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February 2020 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

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

ODE Director Colt Gill 

When Black History Month comes around every February, the natural tendency is to focus on the inspiring stories. We appreciate hearing the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or reading about black leaders like Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier in baseball or Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space. But if we truly want to use Black History Month as a year-round teaching tool, we must share deeply about what Dr. King was fighting against and why baseball had a color barrier in the first place.

Systemic racism in the United States dates back long before the American Revolution. If you haven’t yet read the 1619 Project by the New York Times, I can’t recommend it highly enough. The foundation and expansion of the United States has included oppression of others from the Native American tribes who were here for thousands of years before colonists arrived to those brought here in bondage from Africa and those who came here willingly from places like China. In many ways this colonization continues today.

In Oregon many people often think of themselves in gentle ways, separating themselves from this national history of oppression. But acknowledging the racist policies and practices of the past requires deep work from all of us. The laws in the United States and in Oregon have systematically targeted the erasure of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. There is a reason for this.

Oregon was once a state where the Ku Klux Klan, in white hoods and robes, openly marched down the main streets of our towns and cities. In 1844, our provisional government ordered all black people out of the Oregon country. Today, it is incredible to witness the changing demographics in Oregon schools. Currently Oregon has approximately 38 percent students of color in our schools. Our Oregon story can change in the future, but only with our intentionality.

In the 400 years since global genocidal policies forced African people into slavery here, the country has come a long way. Looking back on U.S. history from today, it appears like a steady progression from the abolitionist movement to the Civil War to important civil rights victories like Brown v. Board of Education. But in reality, it has been small steps over hundreds of years, with families of color carrying the burden of racial subjugation the entire time.

Today, we can see the effects of centuries of oppression and marginalization in institutional racism, stereotype threat, colorblind practices and racial microaggressions in assessment, graduation, housing and health data. It is very encouraging that the way Oregon reached an historic 80 percent graduation rate was through targeted supports. It was through significant gains by resilient students of color that our overall rates met the 80 percent threshold. Graduation disparities are shrinking, but we can and must do better.

And thanks to the Student Success Act (SSA), we are at a turning point for education in Oregon. This new investment in education aims to increase academic achievement and reduce academic disparities for students of color, students with disabilities, emerging bilingual students, and students experiencing poverty, houselessness and foster care as well as other student groups that have historically experienced academic disparities. The hard work being done in communities all over the state to reduce opportunity gaps will continue and expand.

The SSA can provide the resources we need. For these resources to make a substantial difference in outcomes, we must also deeply analyze and change our practices. We need to listen more deeply to all of our communities so we can better understand how to ensure our schools are racially affirming environments; environments that are welcoming and inclusive to all our students and families. We need to keep learning about equity topics like dominant culture, implicit bias and white privilege and fragility so that we can interrupt and challenge these practices with care, intentionality and accountability. We must continue to understand how reading white dominant culture literature that includes words like the n-word impacts our students, and then create learning and affirming spaces to work through such content. Taking on this deep work will allow everyone to use new SSA resources in ways that recognize the assets of all communities and students as well as better meet the unique strengths of each student on their path to graduation and beyond.

So take time this month to read and understand the story of black people in the United States – all of it, good and bad. And then let’s work together to make a new story and provide each of our students an equitable path to follow their dreams for their future after graduation.

Clarifying Expectations for a Safe and Inclusive School Environment

(A reprint of a January message from Director Colt Gill to superintendents.)

At ODE, we are seeing increased reports of harassment based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation in our schools and at our school sponsored events. Nationally and internationally we are regularly hearing or seeing reports of attacks on people as well as religious or cultural sites – acts that are centered on people that fall under our protected classes in Oregon. Locally, our children, families, and staff are impacted by these reports. It is our responsibility to create safe, welcoming spaces for all of Oregon’s children so that we can both teach them and foster their resilience so that they may learn and thrive.

While our students and their families regularly experience or witness harassment based on race, gender, or other attributes in our communities, our state and our nation; we have tools to help prevent and address these offenses in our schools.

Many Oregon educators began 2020 by reestablishing and reteaching classroom expectations introduced back in September. In that same spirit, I encourage you to revisit and reteach expectations, policies and procedures aimed at creating a school community that is welcoming and inclusive to all students, families and staff.

Take time to review and communicate your policies and procedures related to bullying, intimidation, harassment, and discrimination.

