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School improvement is focus of talks

Providing students the tools and environment to encourage success in school and beyond was the focus of talks Oct. 22 at Columbia Gorge Community College.

With the newly redesigned state report card assessments of student growth and achievement fresh in the minds of educators and state officials alike, Oregon’s educational leaders know they have a lot of work to do to live up to those expectations.

Oregon Learns, a project of the Oregon Business Council, is an initiative designed to bring policy makers, education stakeholder groups and community leaders together in “supporting Oregon’s effort to upgrade its public education system to serve all students better and get more of them to a postsecondary degree,” meeting presenters said.

Referred to as a “regional area collaborative,” the meeting was one of a series of regional sessions in which policy makers reach out to stakeholders from across the state to discuss how Oregon can redesign public education to better serve students.

According to Dan Goldman, superintendent of Hood River County School District, a major benchmark for marking students’ future success is meeting the required reading standard by third grade.

“It’s the penultimate measure for projecting future achievement,” he said. “If kids are not readers by the time they leave, they’re doomed to a life of less.”

The ambitious “40/40/20” goal is a prime example of what the state hopes to achieve in terms of student success.

The goal, according to the Oregon Learns website, is based on education reforms outlined in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s Senate Bill 253, which the state legislature adopted in 2011.

It aims for “40 percent of Oregonians to have a baccalaureate degree or higher, for 40 percent to have an associate’s degree or certificate in a skilled occupation and for the remaining 20 percent without a postsecondary credential to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent credential” by 2025.

“Today’s world punishes students who don’t have much education,” Duncan Wyse, president of the Oregon Business Council said. “Half don’t make it through college. A third drop out of high school… those are facts.”

Oregon, he said, needs to figure out a way to revamp education so that its standards for teaching and learning are more “student-centered.”

“These are bright kids, but they can’t all learn in the same way,” Golden said in her presentation. “You need to ask schools to change for students, not the other way around.”

One of the ideas presented at the meeting geared to spur such advancement was to create a system that allows all high school students to earn a total of nine college credits before they graduate. Another strategy was for local institutions to learn from techniques used by “model schools” dealing with similar educational challenges that have successfully addressed these issues and seen measurable improvement.

Oregon leaders from across the state will come together to discuss these and other potential strategies for improving public education at the 11th Oregon Leadership Summit at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland on December 9.

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