Oregon schools can’t hide behind a financial crisis this year, and neither can the public. The year 2014 can be an opportunity for school leaders, watchdogs and advocates to focus on something new: building a culture of student success.
This is a different exercise than simply surviving the next economic forecast. In some ways, it’s harder, because it forces Oregon to challenge some very old assumptions about how things are done. It also requires us to confront the statistics that contradict our self-image as a cutting-edge state.
Our dropout rate is among the nation’s worst. We rank 40th in academic achievement, compared with Washington state at ninth, according to a key annual report released this week. Our record of success with students of all backgrounds – white, minority, middle-class, low-income – skews below average. Our schools and universities are letting too many students drift through or drop out without gaining the skills needed to become self-sufficient and resilient adults.
This isn’t just a money problem. It’s also a cultural problem.