State Chronic Absenteeism Plan Survey Tool: Share Your Perspective Today

House Bill 4002 (2016) directed the Oregon Department of Education and the Chief Education Office, in cooperation with other state education agencies, Department of Human Services, Oregon Health Authority, Early Learning Division, and community and education stakeholders, to develop a statewide plan to address chronic absences of students in the public schools of the state.

The Legislature has specifically required the following four elements to be included in the plan:

  1. A process for publicly disclosing annual information on chronic absence rates for each school.
  2. Guidance and best practices for all schools and school districts to use to track, monitor and address chronic absences and improve attendance.
  3. A process for identifying schools in need of support to reduce chronic absences and improve attendance.
  4. A description of technical assistance available to schools identified as being in need of support, including technical assistance that will be provided by the department or the office.


This survey is being sent out to “ground test” some of the practices that have been identified based on national and Oregon research and by the members of the HB 4002 Workgroup. This survey is one part of a community and statewide engagement strategy to help refine and prioritize elements of the final plan and consider local context.

The survey will be open until October 14th. Please feel free to share in your networks, and thank you for taking a few minutes to share your voice and perspective.

Reflections from Education Innovation Officer, Colt Gill, on His Statewide Engagement

Innovation in Southern Oregon


Community involvement was the main theme as I heard from over 20 community conversations across Southern Oregon last week. I was able to visit with students, families, educators, and many community partners from the South Coast region, through the Medford-area, and on to Klamath Falls. We heard from citizens of Douglas, Coos, Curry, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, and Lake counties.

The level of community engagement was second-to-none that I have experienced in my statewide tour so far. Community partners included other government agencies, non-profits, philanthropists, involved citizens, and private industry and business leaders. All were focused on improving experiences and outcomes for students and the community as a whole. All these leaders see education as a primary driver for the success of their local community. They focused on the need to invest in quality programs in the schools that not only addressed skill development and relevance to each student’s future…but also developing a school culture that let’s each student know they are appreciated and cared for.


Two program areas where these distinct Southern Oregon Communities have invested their efforts include:

Trauma-informed practices with restorative practices that help students feel welcome and successful and engaged in school. And,

Strong high school-to-post secondary education. They have developed powerful partnerships with OregonTech, SWOCC, KCC, and RCC that are delivering high quality college credits to high school students in the area. All the K-12 and college partners in this effort want to see further commitment by Oregon’s education leadership to ensure the full transferability of credits earned by students at these institutions.

Many thanks to our Southern Oregon and South Coast education partners. Your dedication to students is clear and the results of your efforts both serve as an example across the state and further the success of your students and communities.


Healthy Kids Learn Better

Last week I had the opportunity to connect with the Health Kids Learn Better Coalition at Upstream Public Health in Multnomah County. The focus of our convening was the intersection of health and education and included other critical factors like transportation. We discussed the need to support the whole child (and their family) so that they could be ready to learn and succeed at school. I heard about a number of ways that schools can partner with other public, non-profit, and private organizations to help support students and their families, these included programs with proven outcomes like Playworks and Safe Routes to School. But we also discussed missing elements of support within Oregon’s schools. Oregon has well below the recommended ratio of each of these critical school professionals who provide vital support for students and learning: School Counselors- 1 for every 250 students (ASCA), School Psychologists- 1 for 500-700 students (NASP), School Social Workers- 1 for every 250 students (SSWAA), and School Nurses- staffed at levels sufficient to provide the range of health care necessary to meet the needs of school populations: 1 for every 125-750 students depending on the local needs (NASN).

Each community I have the opportunity to connect with adds richness to our dataset and underscores the need for regional flexibility in our approach to policy that will support improvement of Oregon’s graduation outcomes.


Innovation in Central Oregon

Innovation was the theme during my multiple day visits with educators, students, families and community leaders in Warm Springs, Bend, La Pine, Redmond, Madras, Prineville and other Central Oregon communities. The area has a thriving a ESD, partnerships like the Better Together-Regional Achievement Collaborative, and engaged community groups such as the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition.

