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February 2017 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

A Message from Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor

Often when we look at education data, we become caught up in figures and percentages and forget the people the numbers represent. Looking at the statewide graduation data released last month, of the 46,000 students in the 2015-16 cohort, more than 34,000 of them received either a regular or modified diploma. That’s an increase of 1,300 students over the previous year and a significant gain in improving graduation outcomes in our state. But let’s not forget the 12,000 students in that cohort who didn’t cross the finish line and lack a high school diploma. This number is enough to fill Knight Arena for a University of Oregon basketball game. 

Reducing that number is the goal of every educator and school district in the state. The good news is that through our collective efforts over the last few years - ODE, school district leaders, staff, and communities working together - the number of students earning a high school diploma has been increasing. Although we still have an achievemet gap , we have examples of districts using best practices that result in impressive gains and especially with historically underserved students. You can read more about this in the graduation brief our research staff released with the graduation rate data.

Dr. Salam Noor

In my trips around the state talking with families, teachers, administrators and support staff, I hear three common themes:
1. we need to raise the overall graduation rate;
2. we need to reduce the opportunity gaps which cause many historically underserved student groups to graduate at a lower rate; and 
3. we need to make sure students are graduating with the skills they need for college and a career. 

As educators, we have a  clear understanding of some of the barriers to graduation. ODE is actively working with partners including districts and communities to address them.  We know that students who are chronically absent from school graduate at a much lower rate. We also understand that our schools need to be culturally relevant and responsive so that all students feel welcome and want to strive for their best. These opportunities can be achieved through a well-rounded and engaging education that prepares students for success during their K-12 education and for life after high school. As a result, Oregon’s Plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act that we will submit in April to the United States Department of Education will focus on improving student outcomes through a well-rounded education focused on high-quality instruction and founded on educational equity.

No one should be satisfied with a 75 percent graduation rate in Oregon, but  the numbers released last month are encouraging. The graduation rate increased for every demographic student group, and rates for some of our historically underserved student populations increased at rates two or three times the statewide average, closing the gaps. But our work isn’t done. We need everyone focused on the goal of making sure every student finishes high school fully prepared to  start their career or pursue a postsecondary education experience.

Our future workforce and the health of our communities and state depend on our success. But more than that, we have a duty and a moral imperative to our students to give them the tools for success they will use throughout their lives.


Research Brief Highlights Grad Rate Success Stories 

At the same time Oregon’s graduation rate data were released last month, ODE’s Research and Data Analysis team released a report delving into the numbers and highlighting the successes of ten high schools from around the state.  Each school shows increases in overall graduation rates as well as rates for some of our historically underserved student populations. 

While each example is unique, there are some common themes running through more than one school such as creating a welcoming atmosphere. Aloha High School in Beaverton partners with local businesses and churches to make sure students have clothing, enough to eat and necessary school supplies. The school also has two social workers on staff. Wilson High School in Portland Public Schools also has a social worker on staff, peer counseling programs and a for-credit class in mindfulness. Milwaukie High School in the North Clackamas School District has a focus on equity and a staff that is culturally competent, both of which create a welcoming environment for students and their families. 

Providing a well-rounded education for students is another common bond between the districts in the report. David Douglas High School uses a variety of after-school and summer programs to keep students interested and the school is looking at increasing its career and technical education (CTE) offerings. Canby High School has joined its CTE program with the school’s career center to help students focus on what comes after graduation. The result is the elimination of a 21-percentage point gap between Latino and White student graduation rates in just three years.  

Finally, these districts recognize the importance of data collection and analysis. Oakland High School teachers review student data every four to five weeks so they can adjust their instructional goals. Parkrose High School staff tracks course enrollments, college visits and more to identify students who may need more support and encouragement. At Jefferson High School, teachers are provided with time to make sure students are on track so that interventions can be started as soon as possible. 

The ODE Research and Data Analysis Team will release another brief soon sharing additional graduation rate success stories; stay tuned for more information, or contact Assistant Superintendent for Research and Data Analysis Brian Reeder to learn more. 

ODE supports Native American curriculum, Educator Advancement Council
February 9 was Tribal Government Day at the State Capitol, which was appropriate since Senate Bill (SB) 13 was heard that day in the Senate Education Committee. Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor and Indian Education Specialists April Campbell and Ramona Halcomb were among the dozens of people testifying in support of the bill, which would create a curriculum relating to the Native American experience in Oregon and also provide professional development for teachers on the subject. The meeting time was almost doubled in order to make sure that everyone who wanted to support the bill could give their testimony to the committee. 

