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Our view: The value of showing up

Published on October 13, 2017 2:57PM

It has been another week of distressing news for an Oregon education system that continues to rank among the worst in the country.

Administration after administration, from state government all the way down to local school districts, have promised reforms and improvement.

Yet new initiatives, new tests to measure progress, new management, new programs and new funding sources are always stymied — they lack follow-through and soon enough Oregon education is back where it started, though pointed down a different shady path.

On Wednesday, Oregon’s chief state schools officer Salam Noor resigned under pressure from Governor Kate Brown. That’s the same governor who handpicked Noor to oversee the state’s K-12 schools little more than two years ago. According to the governor’s press secretary, Brown said she was no longer satisfied with Noor’s ability to execute her vision.

So back to square one for Oregon education. Back to the back of the pack.

From a local perspective, school districts received their “report cards” on Thursday and they were mixed bags. Far from straight As, but far from failing grades as well.

We spotlighted the results from the Hermiston and Pendleton districts, and what is most compelling is the fact that teachers and administrators are hard pressed to put their finger on why a certain statistic improved or why another dipped.

And that’s understandable. Anyone who has spent any time in a classroom knows that each is different, as is each and every student who comprises them.

It makes sense that the numbers fluctuate, and it will take many years and many thoughtful studies to drill down to what (if any) progress is being made in our schools and how we can do better.

Because what good are these tiny data points until we have a larger set? And will we ever have a large enough set if we continue to change how and why we test our young people? It’s like measuring a baseball player on their first few at bats, when it’s only after seasons (or a whole career) that we can accurately measure their true value and ability.

It can be discouraging to watch the continual revolving door of upper management. It can be equally discouraging to get lost in the minutiae of statistics.

But the one thing we’re continually reminded of when we discuss education is the importance of showing up. Of attending class. Of missing as little time as possible, of not falling behind.

The state defines “regular attenders” as students who attend at least 90 percent of the school year. Statistics show that students who fall below that mark test well below those who show up reliably.

Yet in Pendleton only 76. 2 percent of students classify as regular attenders. It’s worse in Hermiston — only 71.1 percent attend at least 90 percent of class time. And statewide Oregon students attend an abysmal 67.3 percent of the time.

That’s not good enough. So much of the education system can seem bureaucratic, generic and random — the success of our children and loved ones are out of our hands once we’ve taught them to read and write, think and count.

But the best thing we can do to get them through school is to get them to school. Accept only legitimate excuses — contagious illness the obvious one. Get your kid to class and the state’s statistics, and our community as a whole, will no doubt improve. Perhaps the statistics will even bear it out.


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