Monday, December 10, 2018

OSOS Responds to Joint Committee on Student Success Recommendations

Oregon Save Our Schools submitted the following testimony to the Joint Committee. Follow the Committee here:

Members of the Joint Committee on Student Success-

Having read the recommendations of the College and Career Ready Workgroup, we would like to respond to the suggestion that 40-40-20 is a goal worthy of continuing pursuit. Oregon Save Our Schools co-founder Tom Olson (now deceased) wrote this policy paper back in 2014. We are including it along with this link to a recent Willamette Week article that seems to reinforce how incredibly on target Tom was in his research on this.

The 40-40-20 slogan was created by the business community and is not based on education expertise, research, or proof that's where the future job market will be for today's students. It's not a goal, it's a goose chase that amateurs have set our schools on. Please focus instead on relentlessly pursuing the goals of providing broad curricular offerings, opportunities, and support to every student according to their needs and interests.

Still Another Destructive Goal Pursuit? Oregon’s “40/40/20”

By Tom Olson, Co-Founder, Oregon Save Our Schools
January 7, 2014

Introduction: The Concept of “Destructive Goal Pursuit”
Business management experts D. Christopher Kayes (1) * and Oliver Burkeman (2) have studied many cases of goal setting that is blind to actual realities.  They call it: “Destructive Goal Pursuit.”  They cite numerous examples where a business goal was dreamed up by executives, and then pushed heavily in a top-down fashion. Then, when evidence emerged that the goal was likely unattainable and unattached to any real facts, the executives “doubled down” even more heavily on the same goal.   Instead of revising course, they adopted counter-productive tactics focused on the original goal, and ignored facts that the pursuit of the goal was actually having destructive impacts.    

Burkeman cites General Motors as one example of destructive goal pursuit.   A little more than a decade ago, General Motors had lost significant market share to Japanese auto makers—due largely to poor quality of GM autos.  Corporate executives adopted a goal to recapture 29% of the American automobile market.  A major media advertising campaign was launched. All GM executives proudly wore a “29%” pin on their lapels.   Burkeman describes the results of this goal-setting: “Twenty-nine %” became a fetish, distorting the organization in damaging ways, fueling short-termism and blinkered vision, all so that the numbers in the business news headlines might match those on the vice-presidents’ lapels. But that never happened. GM continued spiraling towards failure, and went bankrupt in 2009; it ended up taking a bailout from Washington.  (3)

Recent History with Oregon’s Education Goal Pursuits 
Oregon’s efforts at education “reform” and “transformation” have witnessed similar phenomena, as follows.

Oregon’s Education Act for the 21st Century: “Proficiency Education Through  CIM and CAM!”
Oregon’s  “Education Act for the 21st Century” passed in 1991 held the bright promise that Oregon students could all become much more “proficient” in acquiring and applying knowledge.  They would demonstrate that “proficiency” through Certificates of Initial Mastery (CIM) and Certificates of Advanced Mastery (CAM)   

* Source citations are indicated in bold parentheses.  Full citations provided on Data Sources, below. This effort was later quietly folded away when the necessary investments to change Oregon’s public education system from a “seat time” orientation to strictly “proficiency demonstration” one were not forthcoming.  CIM and CAM?  Now gone from Oregon.

“No Child Left Behind: All children will be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014!”
After more than a decade, the Nation now has realized the folly of this goal that drove the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal legislation.  The ruins caused by the federal requirements to achieve this impossible goal remain with us---an ever-increased focus and escalating expenditures on narrow high stakes testing; failure to deal with the necessary real investments to remove poverty’s health and welfare barriers to learning; and, most sadly, a public saturated with inaccurate press reports using narrow test scores to portray our schools as “failing.”    

Like most states, Oregon has now received a federal “waiver” to the “all children proficient” federal goal.  In this waiver, the state accepted many federal “strings” to receive the waiver and its federal money flow.  Indeed, they have now actually cast these federal requirements into unwise new state policies---at the direction and demand of federal officials, not Oregonians. 