Oregon law requires school districts to adopt policies on discrimination, harassment, intimidation, bullying and cyberbullying. Review your policies to ensure you have all of the required policies in place.

Remind staff, students, and parents about the SafeOregon tip line.

SafeOregon gives students, parents, and schools a way to report safety threats or potential acts of violence. Access the SafeOregon tip line:

  • Phone: 844-472-3367
  • Text: 844-472-3367
  • Mobile App for SafeOregon available at the Apple App Store (iPhone) and Google Play (Android)
  • On the web
  • Email
  • Student, Parent, and School resources available on the SafeOregon website

Review your district’s behavior and discipline practices.

Oregon, like other states, disproportionately suspends and expels students of color, students navigating poverty and students with disabilities (source: Oregon Statewide Annual Report Card). Further studies on disproportionate discipline in Oregon can be found on the ODE Website. Use this opportunity to review your district’s behavior and discipline practices for racial equity and institutional bias.

Consider providing professional learning opportunities related to ensuring a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, families, and staff.

Oregon law establishes what many of us know in our own experience to be true – students need a safe and inclusive environment to do their best learning and we create that environment in part through our own example. ORS 339.353(1) states:

The Legislative Assembly finds that: (a) A safe and civil environment is necessary for students to learn and achieve high academic standards. (b) Harassment, intimidation or bullying and cyberbullying, like other disruptive or violent behavior, are conduct that disrupts a student’s ability to learn and a school’s ability to educate its students in a safe environment. (c) Students learn by example.

Please contact Winston Cornwall on our civil rights team with any questions.

Thank you for your commitment to creating a school community that is welcoming and inclusive to all students, families, and staff. I’m proud to partner with you in fostering equity and excellence for every learner.

Reviewers Needed for English Language Arts and World Languages Instructional Materials

The Oregon Department of Education is currently accepting applications of teachers, curriculum specialists and other experienced professionals for the 2020 English Language Arts and World Languages Instructional Materials Review. Please obtain approval from your administrator prior to filling out an application. Individuals selected to participate will receive professional development, travel reimbursement and an honorarium. Please visit the survey links to find out more information on what committee member participation will require. Please complete this survey for the English Language Arts review committee and this survey for the World Languages review committee. An application should take between 15-20 minutes to complete and must be completed by April 29, 2020.

Students Encouraged to Apply for 2020-21 OSAC Scholarships by March 2 Deadline

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission's Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC) encourages all students planning on enrolling in college during the 2020-21 school year to complete the OSAC Scholarship Application as soon as possible before the March 2nd final deadline. OSAC administers over 600 privately-funded scholarships that Oregon students can apply for through a single application. Scholarships are available to support undergraduates, graduate students, new high school graduates, adult learners, rural residents, GED® graduates, single parents, and more.

OSAC encourages students to begin the application early to give proper time and thought to the application’s essay questions and to avoid the heavy site traffic on the deadline dates. The final deadline is March 2, 2020. If students submit their completed application before the early bird deadline on February 18, 2020 at 5:00 p.m., they will be entered for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship from OSAC.

Students can access the OSAC Scholarship Application via the Student Portal. After creating an account and a profile, students can select from scholarships suggested for them or browse the entire catalog. Scholarships based on financial need will require students to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA) in addition to the OSAC Scholarship Application.

More information, including essay tips and an application walk-through video, is available on the OSAC Scholarship page. Students and families can also learn about college financial aid opportunities through and the HECC’s Plan and Pay for College.

Child Abuse Summit Registration

The organizers of the 21st annual Child Abuse Summit are inviting educators to a day of special content geared towards them on Wednesday, April 22. The four day conference starts on April 21 at the Red Lion Hotel on the River in Portland. The Summit is designed to educate professionals on the complex issues associated with child abuse and family violence, to broaden each professional's knowledge base in multiple areas and to increase understanding of the other agencies' roles and responsibilities.

More information on the summit including the agenda, speakers and registration is available online.

Deadline Extended for Quality Assurance and Learning Panel Applications

Make History. Join In. ODE Invites you to submit an application to participate on a quality assurance and learning panelA few weeks ago ODE asked for applications to serve on Quality Assurance and Learning Panels to support the implementation of Oregon's Student Investment Account (SIA). Panelists will be asked to commit one full day (9am-5pm) to review ODE's evaluation of SIA application submissions in person in Salem.

The good news is we have more than enough applicants to facilitate the panels.

