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February 2021 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

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

ODE Director Colt Gill 

On January 27, the Oregonian published my guest opinion outlining how our focus on equity and excellence in schools is leading to higher graduation rates overall and even faster growth for historically underserved student groups. We have a lot we can be proud of, but recognize that there is still much work to be done.

Record high graduation rates always result in a lot of press coverage. Here are some of the stories from around the state:

February is Black History Month

The following is an excerpt from the February newsletter put out by ODE’s Social Sciences staff. There are plenty more resources in the full newsletter and if you like what you read, scroll to the bottom to subscribe!

It is always the right month to include Black history into the social science classroom. This month is a great time to highlight a few new resources for teachers and students to go deeper into the history and culture of Black Americans celebrated every February.

Facing History is hosting a lesson inspired by Amanda Gorman's moving inauguration day poem. The 2018 social science standards created a significant shift in creating a more inclusive examination of history. The new changes brought about by Tribal History/Shared History, Holocaust and other genocides, and Ethnic Studies, continue to expand the narratives and perspectives on Oregon, U.S., and World History. The resources and standards in support of the new changes remind me of one of the beautiful phrases from Gorman's poem:

It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

it's the past we step into and how we repair it.

A few fresh and free resources:

Nurse Hotline Available to Assist Oregon Child Care Providers During COVID-19

The Early Learning Division is partnering with Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to support child care providers in Oregon with a COVID-19 nurse hotline. The number, 1-833-647-8222, will be available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Child care providers can access the toll-free hotline for assistance with:

  • Symptoms or health issues that are concerning to them or staff
  • Questions about excluding children and staff
  • Steps to take if someone is positive for COVID-19

“Since the start of the pandemic, child care providers have been navigating uncertainty about the virus,” said Oregon Early Learning System Director Miriam Calderon. “Our collaboration with OHSU will allow providers to have a more personalized response in their efforts to adapt and ensure child care remains safe for children and families during this emergency.”

“OHSU’s trained healthcare professionals who staff our COVID-19 Connected Care Center hotline have been honored to help Oregonians navigate the pandemic’s complexities since March 2020, and we welcome the opportunity to now also help Oregon’s child care providers safely offer their much-needed services throughout the state. We understand how important child care is for so many families,” said hotline medical director Anthony Cheng, M.D., who is also an assistant professor of family medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine.

The hotline is a resource reserved for child care providers and staff at no cost. Language assistance is also available.

ODE In the News

Student Spotlight

A Call to Action for Schools from the Oregon Health Authority

Bolster your suicide prevention efforts as you prepare to return to in-person learning:

Equip your staff to recognize suicide warning signs
All school staff should be trained to recognize suicide warning signs, to ask about suicide and to connect students to help. All staff should clearly know the referral process for a student exhibiting signs of mental distress. If you haven’t taken a training this year, consider taking Question, Persuade, Refer (1.5 hour online training). Contact to access free online training opportunities sponsored by Oregon Health Authority. Consultation, mini-grants, and a guide are available on the Oregon YouthLine website.

School-Based Mental Health professionals should be equipped to assess for level of risk, to safety plan, and to link students to appropriate services. If your school lacks staff to provide suicide safety assessments and safety planning, please access the School Suicide Assessment Line (503-575-3760, open Monday-Friday, 8:30AM-4:30PM) or call your local crisis hotline.

Ask the question
Ask students directly about mental health, mood, and thoughts of suicide.
  • Example: “Things have been really different the last couple of weeks, and sometimes when our routine changes or we don’t know what to expect that can make depression/anxiety harder than normal to deal with. How are you dealing?”
  • Example: “Wow, it seems like this has been super stressful for you. Sometimes when the pile of stress feels so big like that, people start having thoughts of suicide. Have you had thoughts of suicide?”

Many schools have chosen to do universal screening for mental health needs and suicide-related concerns as a safety measure during this time. For examples of screening tools and strategies, contact Jill Baker, Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Oregon Health Authority.

Weave in social emotional check in activities every day
  • Use positive messages from staff to build hope, strength, and resilience. Use language such as, “This is what helps me.” Consider building these statements into assignments and lesson plans.
    • Example: “I sometimes feel anxious when things don’t feel normal. I can tell I’m anxious because my head starts to hurt, and I get a little grumpy. One thing that helps me is to write down how I’m feeling and listen to music that helps me feel calm.”
    • 130 ideas for check in questions
    • Ideas for identifying coping skills – Sources of Strength
  • Widely share “get help” resources with students such as YouthLine.

People Behind the Partnership

ODE partners with school districts to foster equity and excellence for every learner. In these videos ODE staff share their perspective on their work and let Oregonians see the people behind the partnership. Here is Government Relations Director Jessica Ventura talking about:

Youth Development Division Reengagement System Grant Awards

In December of 2020, the Youth Development Council (YDC) approved 33 contingent awards to grantees for a total of $4 million in grant funds as part of the Oregon Youth Reengagement Fund. Four grants of $290,000 each, focus on creating Regional Reengagement Systems in the counties encompassing the areas and tribal nations of East Portland/East Multnomah, The North Oregon Coast, Central Oregon, and the Klamath Basin.

The remaining grants focus on building and/or expanding specific community-based reengagement programs in communities across Oregon. These grants offer a wide range of services for youth focused on helping youth complete high school or their GED. Grants have reached areas across Oregon that were prioritized for reengagement resources, due to higher rates of high-school non-completers and limited existing reengagement resources. This includes Coos and Douglas counties in Southwest Oregon; Lincoln, Tillamook, Clatsop, and Columbia counties in Northwest Oregon; East Multnomah County; Wasco, Jefferson counties in Central Oregon; Klamath County.

Background on Youth Development Division
The Youth Development Division (its governing body is the Youth Development Council) is creating and implementing a statewide youth reengagement system as part of the 2019 Student Success Act (HB3427). The reengagement system reconnects youth ages 14-21 with education and supports to help them complete their HS Diploma or GED and successfully transition to post-secondary education and careers. Reengagement programs combine education, workforce development, wrap-around and support services and one-on-one case management in order to effectively support youth. In addition to connecting youth, long-term outcomes of this work include creating a statewide reengagement network, and collecting data on why students become disengaged youth, what works and how needs differ within communities.

YDD began implementing the Oregon Reengagement System in late 2019, gathering input and data, and learning about community needs and rolled out a competitive grant process in 2020 with $4 million in approved funding from the Oregon Legislature. There are two grant opportunities in the current biennium: 1) the Regional Reengagement Grant designed to establish, expand, and/or coordinate multi-community and multi-party partnerships; and, 2) the Reengagement Opportunity grant is designed to provide responsive program funding to directly serve youth in different regions across the state. Entities eligible for these grants include established reconnection programs, social services, school districts, public charter schools, Education Service Districts, Federally-recognized Tribes, community colleges, and alternative schools. In January YDD began awarding funds to deliver programming and coordinate regional efforts.