If it works like the proponents say it will, Oregon’s plan to improve education will force school districts to focus intensely on producing successful graduates and will shine a light on the best — and worst — performers.
Many involved in the education system say there’s a lot of potential to improve that system built into Gov. John Kitzhaber’s plan to require that school districts sign achievement compacts with the state, spelling out results they’re expected to get from their students.
But for it to work, a lot of things will have to go right. Schools will have to set lofty but attainable goals and feel enough pressure to meet them. The state will have to have a solid infrastructure to help struggling schools learn from successful ones.
And looming over the whole discussion is the question of money: Can schools legitimately be expected to improve student achievement without more money? That’s far from a settled debate.
Oregon isn’t alone in experimenting with education reform, but the state is charting its own course and doesn’t have a successful blueprint to follow.