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Education | local

Board Considers Changes To How State Approaches Education

A committee of Oregon education leaders and advocates meets Tuesday to sort through advice from more than 1,100 people. The new Education Investment Board aims to re-organize how the state approaches education from pre-school through graduate school. .

Longtime Portland school advocate Steve Buel says he’s been to a few of the board’s seven public meetings – and heard a lot of the same things.

Buel said “At every one, the plan has been clobbered and attacked, because they don’t think it’s really going to make a difference.”

The “plan” — as Buel calls it — is geared around a goal for the year 2025, that backers call “40-40-20.” It aims to have 40 percent of young people earning at least bachelor’s degrees, and another 40 percent getting two-year degrees. The remaining 20-percent of teenagers should graduate from high school.

Gov. John Kitzhaber got legislative support for a new Education Investment Board to lead the 40-40-20 effort.

He appeared at the last of the seven recent public meetings.

Kitzhaber “I want to say that I believe that together we can build a new model for public education in Oregon that moves beyond the prescriptive and punitive aspects of the No Child Left Behind law.”

“No Child Left Behind” is the federal law Congress passed in 2001.

The Board is expected to craft a new accountability system for schools. Todd Jones is an advisor to the governor. He says achievement compacts –- between the state and education institutions – will put a premium on certain indicators.

Jones explains, “It’s likely that we’ll have one in the area of completion rates – high school diplomas, college degrees. Knowledge and skills – measures of whether or not our students are developing the basic skills in reading and mathematics and other core subject areas. And connection – specifically job placement rates.”

Some parents and teachers say they worry the compacts will impose consequences if certain top-down criteria — like minimum test scores – aren’t met. Jones emphasized that there’s no direct tie to funding — yet. Portland high school teacher, Hyung Nam spoke out against the apparent emphasis on testing.

Nam says, “What kids really need to learn is a real education where they learn to think critically, learn how to be creative, learn how to collaborate. And for those kinds of things, standardized testing really don’t work.”

A draft summary of public comments at the meetings lists funding as the top concern. Other concerns include testing and limited curriculum. The investment board receives a final report later today Tuesday.

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