Modesta Minthorn, director of education for the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla and also a State Board of Education member, testified that having a Native American curriculum will result in increased academic achievement. “It provides an opportunity to tell Oregonians who we are as a people,” Minthorn said. “Native American students will get a reinforced sense of identity which affects test scores.” Valerie Switzler, Tribal Council Representative for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs told the committee the bill has been a long time coming. “We don't have connection with communities surrounding us anymore,” she said. “They don't know who we are as tribes. Because knowledge of who we are isn't there any more, it's getting lost, even with our children. We need to educate all children to recognize who we are as people.”

State Representative Tawna Sanchez, only the second Native American legislator in Oregon history, testified it’s past time to teach about Native Americans. “The history of Oregon deserves to be told from the perspective of all residents, especially its first residents,” she said. “Every day, non-Native kids see themselves in history. How amazing would it be for our Native students to hear about their culture and contributions?”

After nearly two hours of testimony, Deputy Superintendent Noor thanked the tribal leaders and others who spoke in support of SB 13. “We have heard the clear need for this curriculum in our state,” he said. “From ODE’s perspective, we are excited to work with the tribes in consultation.”

At that same meeting, Deputy Superintendent Noor spoke on behalf of SB 182 which establishes the Educator Advancement Council, created through an executive order by Governor Kate Brown. Noor said he hears from teachers the need for mentoring and culturally relevant professional development which the council recommended. Noor also testified on behalf on SB 183 which would establish an Early Indicator and Intervention System to help students get back on track to graduation before it’s too late. He told the committee “this focuses efforts on what works, it validates what we know and makes the commitment to continue investment in what works.”

On February 8, ODE Legislative Coordinator Emily Nazarov was part of a panel making a presentation to the House Education Committee on Measure 98. The ballot measure approved by voters in November aims to improve graduation rates in the state by boosting career technical programs, dropout prevention and college-level educational opportunities for high school students. Nazarov gave committee members a timeline for the creation and implementation of the rules and answered numerous questions from committee members on the process.

On February 1, ODE staff also testified in support of two bills in the House Education Committee. House Bill (HB) 2257 allows ODE to waive fees in certain circumstances for publishers or suppliers who submit books for review. Publishers of free textbooks were not distributing in Oregon because of the added cost for review. By waiving the fee in these cases, districts will have access to free e-books. HB 2258 adds “statewide nonprofit organizations promoting student leadership in career and technical education” to the list of entities that may receive CTE grant funds. By adding this language, the bill permits the Oregon Department of Education to contract with the Oregon Career Technical Education Student Leadership Foundation for the purpose of distributing CTE grant funds to chartered student organizations in schools across Oregon.

All of those committee meetings were also covered by our Twitter account! Be sure to follow us on Twitter to keep up to date on what ODE is doing and to see in real time what we are presenting to lawmakers! 

Register for the 2017 State English Learners Alliance Conference

The Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) and the Oregon Department of Education are hosting this year’s English Learners (EL) Alliance Conference March 8-10 in Eugene. This year's EL conference will emphasize the continued implementation of our Statewide ELL Strategic Plan as well as our Oregon State Equity Plan. The COSA website has more information including an agenda and online registration. We hope to see you there!

Youth marijuana use prevention campaign reaching target audiences
Just six months after its debut, an Oregon Health Authority (OHA) media campaign telling students and young adults about the risks associated with marijuana use is working, according to an independent evaluation. RMC Research found that a statistically significant higher proportion of youth and young adults in the pilot areas (Portland Metro and Southern Oregon) correctly identified that only one in five Oregon high school juniors uses marijuana.

It’s an important message to get out there, according to Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Education Specialist Jeremy Wells. “The Oregon Department of Education believes that in order for students to fully access their education, all students need to be free of illegal drugs,” Wells said. “ODE fully supports the Oregon Health Authority’s outreach activities around marijuana abuse prevention. Even though Oregon has legalized marijuana it has not changed the fact that it is still illegal for youth to use. With its legalization comes the need for a strong and unified message from ODE and OHA around educating our youth on marijuana and providing prevention education for all our students.”

For more information on OHA’s efforts to keep young people away from marijuana, visit their website. 

Lincoln High Student Group Teaches Citizenship Through State Farm Grant 

Congratulations to the student-run “Mission: Citizen” program at Lincoln High School in Portland Public Schools for winning a State Farm Insurance grant of nearly $50,000 to expand the group’s mission of teaching naturalization classes to immigrants. Lincoln High senior Danny Cohen is the executive director of the non-profit group who applied for the grant nearly a year ago. 

