Oregon Has Tangible Successes to Build On
We believe Oregon has a lot more to do to achieve education transformation and better outcomes for students. At the same time, practitioners and policy makers alike have built a strong foundation for that effort.
The past decade schools and teachers at various locations throughout the state have been applying and refining best practices in student-centered teaching and learning that help students excel and move forward. These practices have the potential to be scaled statewide.
More recently, Oregon has built a policy, governance, and budgeting framework to support such practices, and better learning, achievement, and attainment in general from PreK through 20. Oregon is directing more funding to education. These factors form a foundation for the student-centered education system that Oregon needs to build at scale.
Scalable Best Practices
At the grass roots, individual schools at various locations around Oregon are breaking the old mold and employing practices that are engaging and motivating students to achieve and advance.
- At Earl Boyles Elementary in the David Douglas district, some 90 preschoolers are part of a program that brings parents, educators and the community together to help ensure students are ready for kindergarten and for success in third grade and beyond.
- At high schools from Scappoose to Medford to Madras teachers are engaging students in student-centered learning focused on high, clearly defined standards that they achieve at their own pace and in a variety of ways.
- Sherwood High School’s Bowmen Fab Lab students are absorbed in hands-on learning of computer controlled manufacturing, 3D printing, and other technologies that involve job and career capabilities that pay well and are in demand.
- At Woodburn the school district is achieving some of the best high school completion rates in the state through a combination of strong community involvement, dual language learning, and student-centered teaching and learning.
- In Eastern Oregon three community colleges and Eastern Oregon University are partnering with local high schools in the Eastern Promise program, which affords high school students early college courses and credit through dual enrollment. Other regions are adopting this model.
- At Oregon Health and Sciences University the School of Medicine is shifting the bulk of medical student learning away from a traditional model based on seat time and lectures to one based on clinical simulations and other hands-on experience to achieve 43 essential competencies.
New Policy, Governance, and Budgeting Framework
Since 2011 state legislators and education officials have adopted an impressive array of changes in education policy, governance, and budgeting to prompt system changes and better outcomes for learners.
- A Chief Education Officer is now charged to oversee the formulation of education policy and investment, break down barriers to a seamless PreK through 20 system, and assure system performance and accountability.
- Councils have been created specifically to advise investments in early learning and STEM education, and they are supported by staff in the Chief Education Office.
- The state’s investments and interests in state universities, community colleges, and student financial aid are managed by a Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC).
- Oregon has also made real progress in shifting to outcome-based budgeting in education. This form of budgeting tailors state investments to long-term strategies and specific desired outcomes.
The 2015-17 state budget prioritized 1) preparing early learners for the pathway from kindergarten to third grade reading, 2) higher rates of high school and postsecondary completion, and 3) a stronger connection between education and well-paying jobs and careers. This budget that increases base funding for public schools, funds all-day kindergarten, and targets specific outcomes. Particular targeted outcomes include 1) changes in funding formulas for higher education completion and career technical education (CTE), 2) system investments in a variety of special efforts such as collective impact hubs, data systems, culturally responsive teaching, and mentoring, and 3) short-term strategic investments such as CTE and STEM grants.
HECC adoption of a new funding formula for state universities this past April marked a significant breakthrough in outcome-based budgeting in Oregon. The Student Success and Completion Model, as it is called, shifts the basis for state university funding from enrollment—seats in a class— to better access and successful completion of degrees for resident students.
The new formula directs more resources to support students and promote the timely completion of programs and degrees, with extra attention to the needs of historically under-served students. Moreover, the formula contains significant additional weights for completion of degrees in high-priority fields for the state, such as STEM, health care, and the preparation of teachers for bilingual classrooms.