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Bad marks raise red flags

MY VIEW • Report paints dismal picture of Oregon education
by: L.E. BASKOW, Boise-Eliot fourth-grader Connor Orton works on a book project in class. A recent report on education in Oregon gave the state system a grade of D-plus.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the results of Education Week’s recent Quality Counts report. Oregon is one of only five states in the nation to receive an overall grade of D-plus across six areas of performance and policy: chance for success; K-12 achievement; standards, assessments and accountability; transitions and alignment; the teaching profession; and school finance. I have to ask, How can this possibly be? Our teacher salaries are decent, the teachers’ union is firmly in control, the politicians keep pouring more and more money into the education budget, and the experts in the state Department of Education tell us they know what they are doing. I wonder, though, given our national ranking. I lived in Oregon for 30 years, and was a teacher for 12 years and an administrator for four. I was appointed by Oregon Senate President Brady Adams to the Education Leadership Team, an emergency team authorized by the Legislature to advise the state on educational policy, where I served in 1999 and 2000. I want only the best for Oregon’s students, but it seems Oregon needs a wake-up call — and this is it. Here are a few examples of Oregon’s education shortcomings, according to the report: • Oregon has the second-lowest kindergarten enrollment in the nation. • Oregon has the second-lowest number of adults in the labor force working full time and year-round, a measurement of the outcome of the education system. • Oregon had the second-lowest fourth-grade math achievement gains in the nation from 2003 to 2007. • Oregon had the third-lowest fourth-grade reading achievement gains from 2003 to 2007. • Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have established early-learning standards — Oregon has not. • Oregon does not define college readiness. • Oregon has no path for industry certification — 39 other states and D.C. do. • Oregon has no basic licensure requirement for substantial coursework completion in the subject area to be taught, unlike 26 other states and D.C. • Oregon has no test of subject-specific knowledge in order to obtain a teaching license. Forty-one other states and D.C. do. • Oregon does not require formal evaluations of all teachers’ performance. Forty-three other states do. • Oregon does not publish rankings or results for our teacher-preparation institutions. Thirty other states do. • Oregon does not offer an alternative-route program for teacher preparation. Forty-six other states and D.C. do. • Oregon does not provide incentives for teachers to earn national board certification. Thirty-eight other states do. • Oregon does not provide a state-funded mentoring program for all new teachers. Twenty-five other states do. • Oregon does not provide a mentoring program for administrators. Fourteen other states do. I love education and was very distressed to see Oregon education receive such a very low ranking in the nation. I only hope the report will awaken students and parents so that they demand immediate corrective action. You can read the full report at www.edweek.org. Jerry Dawson was an Oregon resident for 30 years and an Oregon educator for 16 years. He currently lives in Hot Springs Village, Ark.