Special Report
Education

Oregon

January 04, 2005 3 min read
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Standards and Accountability: The foundation of Oregon’s accountability system is nearly complete. The state has clear and specific standards at the elementary, middle, and high school levels for English, mathematics, and science, and at the middle and high school levels for social studies/history.

The state has tests based on its standards in all grade spans in English, math, and science, but it does not offer a social studies/history test aligned with its standards. Oregon’s tests go beyond multiple-choice questions to include extended-response items.

The state publishes report cards with test data, and it uses test results, in part, to rate schools. But Oregon does not have sanctions or assistance for both Title I and non-Title I schools that are rated as low-performing or failing. And it does not reward high-performing or improving schools. The lack of such policies in each of those areas reduces its grade.

Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Instead of requiring its teachers to complete minimum degrees or coursework in the subjects they plan to teach, Oregon requires its high school teachers to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge by passing tests in their areas of endorsement prior to certification. The state is developing a subject-matter test for middle school teachers.

The state requires that all prospective teachers complete 15 weeks of student teaching, earning Oregon full credit for that indicator. To obtain continuing teaching licenses, teachers must enter a continuing-licensure program that requires them to complete portfolios of their work in the classroom. But Oregon fails to pay for either mentoring or professional development for its teachers, shortcomings that lower its grade.

The state uses its five-year program-review process to identify low-performing teacher education institutions. But it does not publish graduates’ passing rates on licensure tests or rank those institutions, largely because all prospective teachers in teacher education programs must pass the tests before they graduate or earn licenses.

Although the state has established an alternative route into the profession, only those teacher-candidates who seek jobs in schools that receive federal Title I money for disadvantaged students must demonstrate knowledge of their subjects before entering the classroom.

School Climate: Oregon’s school report cards include information on school safety and class size—elements that bolster its grade in this category.

But the average elementary-class size pulls the state’s grade down. At 23.9 pupils in a class, according to the federal 2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, the state is tied for the second-largest class size in the nation. Oregon reports no efforts to reduce class size.

On the other hand, parents in Oregon have some choice in deciding where to send their children to school. The state has a charter school law rated moderately strong by the Center for Education Reform, and it has a limited system of open enrollment. Both factors help its grade.

Equity: Oregon has slight inequalities in local and state revenue for education, based on local property wealth. That is indicated by the state’s positive wealth-neutrality score, which measures the link between property wealth and state and local revenue.

The state has a 94.5 percent McLoone Index, which means the state is spending about 95 percent of what is needed to ensure all students receive at least the median expenditure in the state. Oregon ranks 22nd out of the 50 states on that indicator.

The state also ranks 13th on the coefficient of variation; its score indicates just moderate inequalities across districts in the state.

Spending: Oregon ranks 22nd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia on education spending per pupil.

The state spent $7,909 per pupil, which was above the national average of $7,734 per pupil, in the 2001-02 school year.

Almost 42 percent of Oregon’s students are in districts spending at least the national average. The state ranks 24th of the 50 states and the District of Columbia on the spending index, which also takes into account how far the remaining 58 percent of students are from having spending at least at the national average in their districts.

Oregon contributes 3.6 percent of its total taxable resources to education, which is below the national average of 3.8 percent. Over the decade preceding fiscal 2002, Oregon raised its spending by an average of 1.2 percent annually, after adjusting for inflation.

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