Now, Another New Goal Pursuit in Oregon
But, in place of “CIM & CAM“ and “all children proficient,” Oregon now has an official new state goal to drive education “transformation.”  It announces:

By 2025, Oregon will have:
  • 40% with bachelors degrees or higher
  • 40% with post-secondary associate degrees or certificates
  • the remaining 20% will attain a high school diploma  or equivalent 

Between 2005 and 2011, the “40/40/20” goal was quietly discussed at Oregon corporate board tables.(4)  Then, in 2011, without any broad public dialogue about the wisdom or attainability of the goal, Governor Kitzhaber and the business community successfully lobbied to get the goal encased in legislation as Oregon’s “driver” for education transformation at all levels.  

Since it was conceived by Oregon business leaders as a necessary goal, the 40/40/20 rationale has been portrayed in solely economic terms.  The claim is that higher levels of educational attainment must be the requirement to fix our economic woes.  Advocates claim higher levels of citizens’ education attainment will make Oregon a bright beacon for attracting many new and different businesses to the state.  And, not surprisingly, the business community and many in the press have continued a drumbeat of wrongly depicting our schools as “failing.”  The assumption they offer is that “failing schools” are at the very heart of the state’s economic doldrums.

But, even the consultant who encouraged business executives to push for the “40/40/20” concept from its inception in 2005, actually told the OEIB in a PowerPoint briefing on August 7, 2012, “Oregon’s population appears to have broadly sufficient levels of education for the jobs projected to 2020... There seems to be a decent match between Oregon’s education levels and the likely jobs of tomorrow at the competitive level.”(5)

The Governor and OEIB apparently chose to ignore this reality.  They proceeded to develop a group of disparate and disconnected “strategic investment” projects and recommend them to the legislature.  Their rationale for these recommendations?   To “achieve 40/40/20.”

Nowhere in the policy discussion have the following critical facts (6) and questions been considered.:

  • FACT:  Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the Oregon Employment Department projected in 2012 that 19% of Oregon’s projected job openings between 2010—2020 will have a minimum requirement of a Bachelors Degree or above.   

QUESTION:   So... Why are we calling for 40% attainment???

  • FACT: Using the same Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Oregon Employment Department projected in 2012 that 12% of Oregon’s projected job openings between 2010-2020 will demand a minimum requirement of a community college associate degree or certificate.   

QUESTION:   So…..Why are we calling for 40% attainment?

  • FACT:  The goal calls for the remaining 20% of Oregon adults to have attained a high school diploma. Yet, Oregon’s Employment Department has projected that 69% of Oregon’s projected job openings between 2010-2020 will have a minimum requirement of a high school diploma or less.

QUESTION:  So... What are the projected impacts of preparing 80% of our workforce for only 30% of the projected available jobs with minimum requirements  for post-secondary education credentialing? What will be the human impacts?  Wage and other economic impacts?

In addition, nowhere have the Governor and OEIB specifically detailed a clear chain of thinking that directly links their grab-bag of recommended “investment projects” to directly accomplishing the 40/40/20 goal.

Another set of realities also demands attention. The following questions relate directly to whether there is now any real meaning to the term “investment in public education”. Namely: How are the proposed “strategic investments” expected to:

  • specifically impact Oregon’s stagnant job wage picture that has changed little over the past decade.
  • specifically impact the 19.8% unemployment rate of young people below age 25, (and their underemployment rate of 34.1%) (7)
  • specifically overcome the reality that Oregon’s continued disinvestment in public higher education has heaped a huge increasing burden of tuition paid by Oregon’s young people and their families?  (8)
  • help overcome the current reality that Oregon higher education graduates’ debt in 2011 was nearly 30% more than in 2007? (9)
  • reverse the following facts (10) that, without reversal, will make 40/40/20 just another goal folly:

-A  current 2 billion state funding gap in providing a quality K-12 education.

- Oregon has dramatically cut career and technical preparation/education opportunities in middle and high schools---along with dramatic cuts in music, art, counseling and library services,

-Oregon now spends just 5.8% of its total state budget on higher education. The national average percentage of state budget devoted higher education is 11.8%.  So we now have the third smallest percentage among all 50 states.

-State spending per public university student is less than it was 15 years ago---and enrollments are at all time highs.

-Oregon community colleges enrollments are now 30 percent greater than in 2007.  Yet, current total state aid for them is less than the $500 million the state appropriated in 2007.

