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June 2020 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

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

ODE Director Colt Gill 

June has always been a significant culminating point of the school year with classes ending, graduation ceremonies and the start of summer vacation. I don’t need to tell you that June 2020 is altogether different. Rather than large, community celebrations of a completed K-12 education, graduations became virtual or small group affairs. This year students, families and teachers worked hard to connect and stay engaged in learning through a global pandemic, while our country, state and communities were also experiencing visceral reactions to racism and violence and deep-seated prejudice and discrimination.

Earlier this month, an ODE staff member shared with me that she recently talked to some Black students in Oregon. One told her that the police officer who put his knee to the neck of George Floyd, to them, represented their school experience: the way in which they are treated and seen at their schools. We cannot ignore this profound explanation of their lived experiences. Anti-Blackness (whether explicit or not) is real. It exists in our communities and our schools. Systemic racism has a direct, intense negative impact on the lives of Black and Brown students, their families and staff members of color across the state.

In fact, racism hurts everyone. All of us at ODE carry responsibility for our education system. As a White man, I acknowledge and accept my role in perpetuating the status quo and not being more powerful in working to bring about necessary change. I have to own it; we all have to own it. The current educational structures, culture and practices that fail to appropriately support each student and provide authentic inclusion within well-functioning schools where diversity is honored and truly equitable practices are in place cannot go on.

We must think about all these developments in our state, nation, and world as opportunity to rethink education in a way that embraces and affirms all cultures and strives to heal current and past suffering caused by dominant culture and white supremacy.

We need a system that embraces every child, recognizes each student’s beauty and strength as we support them in reaching their goals. As I serve students and educators as a leader of our education system in Oregon, I believe and proclaim that Black Lives Matter and that immediate action is needed to stop the hurt and harm. I commit myself and call on others to work as partners with the State Board of Education, the African American/Black Student Success Advisory Group, our communities, schools, and students to make necessary cultural and structural changes to transform the experiences of students throughout Oregon in each and every classroom and school setting.

There is much work to do to create and sustain truly inclusive, respectful, diverse and equitable schools around the many compelling issues of race, gender identity, social class, immigration status, and ability that adversely affect our students.

Yet, there are positive signs of progress in our country as well. I am heartened by today’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court to block the current administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This decision is an important first step towards protecting many of Oregon’s students, families and educators. It is also a reminder we still have more work to do to protect and support DACA recipients including more than 11,000 in Oregon. As we move forward, ODE reaffirms our commitment to protecting the rights of our DREAMers. ODE will continue to assist school districts in expanding and improving Oregon’s efforts to ensure schools and classrooms are safe, inclusive, welcoming and respectful for all educators, students and their families, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or documentation status.

As we plan for the 2020-21 school year, it is urgent and essential that we each rethink education in a way that embraces and affirms all cultures and strives to heal current and past suffering caused by dominant culture and white supremacy beliefs and behaviors.

Moving Forward

At ODE we’re devoted to building that kind of system. On June 10, we released Ready Schools, Safe Learners, the guidance for the 2020-21 school year. It represents the efforts of the Oregon Department of Education, the Oregon Health Authority, Governor Kate Brown and her staff and countless educators, administrators and education partners across the state. It was developed to be responsive: it will be updated regularly to incorporate feedback and adjust to changing conditions regarding the virus.

For the 2020-21 school year, each public school will work under the direction of the school district to develop an Operational Blueprint for Reentry that is tailored to the local context and informed by local needs. Each public charter school will work under the direction of its sponsor to develop its own Operational Blueprint for Reentry that is tailored to the community it serves. And, each private school will develop its own Operational Blueprint for Reentry that is tailored to the community it serves.

Each Operational Blueprint for Reentry must address eight essential elements including Public Health Protocols; Equity; Instruction; and Family and Community Engagement. By August 15 or prior to the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, the local school board (or private school operator) must review the Operational Blueprint for Reentry and make it available to the community online. The blueprints will require that every school, under the direction of the district, determine whether they teach all students on site, teach all students through new comprehensive distance learning or utilize a hybrid model.

