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March 2021 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

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

ODE Director Colt Gill 

One year ago, on March 12, 2020, Oregon Governor Kate Brown made the difficult decision to close schools statewide in response to the growing outbreak of COVID-19. What started as a planned 15-day closure eventually lasted the remainder of the school year.

When the summer months showed that the virus continued to spread at a rapid pace, most schools started this year operating with Comprehensive Distance Learning. But now, thanks to the smart choices Oregonians have made, our COVID-19 numbers have declined. Nearly every county meets or exceeds Oregon’s advisory metrics for a return to in-person, hybrid learning. That’s why on March 5, Governor Brown ordered all public schools to begin in-person or hybrid learning starting March 29 for Kindergarten through 5th grade and April 19 for 6th grade and above.

Oregon parents can be confident about sending their children back to a classroom learning environment. Educators, school staff and administrators should know that the guidelines we have in place support the health and safety of everyone in the school building. Returning to in-person instruction is one of Oregon’s highest priorities since schools not only provide the education that Oregon’s children need to succeed, but also provide for social-emotional growth and support, nutritious meals, and access to medical care.

As I look back at the last year, I remember the stories of resilience. The closing of school buildings didn’t stop the need for services schools provided. Some districts provided to-go meals for students that could be picked up every day. Other districts used their school buses as connection points, delivering meals and classwork to students. Teachers had to find novel ways to connect with students, whether it was using meeting software or just picking up the phone. Graduation ceremonies turned into online ceremonies, smaller ceremonies repeated several times to get diplomas to the entire graduating class or even drive-in events.

Now that more schools are returning to in-person instruction for this year, we need to be ready to support those students. Some students have experienced trauma over the last year. Counselors, mental health specialists, child development specialists, social workers, and other professionals will play a critical role in our return. But, just as important are building on the powerful relationships between educators and students. These connections are why we have said all along that returning to in-person instruction is the goal.

There are sure to be many questions about what is to come this year and then what next year looks like. At ODE, we are currently working on graduation ceremony and pathways guidance as well as summer learning guidance and resources. Of course, we will also have guidance for the next school year since every indication is that COVID-19 will be with us for a while. The best resource is always the ODE website which links to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners resources directly from the home page.

The work isn’t over, but I am in awe of what has been accomplished and inspired by the enthusiasm I’ve seen all over the state. I look forward to working with you to continue the progress we have made.

State Board Passes Major Equity Items at February Meeting

At its February 18 meeting, the State Board of Education unanimously approved two major agenda items focusing on improving equity in Oregon schools.

The first was the adoption of a permanent Every Student Belongs rule that focuses on the health and safety of our students and educators by creating a safer and more inclusive school climate. The rule prohibits the use or display of the noose, symbols of neo-Nazi ideology, and the battle flag of the Confederacy in any program or school-sponsored activity except where used in teaching curriculum that is aligned to the Oregon State Standards. This applies to both in-person and distance learning environments. The rule also requires all school districts, public charter schools, ESDs and the Oregon School for the Deaf to adopt a policy to address bias incidents and prohibit hate symbols that meet certain requirements.

The symbols of hate prohibited in this rule have an extensive history across Oregon of causing substantial disruption to educational environments and preventing students from accessing their education. It’s important to remember that this rule is the direct result of a letter from an Oregon high school student to Governor Kate Brown and ODE Director Colt Gill asking for help. When our state hears from students that their safety, mental health, wellness and ability to learn are threatened, we must listen, trust and take immediate action with the tools we have, like enacting policy. We trust students to lead the way into the anti-racist future. We are charged by our students to start the real work of repairing the damage of racial injustice, brutality, and hatred—starting with removing hate symbols from our schools. We trust young people and communities throughout Oregon to lead us into the future of civil and human rights in our democracy.

Please check out the Every Student Belongs page on the ODE website for more information on the rule as well as guidance and other resources for districts and families.

The second equity-related agenda item was the adoption of Ethnic Studies standards. Oregon is the first state to incorporate Ethnic Studies into its Social Science standards rather than create a separate course that students take in specific years. Integrating Ethnic Studies into all Social Science standards ensures that all students, beginning at our earliest grades, get the opportunity to learn about the diverse histories, contributions and perspectives of all Oregonians.