I learned about efforts to expand the  Juntos program in the region’s schools given the high graduation and college persistence rates of Latino students who have been through the program. I met with high school students considering the field of education from the Teach Oregon Program. They were brilliant students who could help to diversify Oregon’s teaching force. I met with a group of business leaders that are working with the Bend-La Pine School District to design an innovation zone to teach technology and entrepreneurial skills. In meeting with members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, I learned of their efforts to infuse more culturally relevant and sustaining programming in the schools that support their children. These programs are essential to both connect with the students and community and to maintain local culture.

Reflections from Education Innovation Officer, Colt Gill, on his Statewide Engagement

Educators Umatilla

Engaging in Union, Umatilla, and Morrow Counties…

Data, partnerships, and student-centered pathways were key takeaways after visiting communities in Northeast Oregon last week. This region has been a long-time leader in developing relevance for high school students by delivering college credits to high school students through the Eastern Promise model. This is an impressive partnership across the districts served by Intermountain ESD, Blue Mountain CC, and Eastern Oregon University. The program stretches down to the elementary level with “Academic Momentum” setting students up with a 10-year plan for their future school and career goals. Students in Eastern Promise classes had a 28 percentage point higher high school completion rate (2013-14 data: 68.5% completion rate for Oregon students vs 96.6% completion rate for Eastern Promise students) and their college persistence rates are over 40 percentage points higher than students across Oregon.

La Grande and Morrow County School Districts highlighted outstanding community partnerships. Well over forty partners come together in significant ways to make La Grande’s Career Technical Education (CTE) Program meaningful and future-focused for students. Programs are offered in natural resources, industrial technology, visual arts, performing arts, business, and culinary. Morrow County School District has created partnerships that have tripled their financial investment in preparing students to be at school every day ready to learn. Strong partnerships between advocacy groups and the school districts in the three counties was also a highlight. The Umatilla Hispanic Advocacy Committee has developed deep partnerships with the region’s school systems. The partnership and agreements between the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and Pendleton School District serves as a model for Oregon. One highlight of the model partnership is that the tribe offers Native language instruction in the schools, this program enriches the experience of both American Indian students and non-American Indian students.

All of the programs were ambitious, creative, and motivational. However, one student-led program at Umatilla School District stood out as truly inspirational. Please take five minutes to check-out this student project focused on changing a culture to empower girls to become involved in robotics and engineering:

Oregon’s STEM Hub Network Welcomes Two Americorp VISTA Members

In 2015, Oregon’s statewide network of eleven regional STEM Hubs was selected as one of 27 communities recognized by the National STEM Funders Network for innovative cross-sector partnership work focused on alignment and coordination of systems to support applied learning opportunities for Oregon’s learners. With support from the Chief Education Office and the Oregon Department of Education, South Metro Salem STEM Partnership (SMSP) and the Southern Oregon STEM Hub applied and were awarded two full-time Americorps VISTA volunteers through the STEM Funders Network’s STEM Ecosystems Initiative to support communications and the integration of youth voice and empowerment in design and decision-making regarding applied learning opportunities.

SMSP Welcomes Communications volunteer

The South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership, hosted by Oregon Tech in Wilsonville, is excited to welcome an Americorps VISTA member in August to support capacity-building goals in the area of communication and outreach for the entire state STEM Hub network.  Ian Zentner, a recent computer science graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, will bring enthusiasm and skills developed through his extracurricular management of a college community radio program to the work of the STEM Hubs.

Ian will support the STEM Hub Network in two main ways.  First, he will facilitate the development of shared communication and marketing materials that support the development and distribution of some common core messages.  This work is critically important in strengthening the larger network infrastructure that unites the STEM Hubs.  Second, the South Metro-Salem STEM partnership developed and launched an online platform in early 2015, Oregon Connections, for industry professionals to engage with educators and students to expose students to the real-world applications of academic concepts and available career pathways.  Investments from the Department of Education and Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s Office of Community College and Workforce Development allowed for the expanded licensure of Oregon Connections to teachers throughout the state, beginning in Fall 2016.  Ian will support the development of training and recruitment materials to bring industry and community professionals into the system to support student learning in all areas of the state.