It is imperative that we work through all the challenges our students, educators, families and communities face and go back to school. Oregon’s children need access to an equitable, high quality education and all the nutrition, health, and social supports that come with it. Our state’s future depends on the education, health, and wellbeing of today’s children. We need to come together to overcome existing and exacerbated inequities brought on by COVID-19. We can do it carefully and cautiously and slowly, where needed. And, we can provide ready schools that are safe places for learners, staff, and their families.

The following statement comes from a 7th grade submission from Linus Pauling Middle School in Corvallis in response to ODE’s “Elevating Voices Project.” These words inspire the kind of leadership and decisions we need to make together at this time:

We must ask ourselves, what do we want to get out of this? We have the choice to choose whether to go through this uncertain time with an open heart, receiving others with compassion and grace, or we can isolate ourselves in fear. Our world can be changed for better or for worse because people are suffering. The economy is uncertain and appears shattered. People are losing loved ones to a virus that is affecting the entire world. This is hard for every single one of us. But this isn’t all bad. It’s an opportunity for change in our schools, our family lives, and our planet. We have a chance to try something different, and we should take advantage of that. We must remember that we are all in this together. Times are hard, but throughout history humans have powered through all kinds of challenges, all the while learning and discovering along the way. If we all play a part, and we all join hands, we can reach success. Because this coronavirus is pushing us to rely on the things that matter most; the things that a virus will never take away. We have to ask ourselves, if this experience will help us grow, or if the fear will suffocate our joy and take away the empathy we have for others. Yes this is painful, but we can come out of this fire stronger. It is the mindset we possess and the heart for those that are struggling that will carry us out of this.

Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidance Released

On June 10, the Oregon Department of Education released Ready Schools, Safe Learners, the guidance for the 2020-21 school year. Check out the website for more information on the guidance, tools and more. And watch this video from ODE Director Colt Gill for an overview of Ready Schools, Safe Learners.

video thumbnail from ODE Director Colt Gill

Statewide Assessments Slated For Spring 2021

The suspension of on-site schooling in Oregon due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to significant disruptions, including of our statewide summative testing requirements. Oregon’s districts are currently dealing with critical challenges related to systemic racism and impacts from the pandemic, including feeding families, budget cuts and redesigning schooling. In order to support our district test coordinators in planning for the 2020-21 school year, we must nevertheless consider the role of our statewide assessments at this time.

Statewide summative assessments provide common measures that are reliable for gauging student performance in relation to Oregon’s adopted content standards and benchmarks, helping to identify areas within our educational system where additional resources can support equitable opportunity and outcomes for all of Oregon’s students. It remains important to monitor student performance and growth over time. Though our interpretations of these data will change, administrators and policy makers use it to inform critical school- and district-wide decisions around staffing, curricula and instruction. The statewide summative assessments are also required by both federal and state legislation. ODE is thus planning for statewide summative assessment in the spring of 2021. To support our districts, ODE will provide a curated statewide interim assessment system and instructional resources. Assessment remains a critical support for instruction.

More information is available on the ODE website. You can also contact Director of Assessment Dan Farley if you have any questions, concerns or recommendations.

Learning About Juneteenth

The Emancipation ProclamationFriday, June 19, is known as Juneteenth. It’s a commemoration of the date in 1865 when Union troops reached Galveston Bay, Texas, and told the enslaved African-Americans there that they, along with the more than 250,000 other enslaved black people in the state, were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.

The first celebration of the anniversary came the following year and it spread throughout Texas and many southern states until the start of the 20th Century when Jim Crow laws were passed, essentially making African-Americans second-class citizens in their own country. While celebrations waned during this period, Juneteenth never died and, starting with Texas in 1980, 47 states now officially commemorate Juneteenth. The Oregon Legislature passed a joint resolution commemorating Juneteenth in 2001.

A good source of information on Juneteenth is the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The National Archives house the Emancipation Proclamation and makes images of the actual document available online for viewing.

There’s Still Time to Complete Your 2020 Census Form!

Oregon Counts 2020Every 10 years, Americans are counted in a census that has a major influence on our lives.