Socrates admonished, “An unexamined belief is not worth holding.”  And Thomas Edison reminded us, “Goals without execution are hallucinations.”

Are Oregonians willing to finally seriously examine “40/40/20” sloganeering?  If so, how long will it take to finally accept the goal for what it is----Destructive Goal Pursuit.  Maybe we should just retrieve and paint over our old “CIM & CAM!” and “All Children Proficient!” lapel pins. Our shiny new pins will now say 40/40/20!  And our new slogan will have the same sustainability as the erased efforts had---none.  Will we still continue to play “let’s pretend” and ignore facts about reality while wrongly placing all the blame on public education?  

Data Sources
  1. D. Christopher Kayes, Destructive Goal Pursuit: The Mount Everest Disaster. Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
  2. Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. Faber and Faber. 2012
  3. Burrkeman, Ibid.
  4. See Oregon Business Roundtable, “Raising the Bar for PreK-20 Education in Oregon,” Five White Papers (2005).  Also. annual Oregon Business Plan’s “Policy Playbook and Initiative Guide”, 2005 through 2011.  Also, Oregon Business Plan’s “2006 Competitive Index: Indicators of Oregon’s Global Economic Competitiveness: Measures of Pioneering Innovation, People, Place and Productivity,”2006.  Also EcoNorthwest’s “Opportunities and Options for Oregon Education Philanthropy” prepared for the Oregon Community Foundation, August 2007.  Also Oregon Business Roundtable’s “Taking Promising High School Practices to Scale: Challenges for Oregon,” 2008.  Also, Lumina Foundation for Education, “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education—And Oregon’s Role in That Effort.” Policy Brief, January 2011.
  5. Joe Cortright, Impresa, Inc., comments included in an Oregon Employment Department PowerPoint presentation to Oregon Education Investment Board, August 7, 2012.
  6. Drawn from:Worksource Oregon. State Employment Department. “Labor Market Information: A Careful Analysis of Oregon’s Middle-Skill Jobs,” Table 6 on page 7. July 2012.  See also Heidi Shierholdz, Natalie Sabadashi and Hilary Wething, “The Class of 2012: Labor Market for Young Granduates Remains Grim” Economic Policy Institute, May 2, 2012.  See also projections from U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, Division of Employment Statistics in Peter Cappelli, “The Skills Gap Myth,” School Administrator, June 13, 2013. 
  7. Shierholz,,   Appendix Table A1 and Table A2 Ibid.
  8. Our Oregon, “The Shifting Costs of Higher Education,” The Sockeye. June 18, 2013 and “The Weight of One Trillion Dollars,” June 18, 2013.
  9. Molly Young, “College Grads Take on Record Debt, Weighing Down Oregon’s Economy: Diminished Expectations,” The Oregonian. December 1, 2012
  10. State of Oregon 2012 Quality Education Commission Report, and Our Oregon’s “The Shifting Costs of Higher Education” Ibid.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Attend State BOE Meetings and Help Save Our Schools!

One of the most important bodies in education in Oregon is the State Board of Education. Its job is to take education bills that pass the legislature and implement them. It is also responsible for overseeing the State Department of Education.

The Board meets once a month, generally, but not always, in Salem. The public can testify at the beginning of each session which often lasts all day. The public testimony is at the beginning of the meeting which starts about 9:45, but it is a good idea to get their slightly earlier to speak.

Often there are very few people in attendance so testimony can really stand out. Are you irritated about testing, about the longitudinal data base, about the overall approach to education in Oregon, or any other topic – let the people running much of the education in the state know.

P.S. If you are a member of OEA they will cover the substitute cost for up to four members who want to take the day and testify at the State Board.

Our children need you! Have fun!

Here is the link to the Oregon State Board of Education website where you can easily find schedules and locations of meetings, the agendas for the meetings and who is on the state board. Just click on "About Us" and then "State Board of Education"

If you want to go directly to the State Board page then you can just click on this link.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Letter to Joint Subcommittee on Education re. Chief Education Office and Cost Saving Efficiencies SB 5522

Oregon Save Our Schools member Pat Muller, who is also a long time educator, penned this letter last week to the Joint Subcommittee after a presentation to them on SB 5522, which would appropriate over $7 million to operations of the Chief Education Office. This presentation in support of the bill to fund the Chief Education Office was given by the Chief Education Officer. The bill also allots another nearly $4 million from the General Fund to the Statewide Longitudinal Data System which tracks all kinds of data about students  (more on that at a later date).