The Southern Oregon STEM Hub Welcomes Youth Voice VISTA Member

The Southern Oregon STEM Hub is thrilled to welcome an Americorps VISTA member, Allison Sweeney, who will support the Hub’s work in incorporating youth voice into STEM initiatives. With Allison’s leadership as a program coordinator, The Southern Oregon STEM Hub will pilot an initiative called the Chief Science Officer program beginning Fall 2016 with an eye to building a statewide network of young STEM leaders who will be empowered to take action and to be at decision-making tables regarding STEM opportunities in their schools and across the State of Oregon. Chief Science Officers are peer elected middle and high school students who build leadership skills and use them to bring exciting STEM experiences to their campus in order to foster a culture of curiosity and a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, helping to build a diverse and creative workforce. They also represent their peers in the STEM community and provide youth input to leaders in education and industry, providing a bridge between our current learners and the fastest growing sector of careers. Allison will focus her first year on building relationships with schools, community organizations, and industry partners to create a network of committed adults who will support the training and work of 50 CSOs who will be elected in Spring 2017. Over the next three years we hope to support at least 80 Chief Science Officers representing all 13 school districts in Jackson, Josephine, and Klamath Counties.

Meyer Memorial Trust and the Northwest Health Foundation Announce the Winners to their Equity Illustrated Contest

Earlier this year Northwest Health Foundation and Meyer Memorial Trust held an “Equity Illustrated” contest to help move toward a more equitable Oregon by asking “How would you illustrate equity to help your fellow Oregonians understand?”. Recently the winners were announced; three adult entries and one youth. You can see the winning illustrations by going to the Northwest Health Foundation website here.

Reflections from Education Innovation Officer, Colt Gill on his Statewide Engagement

Two Days in Hood River and Wasco Counties…

In coordination with the Statewide Regional Collaboration Summit at the Columbia Gorge Community College this week, I was able to convene with many more students, families, community members, board members, and educators from three districts over the course of three days: North Wasco County School District, Hood River County School District, and Dufur School District.

My biggest take away from these visits was the incredible amount of community involvement in these school systems. There were so many community organizations represented at the meetings and many more that interact daily with the students and the schools. These organizations cover a wide range of supports, from Juntos, which engages with Latino families and helps focus on high school graduation and paths to higher education, to the Dufur Garden Clubs that work with students in the FFA greenhouse, and everything in between.

Community support also came from a variety of public agencies and nonprofits including the Columbia Gorge ESD, the Department of Human Services, the education foundation, private donors, Helping Hands Against Violence, The Next Door, and several more. This is a community that comes together to ensure their students are supported.

Solutions for Oregon’s Low Graduation Rate?

Natalie Pate, Statesman Journal       July 27, 2016

In December, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced the creation of a new position, the Education Innovation Officer.

Meant to advise Brown on the best practices and programs for schools statewide, the job leaves much to the imagination.

What does it mean to “engage with communities”? How will the results of such engagements help? What are the main goals of the position? And why was this position created when the state already has a Chief Education Officer and Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction?

To get to the root of these questions, the Statesman Journal spoke with Kristin Gimbel, public affairs director for the Chief Education Office; and Colt Gill, the state’s first Education Innovation Officer.

What is an Education Innovation Officer?

The Education Innovation Officer has one main goal — improve the state’s graduation rate — which, to be accomplished, comes with many other goals.

Oregon has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country, with only 74 percent of students graduating from high school on time. In the graduating class of 2015, about 11,800 kids did not graduate, Gill said.

The Legislature has approved a statewide goal of a 100 percent graduation rate by 2025. However, if the state were to “go about business as usual,” Gill predicted,150,000 children would be at risk of not graduating on time.

“We are in near-crisis mode,” he said.