The census is the foundation of our democracy. Data collected during the census is critical for helping guide how many dollars in federal assistance Oregon will receive over the next 10 years to fund our schools, hospitals and roads. It also determines the number of seats our state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives to lift the voices of Oregonians in Washington D.C.

A complete and accurate census count tells the story of Oregon — who we are and where we are going. From Tillamook to Ontario, Astoria to Klamath Falls, full participation in the upcoming census is vital to the prosperity of our communities. Make yourself count in 2020!

While census workers will go into communities later this summer, you can make their work easier by filling out your census form online, by phone or mail. Check out the Oregon Counts 2020 website for more information about how to participate. The deadline to make sure you’re counted is October 31st, 2020. But don’t wait until then, fill it out as soon as possible!


Graduation Videos

video thumbnail from Kate BrownOn June 14, Governor Kate Brown delivered a commencement speech for the Class of 2020 that broadcast statewide. Join in the celebration and watch the speech.

ODE Director Colt Gill also recorded a message to the Class of 2020. It was shared as part of the national Graduate Together program in May.

Behind the Scenes: Early Learning Account Grants In Progress

Student Success ActFor two weeks in May, independent reviewers read, scored and deliberated over more than 350 applications received by the Early Learning Division (ELD) for grant funding as part of the Student Success Act (SSA). Applications then went on to independent review committees, where members developed recommendations for the early learning system director.

“I’ve done a lot of review processes and this was not typical,” said Bobbie Weber, Oregon State University early care and education researcher and chair of the Preschool Promise Review Committee. “The diversity of views on the committee was invaluable… I don’t think anyone brought the same background and set of experiences to the process.”

Grant applicants are now experiencing a delay in award announcements due to budget adjustments following the COVID-19 impact on the state’s revenue. The “Intent to Award” notifications for Oregon Pre-kindergarten programs, Preschool Promise programs and fiscal agents, Healthy Families Oregon grantees, and the Early Childhood Equity Fund were originally scheduled for June 4, 2020.

Weber has studied the supply and demand of child care across the country and said the Preschool Promise program, which includes an expansion of services to reach more than 3,800 preschoolers as part of the current investment, is a unique model.

“Preschool Promise isn’t just about bringing more funding into child care,” she said. “It allows existing programs that meet quality standards to become more stable and serve their communities. I can’t say enough about the importance of stabilizing right now. If you look at what COVID-19 is doing, it appears some providers can continue to operate because of public investment in their programs.”

Prior to the virus outbreak, most of Oregon was considered a child care desert – meaning there wasn’t enough early care and education to support families. Preschool Promise is a high-quality, local and culturally-relevant program available to children living at 200% of the poverty level.

Oregon Pre-kindergarten (OPK), which is also funded with SSA investments, is based on the Head Start model and serves families whose income is at or below 100% federal poverty level. The OPK Review Committee considered 28 applications for expansion and enhancements for preschool aged services (transportation, extended day services, and teacher salaries) and 17 applications for prenatal, infant and toddler programming (center and home based).

The Early Childhood Equity Fund (ECEF) is a new program created under the SSA to support culturally specific early learning programs. The investment calls for about $10 million annually to fund kindergarten readiness, parent child interaction, parent education, and tribal language preservation and revitalization programs. Amanda Manjarrez, director of public policy and government affairs at Chalkboard Project, served as the chair of the ECEF Review Committee. She’s not aware of any other states offering a similar program that provides a sustainable funding source.

“This funding can be a catalyst to support culturally specific organizations who are already doing this work and allow them to expand to other communities,” she said. “It helps build capacity and entry for access for culturally sustaining programs – especially for kids in rural areas.”

Oregon’s nearly 275,000 young children under the age of six are more linguistically, racially and ethnically diverse than the older child and adult population. A quarter of Oregon’s young children speak a language other than English at home.

“We have an early learning system in Oregon that is fairly young,” said Manjarrez. “This is a way to bring really great community leaders and equity-focused programs into the system.”

ODE In the News

Student Spotlight

Highlighting some of Oregon's student successes:


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