The Ethnic Studies standards can be incorporated now for districts that are prepared to do so. They will become required in 2026 when the Social Science standards complete their regular review schedule. In the meantime, ODE’s Social Science webpage and newsletter continues to offer resources and training opportunities provided by outside entities to help in teacher preparation.

An ethnic studies approach to social science will often include materials, lessons, and conversations that challenge the dominant narratives familiar to students. In addition, the discussion of ‘hard history’ or examples when people have experienced discrimination, prejudice, or other trauma requires teachers to thoughtfully approach lessons. ODE created a Mental Health Toolkit to support teachers and students as an important component for centering equity, racial equity and anti-racism.

Early Learning Division Update on Group Size and Stable Groups

The Early Learning Division (ELD) is adjusting the “Health and Safety Guidelines for Child Care and Early Education Operating During COVID-19” for certified centers, recorded programs and schools to allow for larger group sizes. This change corresponds to requirement 5.12 in “Group Size and Stable Groups.”

For center based school-age groups, the following is effective immediately through the remainder of the school year or into the summer if the district is offering summer school:

  • For children in grades kindergarten and up, the maximum number of children in a group follows licensing rules that allow for a group size of 30 in the program at the same time, with a total of 34 enrolled in the stable group.
  • For school-age classrooms only, a stable group may be combined with another stable group to meet hybrid instructional models but must stay within the maximum group size of 30.
  • Gyms and cafeterias can be divided into two groups with no more than 45 children total. There must be sufficient square footage to accommodate the number of children using that space at one time and a barrier must be approved by a licensing specialist if more than 30 children are in attendance.

All approved Emergency Child Care, regardless of license type and age group:

  • During the week of spring vacation, a program is allowed to combine stable groups or form a new group for the week. Group size maximums as stated in the licensing rules must be maintained. When spring break is over, the children may return to their previous stable group, or stay in their newly formed one.

Programs are not required to increase group size to meet the maximum numbers allowable. It is important to note that larger groups and mixing stable groups may mean a higher risk of transmission of COVID-19 and likelihood of staff and families having to quarantine should there be a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 case.

Stay up to date by visiting the Early Learning Division’s COVID-19 webpage, where the latest information and FAQs are updated regularly.

Ed Northwest Offers Resource to Support Newcomer Secondary Students

To help meet the unique and diverse needs of newcomer immigrant and refugee students, Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest has developed a new resource focused on this student group.

Welcoming, Registering, and Supporting Newcomer Students: A Toolkit for Educators of Immigrant and Refugee Students in Secondary Schools provides a comprehensive collection of research and evidence-based resources.

The toolkit also offers guidance on welcoming and engaging newcomer students and their families; processing registration; supporting students’ social, emotional, and academic needs; and building educator capacity.

In addition, stakeholders can use the toolkit to design and implement policies and procedures that account for the diverse situations of newcomer immigrant and refugee students, who arrive in the United States with a wide range of experiences, aspirations, and cultural beliefs.

The toolkit underscores that when schools take time to understand each student and their family, they can be better equipped to recognize students’ competencies and award relevant credit, provide appropriate course placement, and offer tailored resources.

“Newcomer students have so many assets which schools can harness to support them,” said Jason Greenberg Motamedi, a practice expert at Education Northwest and the toolkit’s lead author. “The toolkit features tools and resources which educators can use to identify and build upon students’ strengths—including their previous learning, home language literacy, and supports at home—as they begin school in the United States.”

REL Northwest also developed an infographic to accompany the toolkit. It highlights key steps in the newcomer immigrant and refugee student registration process, as well as selected resources.

March Is Women’s History Month

A Legacy of Empowerment: Women's History Month Lesson Plans

ODE’s Social Sciences team encourages educators to use these timely preK-12 lesson plans and class activities to incorporate key figures and historical events in your Women’s History Month lesson planning. This Share My Lesson collection spans topics like women’s suffrage and women’s rights and features influential women in science, social justice and sports. Read this blog for more ideas on how to make Women's History Month relevant for all students. You may also find of interest the #MeToo resource collection on combating harassment and creating inclusive classrooms.

