The Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) is chaired by Governor Kate Brown and was created in 2011 to oversee an effort to build a unified system for investing in and delivering public education from birth to college & career. We envision a system that links all segments of the educational experience together to ensure each student is poised for a promising future.
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I spent Wednesday of this week at the Starting Strong Conference, organized by the Confederation of School Administrators (COSA), and designed to create a space for early learning professionals and K-12 educators to come together for common professional learning.
While I listened to the speakers and participated in sessions throughout the day, I was struck as I considered how rare this kind of large-scale, cross-sector/cross-educational entity conversation would have been just five years ago when I was a superintendent. I still remember the moment it clicked for me that, as K-12 educators and administrators, our work to support student success didn’t start the moment they entered kindergarten; it started much sooner with the partnerships and coordination with our local early learning providers.
Historically, the depth of these kinds of partnerships has varied greatly from community to community. Over the last four years our efforts to build a seamless system have focused on blurring the lines between agencies during key student transitions, like the transition from early learning to kindergarten.
All of these shifts toward more of a seamless system have been about setting the stage for transformation, the kind of transformation that ensures our education system provides the kind of access, opportunities, and supports students need to realize their full potential. These are profound and complex shifts, not just in structure, but also in philosophy and theory of impact.
For the first time in our state, there is a strong vision and clear cross sector goals for early learning. Our collective ability to align around these goals means we are starting to leverage funds across sectors to better support young children and their families.
This shared vision between early learning and our K-12 partners means that children and their families experience aligned instructional practices and a strong transition from early learning to kindergarten, that our early care and education providers are equipped to promote positive child development, that families are supported as their children’s first teachers, and that, ultimately, disparities in outcomes for children of color and children navigating poverty are reduced.
We have a lot of work ahead to ensure that the seamless system we create is meaningfully advancing outcomes for our children and students, but conferences like Starting Strong remind me of how far we have come, and how much our students stand to gain when we blur the lines, remove silos and put our children first.
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