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There is a disturbing trend in Oregon's test results for schools

Over the past few weeks, we have released information on student test scores, SAT results and the progress of our English language learners. As I look at these results, I am struck by two things.

First I am struck by how hard our teachers, administrators and students are working. Despite tight budgets and larger class sizes, we are seeing some areas of real improvement.

Our elementary students are rising to the challenge of tougher expectations in reading and math. Our high school students continue to outperform the nation on the SAT college entrance exam and SAT scores went up in both reading and math last year.

However, I can’t help but see a disturbing trend in our test results — a trend that has been around as long as our schools have and that plagues districts throughout our state and our country.

Our students of color, students in poverty, students with special needs, and English language learners are not seeing the same levels of success as their peers. The results for our English language learners this year were particularly concerning and raise real questions about how well we are serving these students.

As we look at redesigning our education system, we need to keep the issue of equity at the heart of our work. If we are to succeed as a state, we must address the achievement gap.

Some of the results we are currently seeing are simply unacceptable. Only 50 percent of our Hispanic students read at grade level by third grade. Only 37 percent of our black students passed the sixth-grade math test. Only 7 percent of our English language learners passed the high school science test. And the four-year graduation rate for most of our students of color is just more than 50 percent.

Reaching true equity in our state does not simply mean ensuring all kids have access to the same opportunities or the same level of education. Equity is not about access, it’s about outcomes.

If we are going to close the achievement gap in our state, we will have to do more to ensure equitable outcomes.

Our state has an incredible opportunity — the chance to design a new, more streamlined, more student-centered education system that can get us to levels of student achievement well beyond what we have seen in the past. As we work together to build this new system, we need to make sure we are keeping equity at the core and that we are bringing in our communities of color as partners in this work.

These are our kids and we cannot afford to let any of them slip through the cracks. We cannot afford to waste the creativity, energy and potential of such a large section of our student population. We have to do more. While it can be daunting to look at the work ahead of us, I also find it energizing and exciting.

What would it mean to put a real dent in the cycle of poverty, to see 80 percent of our students receiving some sort of post-secondary training or credential? What would it mean to live in a state where student outcomes could no longer be predicted based on race, income or native-language? Now that’s a future to work for, to fight for, to believe in.

Rob Saxton is the deputy superintendent of public pnstruction in Oregon.




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