Oregon districts set to receive big state grant money

Oregon districts set to receive big state grant money

(Ore.) Districts looking to get a share of some $170 million in new state support face a deadline at the end of this month to submit plans for addressing the needs of at-risk high school students.

Measure 98, passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2016, directed the Legislature to provide at least $800 per high school student each year for the expansion of career and technical education, college-level curriculum and dropout prevention.

This year’s allocation is set to be distributed in July.

The plans, which are due to the Oregon Department of Education by March 31, are expected to explain how districts will use the money to improve student outcomes.

“The ballot measure was written to support students for whom the current system isn’t working,” explained Meg Boyd, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Education. “They are being asked to take a hard look at their current systems and how they can expand or establish systems that can work for all students.”

In the years leading up to the 2016 election, Oregon had among the lowest graduation rates in the nation, hovering at under 69 percent.

The state has also struggled with high rates of student absenteeism—traditionally among the highest nationally.

A 2014 report from the Oregonian found that nearly one in five students in the state missed at least 10 percent of the school year—that’s about 100,000 students that missed upwards of three weeks of school.

The public outcry helped generate support for Measure 98, which received support from almost 66 percent of the electorate.

Although Measure 98, now known as the High School Graduation and College Career Readiness Act, provides support for increasing opportunities in CET and college preparation, dropout prevention and chronic absenteeism are key targets.

All districts, charter schools and Education Service Districts are eligible to receive the funding, assuming each complies with several requirements that include:

  • Implementing district-wide, evidence-based programs for reducing chronic absenteeism in grades 9-12;
  • Giving teachers and school staff formal time to review student data on grades, absences and discipline records;
  • Establishing systems to ensure that all high school students, including English Learners, are taking courses required for on-time graduation; and
  • Preparing an implementation plan.

The plans are expected to cover four years and should provide real data points as well as analysis of the challenges facing the district’s at-risk students. Spending needs to be prioritized to serve those targeted students and districts need to explain how expanding or creating new programs will support those subgroups.

Districts have a lot of discretion over the strategies and programs, but guidance from the ODE suggests that Multi-Tiered Systems of Support are among the best practices for dropout prevention and improving chronic absenteeism.

Key elements of an MTSS framework include:

  • A data system to allow daily access to attendance and related data sources;
  • Universal screening to determine which students need support;
  • Cross-sector team-based problem-solving; and
  • And continuous progress monitoring for students needing additional support.

Boyd said one issue state and local officials are already encountering is the vast differences in the amount of money being allocated, which is based on student enrollment, or Average Daily Membership.

“For our larger districts, they are receiving millions of dollars,” she said. “Whereas, our smaller districts are receiving, in some cases, $4,400 to change the system. So this has become an equity issue for the department and we are looking at ways to support those smaller districts.”

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