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January 2021 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

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

ODE Director Colt Gill 

To help all of us focus on the need for mental health during this challenging time, I’m turning over the January column to ODE Senior Mental Health Strategist B. Grace Bullock, Ph.D.

Dr. Bullock authored a piece for The Register-Guard last week promoting ODE’s new Mental Health Toolkit and updated Mental Health Website.

Please take a moment to read her column, review the toolkit and our other mental health resources and share them with everyone you know!

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King said: Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal and the facts from the fictionThis year marks the 92nd anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 35th anniversary of the first time it was celebrated as a federal holiday. Dr. King’s message of justice and peace are just as relevant today as they were when he rose to national attention in opposition to segregation policies in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. The U.S. Department of Education has resources for educators on how you can teach about Dr. King to students.

A Message to Students from Simone Charley of the Portland Thorns

In late October, Simone Charley, a player with the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League, participated in a forum with students that focused on their experiences with distance learning. We caught up with Simone after and asked about the message she gave to students. You can see her answers on these videos we shared on social media:

Oregon Students Are Encouraged to Apply as Soon as Possible for Grants and Scholarships

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC) is reminding all Oregonians about upcoming student financial aid application deadlines. Anyone planning to take college courses any time from fall 2021 through spring 2022 should complete their student financial aid applications as soon as possible.

OSAC awards more than $100 million each year in state-funded grants and privately-funded scholarships to help Oregon students meet their college expenses. New and current postsecondary students can find links to applications for federal and state-administered programs online.

DETERMINING NEED - FAFSA or ORSAA: Every new and returning student must complete either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA) to be considered for federal and/or state financial aid, including grants and loans. Most students will complete the FAFSA to determine their federal and state financial aid eligibility. Students with undocumented status, including those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, will instead fill out the ORSAA—Oregon’s alternative to the FAFSA. The information provided on the FAFSA or the ORSAA will determine students' eligibility for the Oregon Promise, the Oregon Opportunity Grant, and numerous scholarships. Information provided on the ORSAA is not shared with any federal entities.

OSAC SCHOLARSHIPS: OSAC makes it easy for Oregon students to apply for up to 40 scholarships through a single application. Students can choose from a catalog of more than 600 privately-funded scholarships. Scholarship funds are available for: graduating high school seniors; undergraduate and graduate college students; GED® students; undocumented and DACA students; homeschooled students; community college and vocational school students; single parents returning to school; and more. Students must apply online and submit a completed OSAC scholarship application and all other required materials by the final deadline of March 1, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. Students who submit their applications by February 15, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. may be entered in a drawing to win a $1,000 OSAC Early Bird scholarship.

OREGON OPPORTUNITY GRANT: The Oregon Opportunity Grant is Oregon’s largest state-funded, need-based grant program. The grant supports low-income students (both recent high school graduates and adult learners) pursuing undergraduate degrees at eligible public and private colleges and universities. Oregon Opportunity Grants are awarded until funds are exhausted, so students should complete either the FAFSA or ORSAA as soon as possible to be automatically considered for the grant for 2021-22.

OREGON PROMISE: Students receiving their high school diploma or GED® equivalent in coming months, as well as recent graduates, may be eligible for the Oregon Promise Grant. The Oregon Promise helps students pay for tuition at Oregon community colleges. Most students must apply for Oregon Promise during their senior year or immediately after GED® test completion (see full Oregon Promise deadlines). Students must meet minimum GPA requirements and enroll in a community college no later than six months after graduation. Interested students must complete an Oregon Promise application and submit a FAFSA or ORSAA by their designated deadline. Depending on program funding, awards may be limited to those under a certain Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) threshold.

Due to a myriad of factors, FAFSA completion rates have been well-below average this application season. According to the national FAFSA tracker data dashboard Form Your Future, FAFSA completions among Oregon high school seniors as of January 1, 2021 were 18.7 percent lower than they were at this same time last year.

Juan Baez-Arevalo, director of OSAC, said, "Students and their families should set aside time as soon as possible to complete their application forms and learn what funding they may be eligible for. We want for all new and incoming students to be fully prepared for their postsecondary education and to not miss out on any critical funding, which may be more vital than ever in 2021."

