

As Governor Kate Brown has stated, the Student Success Act marks a turning point for education in Oregon. We can finally invest in an education system that will ensure every single student in our state is on a path to realizing their dreams for the future. The Student Success Act will transform opportunities for every student in our state, particularly our rural students and students in communities of color.

Scott is well positioned to help our state achieve these goals. He’s spent almost two decades organizing, writing, speaking, and learning about what it takes to foster equity for students and remodel public education systems. He has practiced and embodied the values and skills that this role will require. First among them is his understanding of the kinds of teams, culture, strategies, and community that is needed to attend to the promises and dreams of young people, families, educators, and legislators.

He joins us from the National Public Education Support Fund where he has had a significant leadership role advancing the Partnership for the Future of Learning.

Scott taught middle-school English, has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Arizona State University, and has led four start-up projects of very different scales. While his work has been mostly national in focus over the last decade, he has lived in Oregon for the last 15 years.

Scott has earned respect as a student of schools, student and adult learning conditions, and narrative systems change. His significant network and body of work will boost our efforts to foster equity and excellence for every learner through collaboration with educators, partners and communities.

Scott starts on Monday August 12, 2019.

Dealing with Wildfire Smoke

Several parts of the state are dealing with wildfires and the smoke they create. Here are resources for schools and districts to help make decisions on whether students should have activities outdoors, such as recess or sporting events.

The Oregon School Activities Association has provided updated recommendations specific to school athletics in a memo on its website.

The Oregon Health Authority has a Wildfire and Smoke page on its website with many materials including a fact sheet that is available in six different languages.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has an Air Quality page on its website with helpful information and links to air quality measurements around the state.

ODE will continue to provide updates from these primary sources through its Twitter account; please subscribe to these updates from @ORDeptEd.

If you have any additional questions, please contact ODE Sexuality Education and School Health Specialist Sasha Grenier at 503-947-5689.

Nominate a Qualifying Junior or Senior for the United States Senate Youth Program

Applications are open for nominated high school juniors and seniors to apply for the 2019-20 United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP), a once-in-a-lifetime experience for high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service. Two Oregon delegates will receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate studies and attend a one-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. on March 7-14, 2020. Two alternates will receive a $200 cash award.

All high school juniors and seniors must be nominated by their high school principal or designated school official to apply for the program. Applications are due to the Oregon Department of Education by Friday, October 11, 2019. Please view the process requirements on the USSYP webpage for additional details, or contact Jenni Knaus at 503-947-5860.

Presidential Awards Finalists for Oregon Named

The Oregon state selection committee for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) has selected three outstanding secondary science teachers as a state-level finalist in the science award category.

These science educators represent Oregon’s best.

  • Sarah Carlson, Condon High School, Condon, OR
  • Jason Galbraith, Sunset High School, Beaverton, OR
  • Kerryn Henderson, Parkrose High School, Portland, OR

Each state-level finalist is now a candidate for the state Presidential Award to be determined by a national judging panel organized by the National Science Foundation. The teacher selected as the state awardee will be notified officially by the White House. Each state Presidential Awardee will receive $10,000 and an all-expense-paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., where Presidential Awardees will be honored in a variety of recognition events.

During the coming school year, the three state-level science finalists will be honored at a dessert reception awards ceremony at the Oregon Science Teachers Association Conference on Friday, October 11th from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Employment Opportunities

Hiring Principles From Director Colt Gill

Significant education initiatives passed by the Oregon Legislature last session, including the Student Success Act, create an unprecedented opportunity for the agency to add to its talent pool, diversify and provide opportunity for succession planning and career advancement within the agency. I hope you will consider service with the state during this historic time.

It is imperative that we set forward a few key principles as we fill these positions throughout the 2019-21 biennium:

  • Principle 1: Diversity is a critical asset needed to meet our goals.

    • It is the goal of the State of Oregon, “that the percentage of diverse educators employed by a school district or an education service district reflects the percentage of diverse students in the public schools of this state or the percentage of diverse students in the district.” ORS 342.437
    • I believe ODE, as the State’s education agency, must apply this goal to our own hiring efforts. More than 38 percent of Oregon’s K-12 students are people of color and that number is greater for the children and youth served by ELD and YDD. We can and should make great strides in diversifying our workforce. We will not be presented with another opportunity like this in our careers.
  • Principle 2: Internal and external applicants add value to our teams.

    • External staff offer new and different perspectives, skillsets and lived experience.
    • Internal staff offer knowledge and familiarity with ODE systems which can benefit new teams or teams implementing new work in the agency.
  • Principle 3: We must be transparent about our future potential, our current strengths and the challenges we face.

    • This is an attractive and amazing time for candidates to consider working with us at ODE. We should clearly communicate the opportunity they have to make a positive difference in the lives of Oregon’s children and the challenges of working in a large agency that serves the entire state.

Child Welfare Division

The Department of Human Services is also making a significant investment in human capital.

The Department of Human Services is launching an effort to fill more than 300 positions related to the Child Welfare Division. This effort is part of Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order No. 19-03, which is aimed at improving Oregon’s child welfare system to better serve our most vulnerable children and families.

ODE Instructional Materials Announcements

The Oregon Department of Education is currently accepting applications of teachers, curriculum specialists, and other experienced professionals for the 2019 English Language Arts and Literacy Instructional Materials & World Languages criteria development. Please obtain approval from your administrator prior to filling out the application. Individuals selected to participate will receive professional development, travel reimbursement, and an honorarium. Please visit the following link to find out more information on what committee member participation will require. Please complete this survey for the ELA and Literacy committee, or complete this survey for the World Languages committee. These applications should take between 20-30 minutes to complete and must be completed by September 13, 2019.

According to ORS 337.050, the State Board of Education establishes the list of instructional materials to be reviewed. This list is on a seven year cycle, and currently the arts is on schedule to be reviewed alongside World Languages for adoption by the State Board of Education in October 2020. Your completed survey is critical in our recommendation to the Board on whether establishing the adoption schedule should include The Arts. Please complete this survey by end of day September 13, 2019.

Backpack Safety Tips for the New School Year

When students carry backpacks that weigh a quarter or more of their body weight, it has the potential to lead to back problems ranging from soreness to actual injury. The Oregon Chiropractic Association (OCA) is sharing information about safer ways for children to use backpacks:

  • Always wear both straps
  • Choose backpacks with wide, padded straps
  • The weight of the backpack should not exceed 10% of the student’s body weight
  • Backpacks should not hang more than 4 inches below the waist
  • Leave what you do not need in lockers
  • Consider alternatives, such as rolling bags

The National Safety Council has additional information for parents and schools.

For more information, contact ODE Sexuality Education and School Health Specialist Sasha Greiner.

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