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Think Out Loud

Finding Solutions: What Works and Why for Student Achievement

Pete Springer/OPB

When you call Western Oregon University student Kristty Polanco’s cell phone you get a message in perfect English inviting you to leave your name and number, then one in fluent Spanish. She’s facile in both languages, she’s majoring in Community Health and is holding down a 3.59 GPA.

She’s a success story, but there are other paths she could have taken. When she first moved here at nine years old with her family from Venezuela she spoke no English. She says her dad spent hours with her helping her study for a spelling test that other kids might have spent 15 minutes on. But she was lucky, she learned English fairly quickly and her parents were behind her all the way.  At her Dallas high school she connected with the federally funded Upward Bound program. She’ll graduate college this spring.

The conversation about how to make sure students succeed doesn’t seem to be coming to a close anytime soon. The Obama administration wants changes to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.  Some of the best, brightest and well-funded in Oregon continue think about how to close “the achievement gap.” Today we’re taking a look at three different organizations that work to boost student achievement — what makes them work, and why.

How do you measure student success? What have you seen that helps overcome obstacles to achievement? What barriers did you face in your own academic career? What helped you?


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