According to Cohen,  Mission: Citizen has helped hundreds of immigrants on their path towards citizenship. “Our eight-week curriculum primarily focuses on historical and current-events information, both necessary to succeed in the civics portion of the naturalization exam,” Cohen said. “If our adult students are able to complete the eight-week course, they are eligible for a $275 scholarship from our organization to help offset the $725 naturalization fee. We are also in the process of implementing a program that will help students complete their complex N-400 naturalization applications and the accompanying form I-912 fee waiver.”

Cohen says the grant money from State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board will be used for:
  • 50 iPad-Minis that allow for multilingual presentations to surmount language barriers and interactive quiz apps to increase knowledge retention of clients;
  • A TriMet advertising campaign, with advertisements inside 48 city buses and on 20 city benches; and
  • An increase in the number of adult student scholarships.
“Watching adult students finally grasp meaningful historical information is unbelievably satisfying, and I enjoy knowing that my work betters democracy,” Cohen said. 

Nominations Sought For Oregon Educator Talent Pool 
Do you know an educator who models top talent in the teaching profession? The Oregon Department of Education is seeking information on Oregon outstanding educators to strengthen the Oregon Educator Talent Pool. This talent pool is tapped for awards, advisory positions, committee development, and other recognition opportunities. Talent Pool educators include teachers, specialists, and administrators who are innovative in their demonstrated dedication to education. 

Educators with a minimum of five years in education can be nominated and previous recognition is not required. Due to the variety of purposes this educator data can be used for, this process must be kept confidential and the educator should not be aware of his or her recommendation. Please access the form here and help us identify the incredible educator resources and expertise we have in our state! 

Early Learning and Kindergarten Guidelines Released 

When schools align pre-kindergarten (PreK) education through the elementary grades, the gains that children make are more likely to persist and build from one year to the next. This is accomplished through the alignment of standards, curriculum, instruction, assessments, family engagement and professional development efforts. Oregon has taken an important step toward creating a seamless pathway though the development of Oregon’s Early Learning and Kindergarten Guidelines, released November 10. The guidelines offer a continuum of learning from age three through kindergarten in social-emotional development, approaches to learning, language & communication, literacy and mathematics.

The guidelines are firmly rooted in the concept that high quality education is most effective when delivered in developmentally appropriate, culturally and linguistically responsive settings that support the learning and development of each and every child. “The guidelines recognize that every child is a unique individual with their own strengths, needs and challenges, and every child is capable,” Oregon Department of Education PreK-3rd Grade Coordinator Kara Williams said. “ “Promoting a culture of high expectations and learning opportunities for all children is a central objective.”


ODE Highlights Unity, Collaboration Through New Branding

Today the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) debuts the newly designed Education Update. We have transitioned to a new platform for designing and distributing our monthly newsletter in tandem with the roll-out of our new agency logo. We hope the new format is more user-friendly, and it will allow us to track information that is most used by our readers.

The new ODE logo with mortarboard and State of Oregon outline represents our agency goal to support students in a seamless path to graduation.   The logo tagline -- Oregon achieves . . . together!  -- emphasizes our core purpose of support and partnership with students, educators, families and communities to increase student achievement. Together, the logo and tagline achieve all three C’s that our agency strives to prioritize:  the spirit of collaboration with our communities; visual coherence as an agency; and a focused communication tool to demonstrate our unity.

We hope you enjoy the fresh, new look of our branding and refreshed utility of our monthly newsletter! 

ESSA Essentials: What You Need to Know Now

It is with great anticipation and excitement that we share with you Oregon’s draft State Plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). You can view the state plan, technical document, and take a survey to provide your feedback on our website here.   

Oregon’s State Plan reflects a shared statewide vision for Oregon’s students and schools. Our State Plan development process was grounded in extensive outreach and engagement efforts with thousands of Oregonians, including school and district leaders and staff, families and communities, tribal leaders, policymakers and state agency representatives to Reimagine Education in Oregon. Throughout this process, we encouraged educators and communities to think big, be bold, and to innovate. 

Engaging Oregonians
In January, Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor visited central Oregon and had the opportunity to visit schools and speak with students, teachers, administrators, and community members. “Educators in Central Oregon are truly committed to the individual growth of every student. I observed teachers setting the bar high, offering multiple pathways for students to demonstrate proficiency, and students responding by taking ownership over their learning and future. ” said Noor. 