Here is the letter which Ms. Muller sent to the Joint Subcommittee on Education after watching the presentation.

Dear Chairs Monroe and Smith Warner and Members of the Committee:

I had a flashback while watching the presentation of the Chief Education Office.  You could have wound the tape back a couple of years and heard the exact same presentation from Nancy Golden saying the exact same things.  I am asking:  What is the bang for my buck?  How are the activities of this office trickling down to the students in my classroom?  What is the hidden agenda of this mess?

I resent the veiled message that I am hearing constantly.  

1.     Mr. Capps is eager to point out that we have the worst absenteeism in the nation. I have gone in my car to pick up students before school, bought bicycles for those too far to walk, talked with law enforcement, worked with the homeless liaison, namely moved heaven and Earth for my kids and then I hear Mr. Capps saying I might not be captivating enough to make kids want to come to school!  I would invite Mr. Capps and whoever else would like to come to visit my after school program to see engaged ELL students. In a way, I can understand why a student would want to stay home with all the high stakes assessments and focus on tested subjects taking away time for other content areas that make kids want to stay in school. 

2.     Mr. Capps is always pointing out our graduation rate is poor.  Looking at recent history there is an easy explanation.  We increased the requirements for graduation.  We implemented more difficult and developmentally inappropriate standards.  We cut programs while at the same time dumping unfunded mandates on schools.  We implemented a high stakes testing system that doesn’t inform instruction.

3.     Mr. Capps stated we have a seamless system of education.  Rubrics provided last session by his office showed little or no growth in most indicators. Where is the evidence that shows we indeed have this system in place?

4.     Mr. Capps refers to his office as a think tank.  We already have a plan for what is the best thing to do for kids and that is the Quality Education Model.  Now we are thinking of making another committee to amend the model.  That makes no sense, as we never funded the previous model so how can we know that it needs updating?  Even if we had a lot of money, I would not fund to fund a think tank.

There is no need for me to elaborate further as the presentations given by Mr. Capps clearly document the poor achievement of his office.  

We are looking for how to save money and the answer is obvious.  Let’s move up the sunset of the Chief Education Office from 2019 to 2017 and while we are at it, get rid of the Smarter Balanced test that is a waste of money and instructional time.

Looking at SB 5522, it shows the appropriation of the Chief Education Office and Statewide Longitudinal Data System to be over $10 million.  Moving the sunset could go a long way to closing that opportunity gap.  We already have a detailed autopsy report on how we are leaving students behind and don’t need more data.

Thank you for your consideration.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

End SBAC! Send a postcard! Comment to Oregon Department of Education!

This spring the Oregon Department of Education will be going to the State Board of Ed. asking them to renew their contact with the Smarter Balanced Consortium. Meanwhile many states are dropping out of the consortia. The SBAC and multi-state longitudinal data system associated with it are very expensive, particularly at a time when funding is scarce. If you would like to help end this money wasting, abusive system and put those funds into programs and classrooms, you can do the following:

1. Take this survey put out by ODE and tell them NO MORE SBAC!

2. Let your legislators and the Oregon State Board of Ed. know how you feel! Contact the Oregon Senate Education Committee members, House Education Committee members, Oregon State Board of Education, and your own legislators.

3. Send a postcard to Governor Brown, who is the designated Superintendent of Public Instruction since 2015 and tell her to END SBAC! Send your own or download the postcard on the link to Governor Brown.

4. Opt your child out of SBAC! Easy to do! Find the form here.

Please take action to stop this incredible waste of time and resources in our schools!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Letter to Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Salam Noor: Write Yours Today!

The following letter has been sent by Oregon Save Our Schools member Kathleen Jeskey to Oregon's Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction ( with a cc to Chief Education Officer and Education Policy Advisor to the Governor ( A copy has been sent to Governor Brown's office directly as well (

Write your own letter today. Or link to this one and support. This is our opportunity. Take it.