Student Spotlight

Raise Up Oregon Progress Report for 2019-2020 Released

The Early Learning Council released a new report this month offering an update on the progress of Raise Up Oregon, the state’s five-year strategic early learning system plan. The Progress Report showcases advances across five state agencies between January 2019 and September 2020 on the three system goals:

  1. Children arrive ready for kindergarten
  2. Children are raised in healthy, stable, and attached families
  3. The Early Learning System is aligned, coordinated, and family-centered

Raise Up Oregon: A Statewide Early Learning System Plan was developed in 2018 at the request of Governor Kate Brown as a blueprint for agencies and sectors to work together and avoid silos in building equitable systems to serve Oregon’s young children and families. It calls for leaders from early care and education, K-12, health, housing, and human services to collaborate on this critical period of children’s lives.

“COVID-19 has had a profound impact and has reinforced the importance of the strategies in Raise Up Oregon and the urgency of this collaborative work,” said Sue Miller, Early Learning Council chair. “The report shows significant progress with new investments in housing, child welfare, health, and early care and education, along with greater coordination among agencies, as bright spots in supporting families.”

Highlights in the report include Universally Offered Home Visiting, which connects families of newborns with comprehensive supports, paid family leave, housing stabilization services through Oregon Housing and Community Services, and the launch of an Early Childhood Equity Fund through the Student Success Act, along with further expansion of and historic investments in early care and education. Oregon also worked to protect the supply of child care during the pandemic by providing emergency grants to child care providers and suspended family co-payments and increasing income eligibility for families receiving child care assistance.

“We know income, race and zip code are predictors of whether young children experience the conditions that are optimal for healthy development,” said Early Learning System Director Miriam Calderon. “We can only break the link on these factors by changing the circumstances of families and creating more opportunities during a child’s first 2,000 days.”

The Early Learning Council will continue to monitor progress towards implementing Raise Up Oregon, as it identifies priorities for the coming year.

ELD Releases Updates to COVID-19 Guidelines for Child Care and Early Education

The Early Learning Division announced minor updates to the “Health and Safety Guidelines for Child Care and Early Education Operating During COVID-19.” The Amendments are posted to ELD’s COVID-19 “For Providers” page. The updates take effect immediately and some were already in practice. The majority of the guidelines are unchanged. Changes were made with feedback from child care providers over the past couple months about their operations.

The changes help clarify some questions from providers and best align with the latest safety and health information from the Oregon Health Authority. Most of these changes were made in response to our growing understanding of how COVID-19 spreads from person to person. Some of the updates include the following:

  • Removes requirement to take temperature of children; can rely on statement from parent or guardian.
  • Adopts updated public health guidance regarding infectious period and quarantine.
  • Removes reference to county phases and group sizes for “baseline” status.
  • Removes requirement for clean outer or extra layer during health check, when feeding an infant, or when acting as a floater.
  • Eases some of the process involved with health checks before, during, or after transportation to the child care facility.
  • For home-based child care, changes “required” to “strongly encouraged” to keep three (3) feet distance between people in the vehicle during transport.
  • Option for entering facility during drop-off or pick-up if there is severe, inclement weather.

Additional changes make clear that volunteers or additional staff are limited, and recommends against (but does not prohibit) use of plastic face shields as a face covering.

Last Chance to Nominate a Teacher!

January 31 is the last day to nominate some great teachers for 2022 Oregon Teacher of the Year! Thanks to our partnership with the Oregon Lottery, the Oregon Teacher of the Year program will again honor exemplary educators in every region of the state!

  • Nomination period closes Sunday, January 31, 2021 at
  • Nominated teachers then submit their applications by Saturday, March 27, 2021.
  • Education Service Districts will select a winner from their region.
  • Regional Teachers of the Year will be honored across the state in May 2021!
  • One of the Regional Teachers of the Year will be named the 2022 Oregon Teacher of the Year next school year!

Anyone can nominate a teacher online, and each Regional Teacher of the Year will be in the running for the honor of 2022 Oregon Teacher of the Year. Please contact program coordinator Jenni Knaus with any questions.

ODE In the News