But there is more potential in the panels if we can further increase the diversity of who can serve, get an even wider geographic reach, and add to the number of students, families, business and health leaders to join alongside educators and administrators. We'd also like to recruit even more educators of color to serve on the panels.

Here's how you can help:

  1. Forward or customize this message to your own organization, network, listservs or social media while sharing this link for folks to apply. We've extended the deadline to Monday, February 17th given this targeted additional outreach.
  2. If you haven't already, please consider signing up yourself.

A few additional facts that might help you share this information:

  • ODE will be able to support covering travel costs, a hotel night if needed for folks traveling from a distance, parking, and food.
  • For all active educators, ODE can also cover classroom release time to support participation given support from the Oregon Education Association for this process. Thank you OEA!
  • This will be a unique process that can bring increased understanding of the SIA to support ongoing implementation efforts over the next year.
  • For folks who don't serve as panelists this year, we will keep their information and engage them in future years.

This is an incredible time for public education in Oregon, and a turning point for how we, as educational leaders, think about improving the conditions, access and opportunities for young people in public education. Serving on a Quality Assurance and Learning Panel allows educators and other Oregonians from all backgrounds to make history and serve students.

Help us make history!

Applications Open for Early Learning Funds

Young students in classroomFunding opportunities for the Student Success Act’s Early Learning Account are now open. Applications to expand culturally specific early learning programs and infant, toddler and preschool education programs are available on the Early Learning Division Website.

“We are excited to partner with organizations across the state to provide the high-quality early learning experiences that Oregon’s young children and their families deserve,” said Early Learning System Director Miriam Calderon. “This is an important step forward for our state toward reaching our goals for an equitable early learning system – one that ensures each child has the best start in life, and families are supported.”

Among the four applications is the opportunity to become a Preschool Promise provider and increase access to high-quality, publicly-funded preschool programs for children ages three and four. The Preschool Promise program serves children of families who live at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, children in foster care and children from other historically underserved populations. It’s open to community-based organizations, child care providers, public and private schools, culturally specific organizations, business organizations (fiscal agent) and more.

In addition, the Early Learning Account established the new Early Childhood Equity Fund. Distributing up to $10 million in grants, the Fund aims to fulfill a critical need for culturally specific early learning and family support programming. Funds awarded to culturally specific organizations will help launch new or scale existing programs. By fostering stronger partnerships with culturally specific organizations, the fund promotes efforts to close opportunity gaps for children and families who have been historically underserved.

Funding opportunities also exist for Oregon Pre-Kindergarten (OPK) programs and Preschool Promise Fiscal Agents. The deadline for all applications is April 2, 2020. Details on the Request for Application (RFA) process and support resources for applicants are available on the Early Learning Division Website.

ODE In the News

Get Immunizations Updated before School Exclusion Day on February 19

Oregon Health AuthorityFebruary 19 is School Exclusion Day, and the Oregon Immunization Program is reminding parents that children will not be able to attend school or child care starting that day if their records on file show missing immunizations.

Under state law, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified child care facilities must have up-to-date documentation on their immunizations, or have an exemption.

“Immunization is the best way to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles,” said Stacy de Assis Matthews, school law coordinator in the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. “It helps keep schools and the entire community safe and healthy.”

If school and child care vaccination records are not up-to-date on Feb. 19, the child will be sent home. In 2019, local health departments sent 22,547 letters to parents and guardians informing them that their children needed immunizations to stay in school or child care. A total of 4,043 children were kept out of school or child care until the necessary immunization information was turned in to the schools or child care facilities. Letters to parents were mailed on or before Feb. 5.

Parents seeking immunizations for their children should contact their health care provider or local health department, or call 211Info—just dial 211 or go to No one can be turned away from a local health department because of the inability to pay for required vaccines. Many pharmacists can immunize children age 7 and older; contact your neighborhood pharmacy for details.

Additional information on school immunizations can be found at the Immunization Program website.

Watch personal stories on why Oregonians are deciding to vaccinate by visiting OHA’s Facebook page and Twitter. OHA also invites people to join the conversation and share why they vaccinate by using the hashtag #ORVaccinates on social media.

Hear how Sarah’s powerful conversations changed her mom’s long-held views on vaccinations.

Reverend Dr. Currie discusses whether there are legitimate reasons for religious exemptions.

As a parent herself, Dr. Choo talks about why she vaccinates her children.

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