Women’s history was first celebrated in the United States in March 1981 when Congress authorized the celebration on Women’s History Week. In 1987, upon the request of the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed a resolution to declare March Women’s History Month. Since that time, each president has continued to sign the resolution on an annual basis to continue the tradition of Women’s History Month celebrations.

Last year, August 18th marked the centennial celebration of the passage of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote in the United States. Celebrate the achievements, brilliance, and legacies of the women that transformed society and paved the road for the struggle for equality that continues today. Explore preK-12 lesson plans, resources and more including activities like:

Find more free prek-12 Women's History Month lesson plans and resources in Share My Lesson’s curated collection on women's suffrage and the 19th amendment.

Educator Advancement Council in Action

Join Our Next Meeting
The Educator Advancement Council (EAC) continues to meet and elevate what educators know: that meaningful changes can lead to big results, that educators know what they need, and that our education system needs to be critically reflective, community driven, and racially affirming. We invite the public to join us at our next meeting to hear about the work happening in YOUR region through the Regional Educator Networks on April 21st, 9am-12pm and 1-3pm. Get more information on our website as it becomes available or sign up for our public meeting notices.

Regional Educator Networks (RENs)
Oregon’s 10 RENs have been working diligently to implement over 40 meaningful, teacher-led changes that are being tested in schools and districts and impacting over 2,500 educators. Some examples of changes include: rural math collaboratives that provide rural-remote teachers with opportunities to work together, spaces for sharing and building community through affinity groups for teachers of color and providing place-based opportunities for teachers to deepen their understanding of racial equity.

Diversifying Oregon’s Pathways in Education
In February, the EAC announced $6.8M in grants to Grow-Your-Own teacher pathway programs across Oregon. Additionally, scholarships and stipends opened up recently for administrators seeking licensure. The Oregon Teacher Scholars Program is wrapping up its Spring/Summer cycle for teacher candidate scholarships with the next round set to open soon.

More information is available in the full EAC Newsletter. You can sign up to make sure you don’t miss any of their future newsletters and other notices.

Oregon Students Selected for United States Senate Youth Program

McKenna Raade, a senior from Cottage Grove High School and Nabikshya Rayamajhi, a junior at Henry D. Sheldon High School are Oregon’s 2021 delegates for the United States Senate Youth Program! McKenna and Nabikshya will each receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate studies with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science. They will also participate in a virtual Washington Week March 14-17, where all student delegates attend online meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies and senior members of the national media, among others.

McKenna Raade serves as vice president of the Student Body and co-chair of the Cottage Grove Youth Advisory Council. On the state level, she is an active member of the Capital Ambassadors program and an advisor on the Every Student Belongs implementation, developing an equity playbook for school districts around the state. She has served on the Rotary District 5110 Interact Board for two years. Along with being president of her school’s Interact club, she also serves as an officer for Key Club, Future Business Leaders of America, Spanish Club, Link Crew, and as captain of both the varsity swim team and water polo team. McKenna wants to further her education by studying a range of social sciences. After college, she wants to pursue a career in education or human rights law and policy.

Nabikshya Rayamajhi, a junior at Henry D. Sheldon High School, serves as the National Expansion director of High School Democrats of America, and a Junior Class representative of the Associated Student Body. She founded Oregon Menstrual Equity Initiative (OMEI) at the end of her freshman year and successfully passed a menstrual equity policy in the 4J School District, being featured in The Wall Street Journal and a multitude of local media. She is also the president of the 4J Climate Justice Club. As a Hindu Nepali-American immigrant, she performs traditional dances and provides cultural presentations at the Annual Oregon Asian Celebration. Nabikshya plans to study political science in college, obtain a Masters of Business Administration, and attend law school to receive her Juris Doctorate degree. Her ultimate goal is to become a human rights lawyer and work in the federal government, fighting for all Americans in Washington, D.C.

Congratulations, McKenna and Nabikshya!

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