Redmond Proficiency Academy students welcome Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor.

“We should let students find their passion, and chase after that passion.” – Principal of Redmond Proficiency Academy, Dr. John Bullock.

Redmond High School CTE students hard at work.

“I’m incredibly proud that these are my roots.” – Redmond Superintendent Mike McIntosh who went to Redmond High School.

Next Steps
Oregon intends to follow this timeline for submitting its final State Plan:

Once submitted the U.S. Department of Education has 120 days to respond. 

State Board Grants Flexibility to Districts Dealing with Weather Cancellations
To help districts that have experienced far more weather cancellations this winter than anticipated, the State Board of Education approved a temporary rule at its January 26 meeting to give more options to district officials. The rule allows a district to ask permission from the Deputy Superintendent to count up to 14 hours of weather cancellations as missed instructional time. District school boards must make the request part of a public meeting so the community can be informed and provide input. Districts also have the option to request a waiver of the instructional time rules from the State Board or make up the hours in another way, such as extending the school year.

State Board Members listen to testimony on instructional time rule.

Board Chair Charles R. Martinez, Jr. said it’s not a decision the Board took lightly. “As a Board, we know that one of the keys to increasing our graduation rate is making sure students are in class as much as possible, which is why we have focused on strengthening instructional time expectations in recent years,” he said in a release. “But we also know some districts are running out of options to respond to the unprecedented weather events so far this year. With this one-time, temporary action we have ensured that there is accountability by requiring a public hearing and written justification at the district level, coupled with approval at the state level on a case-by-case basis. We trust that each community will make the best decision for students as they plan for the school year.”

The Board also had its first look at proposed rules that will govern Measure 98 approved by voters in November. The ballot measure creates a fund which will help increase graduation rates in three specific ways:
  • Establish or expand career and technical education programs in high schools; 
  • Establish or expand college-level educational opportunities for students in high schools; and 
  • Establish or expand dropout-prevention strategies in high schools.
ODE staff has been working over the past several months to craft the rules using input from stakeholders across the state. Visit the ODE website Measure 98 page for the draft rules, a Frequently Asked Questions section and a timeline for implementation. There is still time to provide input on the proposed rules. The State Board will vote on final rules at its meeting on February 23 in order to meet the March 1 deadline for rules that was part of the ballot measure.

Finally, the State Board heard from supporters and opponents of the Four Rivers Charter School in Ontario, which recently expanded to include high school grades. Supporters testified that the school has done great work for its students while opponents stated that it will reduce important funding to the Ontario district as a whole. Board members requested that Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor play an active role to mediate the situation, which is causing friction in the community. “I would welcome the opportunity to participate in any form of mediation,” Noor said. “It’s the health of the community, the health of the students and the viability of both Four Rivers and the Ontario School district at stake.” 

Oregon State Police Launch School Safety Tip Line

The Oregon State Police (OSP) has launched SafeOregon, a new school safety tip line program available to all public K-12 schools in Oregon at no cost to use. All a school has to do is complete a sign-up process in order for students to use the tip line. 

SafeOregon is a way for students, staff or other members of the public to anonymously report and share confidential information of a threat or a potential threat to student safety. Trained staff members are available 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year reached through a phone call, text message, mobile application or website. The main goal of SafeOregon is to intervene at the earliest possible point in the life of a young person who is struggling, helping them when they need it, before the situation turns into a tragedy. 

 The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has been involved in the tip line from the beginning, according to Education Specialist Jeremy Wells. “ODE was part of the Oregon Task Force on School Safety which championed the passage of the tip line legislation,” Wells said. “ODE collaborated with the Oregon State Police for the past year assisting them to get the word out to districts about the tip line and we will continue to support OSP and districts as they implement this valuable tool.” 

Schools:  Join the Student Oral Health, Obesity Survey

Did you know that childhood obesity and oral health problems can lead to increased absenteeism, poor school performance, poor self-esteem and less success later in a student’s life?  Help us address these issues by signing your school up for the 2017 Oregon Smile and Healthy Growth Survey. This effort by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), supported by the Oregon Department of Education, collects data from first-, second- and third-graders that will give us an understanding of where our students are with regard to oral health problems and obesity.

You can read more about the survey in this letter Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor sent to districts last year. Participation only affects one classroom for each of the three grades per school and no more than two minutes per student, but the information collected about the health of our children is so very important. 

For more information about the survey, or to sign your school up, please contact Laurie Johnson, OHA School Oral Health Programs Coordinator at 971-673-0339. 

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