County vows to guide students from the cradle to career

Yesterday, community leaders gathered at Portland State for a forum on student success. The morning session acted as a debriefing of the state of education in Multnomah County. 

Yesterday, community leaders gathered at Portland State for a forum on student success. The morning session acted as a debriefing of the state of education in Multnomah County.  

The afternoon was an open-table discussion between leaders, such as Mayor Sam Adams, educators and community members.

“The availability of a highly educated, talented labor force is one of the best predictors of economic growth,” said PSU President Wim Wiewel. “Oregon has been under-investing and under-producing in education.”

The hope is to improve educational outcomes and to have a way to measure county success.  

“The Cradle to Career Initiative is a systematic way to measure performance and improvement,” Wiewel said. “It has been proven to work elsewhere, primarily because it focuses on outcomes and accountability.”

Wiewel believes there are too many factors leading to dropouts and that the Cradle to Career Initiative will provide a way to hold teachers, schools and programs accountable.

Currently, only 53 percent of students in the Portland Public School District graduate from high school, said Graduate School of Education professor Susan Lenski.

According to Pat Burke, a professor in the Graduate School of Education, a healthy, supportive environment is critical to a child’s ability to mature into a successful adult.

“During the first five years of a child’s life, he or she will experience tremendous social, emotional, physical and intellectual growth and development,” Burke said.

Alternative high school programs have long been used to help students that are not comfortable in a traditional school setting to obtain their diplomas.   

Jenn Edgar, a teacher at Newberg Off-Campus Alternative Program (NOCAP), believes these programs can and do help students succeed.  

“NOCAP has been a successful program in my eyes,” she said. “We serve high school students who come from a variety of backgrounds, situations, ability levels and needs. I believe the most important thing we do is meet each student where he or she is at and work with them to become successful academically.”

According to Edgar, NOCAP does this through smaller classroom sizes, direct instruction, small group instruction and by providing opportunities for learning that are not conducive in a traditional school setting.

The program also strives to meet the student’s needs by addressing any mental, emotional and physical needs first.  

“You cannot expect someone to be ready to learn when they come to school hungry because there was no food at home, tired or stressed because their life is full of unsafe and unhealthy situations, or things of that nature,” Edgar said.  ?

In order for students, such as those that Edgar works with, to be successful she believes they need to receive more support from the community.  

“Communities in which alternative schools and programs reside should support the fact that these kids are indeed choosing their education over dropping out,” she said. “They shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to these schools and these students—volunteer, donate supplies or other resources. What they will find are a lot of kids who need to know that there are people invested in their success and are willing to put in the time and effort to help them cross the finish line.”

The role of PSU is in bringing the initiative to Portland and in leading the effort to decide which metrics should be used, the best data to measure them and the best way to present this information to the community. ?

“We are laying important groundwork so that decision-making by parents, educators, government policy makers, business leaders and others can be based on evidence,” Burk said. “Data and analysis help leaders support programs and practices that work and help them reject those that don’t.”  ?