It isn’t just a matter of graduating. The state also wants to know students are graduating prepared for their next steps in the workplace or college, which takes additional work.

While the Education Innovation Officer works closely with the Chief of Education and the Deputy Superintendent, his main job is focused on working to improve graduation rates and outcomes.

He is responsible for working with local communities, school districts, researchers, students and other stakeholders to identify existing successful practices, unravel challenges districts are facing, and delve into data and research on the subject — from Oregon and other states.

After gathering feedback and data, the officer will make recommendations to the governor, state agencies, and the Legislature regarding policies, budget priorities and supports needed.

Meet Colt Gill

Gill was appointed by Brown as Oregon’s first Education Innovation Officer in April. He was the longtime superintendent of the Bethel School District, which serves about 5,700 students in northwest Eugene.

He has been an Oregon educator for more than 25 years, serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon and on a number of boards and commissions for the state and for various education and children’s health and wellness institutions.

As a native Oregonian, he said, and with a deep-rooted past in the state’s education system, this issue hits home with him.

Meeting with the community

Gill has been in the position for only a matter of weeks, so he said a routine hasn’t quite been established.

“Every day is a little different,” he said.

So far, Gill has been working with Gimbel to set up his community engagement events. Through the end of the summer, Gill will visit 18 counties to meet with focus groups. By talking with parents, students, educators and administrators, he said, he will get a better idea of what is working and what isn’t.

Gimbel said Gill’s meetings in Marion and Polk counties will come later in the season. When those dates, times and locations are set, the information will be released to the public so they know where and how to participate in the conversation.

Neighbor counties are welcome to join at these events as well as the state wants to get as broad coverage as possible, he said.

Initial findings

In addition to engaging with the community through these focus groups, Gill helped develop an inter-agency team — including the Early Learning Division, Department of Education and Chief of Education Office — that is charged with collecting and analyzing existing data to find themes of best practices.

While still in his position’s infancy, Gill said he is already learning a lot.

For instance, while Oregon students perform at or above average on national tests, that isn’t translating to an average or slightly above average graduation rate, as it tends to correlate in other states.

Oregon also has higher rates of absenteeism. Gill said this leads to the question, “How do we look at absenteeism differently than we have?”

Research shows the importance of student engagement, he said, meaning each student needs to feel engaged with the material. It needs to be relevant to students to be worth their coming back.

While saying “You need to graduate” may work for some, it won’t work for everyone, he said.

There are “great data on career technical education outcomes,” Gill said. “Even after one career technical education course, the student is 15.5 percent more likely to graduate.”

Gill said this translates across all demographics, whereas absenteeism and lower graduation rates disproportionately affect males and low-income students, as well as students of color.

Some districts in the country have adopted “early indicator and innovation systems” that detect issues in a child’s progress early on by tracking attendance, student behavior and grades, among other factors.

Chicago Public Schools has a similar structure to Oregon and have seen a great response to the indicator and innovations systems, Gill said, including a 4 percent increase in graduation rates every year for the past four years.

This is one of many models Gill and his team are analyzing and taking into consideration.


Gill said he will have short- and long-term goals based on his findings, all working toward the state’s 2025 goal.

Until then, he said, he is looking for steady progress.

“There is no instant fix,” he said. Gill wants to make sure the changes they make can be sustained over time as well.

“A big nut to crack is recognizing the implementation (of Gill’s suggestions) will have to look different for each community across the state,” Gimbel said. Gill is “being incredibly thoughtful … knowing not just one size fits all.”

Gill said it is important to “recognize the current system of education (in Oregon) is not working for all our students.”

With the policies, budget priorities and more that he and his team suggests, maybe one day it will.

For more information, go to or call 503-373-1283.

Oregon’s 2016 Reach Higher Summit

Landing Page Reach Higher

Oregon students share reflections on challenges and opportunities related to planning for their future at the Reach Higher Oregon Summit. Thanks to the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative and to Americas Promise and their Grad Nation campaign for their partnership in putting on the Summit.