Dear Dr. Noor,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with my colleague, Joyce Brown, and myself after the ESSA Feedback Session in Woodburn. I wanted to write to follow up on our conversation because our time to converse was somewhat limited.
First, I am happy to hear that ODE has heard that Smarter Balanced causes an imbalance in our schools regarding the weight of a single assessment to measure school quality. Joyce and I have been working on ESSA surveys from our Canby community and what we heard is that while parents want academic success for their children, they also want things like a welcoming school climate, a well rounded program, and most of all, for their children to feel safe at school. Many families mentioned that they would like their children to have smaller class sizes and more individualization. Not one family mentioned that they wanted more standardization.
I understand the need to “take the temperature” at schools to ensure equity. Believe me, I am painfully aware of the racism that exists against my students and their families that impedes their opportunity. It is now trumpeting out from the highest office in the land. But we don’t need to test our students for 8 hours at a time to take a temperature. We really don’t, and I believe you know that. In fact, student and family surveys regarding school climate and comparing academic opportunity between schools would be more effective than a statewide testing system to eliminate explicit and implicit biases. 
The testing system that is being built is extremely expensive and is unnecessary in order for our children to be successful. And all the talk of registries lately has me greatly concerned for where student data goes once it is entered into the new multi-state longitudinal data system and how that data will be protected.
There were also a couple of things about the session that I found somewhat disappointing. First, it was advertised as a feedback session so I assumed feedback on the ESSA plan would be taken. However, the questions at tables were instead focused on how to help implement the draft plan and what would be needed to help implement it, not questions that might elicit feedback on the content of the plan.
I was also disappointed during our conversation following the session when my colleague, after detailing the many, many tests that our students take asked you, “At what point does the Oregon Department of Education advocate for our students to the feds?” You answered that ODE’s role is not one of advocacy but rather to ensure compliance with federal laws. I believe that the number one job of every educator in Oregon is to advocate for our students. My understanding of ESSA is that it gives us the opportunity to do so and puts that power in the hands of the states rather than the federal government. 
We could take the emphasis off testing by not only reporting measures of comprehensive education programs as well as test scores as part of the state report card but also by having our state Department of Education work to enforce a requirement of comprehensive, well rounded programs at least equally, if not more intensely, than enforcement of testing requirements. 
I hope you will strongly consider this when finalizing Oregon’s ESSA plan. Students and families deserve equity in inputs, that is to say programs and resources in their schools. Without that, equity of output (test scores) is unattainable no matter how long or how often we test children. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Oregon Save Our Schools Founder: Listen to Students

Yesterday Oregon Save Our Schools member and co-founder Joanne Yatvin had this article published in Literacy and NCTE, the official blog of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is NCTE's P12 policy analyst for our state. 

A few days ago, I read an article about education that really irritated me.  Although I’d read similar articles before without any reaction, this one was about a plan for schools in our state of Oregon that sounded wrong-headed to me, and was going to cost 3.5 million dollars a year.

According to the article, the Oregon Department of Education and the Chief Education Office have devised a plan that would deploy a team of “on-the-ground experts” to help schools that have a record of severe student absenteeism. That team would be composed of 20 coaches who would receive training, then be placed in selected schools to work on alleviating the problem.
What I saw was another top-down pipe dream, welcomed by school principals who had been unsuccessful in curbing absenteeism themselves, and meant to be implemented by newly hatched experts called “coaches.” Teachers and parents of chronically absent students would be informed about the new plan and asked to cooperate. The only people left out would be the ones who know the most about the causes of student absenteeism and how to reduce them: students.
My argument this time is the same as it has been in regard to other school problems: students should be active players in the planning and execution of any change in school operations—not only because they have firsthand knowledge of the problems and clear views of the causes, effects, and possible solutions, but also because their cooperation is essential if anything positive is to be achieved.
Joanne also spoke to the lack of student input into policy directly affecting students on her own blog, The Treasure Hunter, last month. 
Many thanks to Joanne for her long history of speaking up for students and encouraging policy makers to listen and allow students to speak up for themselves! OSOS is proud to have Joanne as a member and we are incredibly grateful for her leadership. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017



Due to the dire weather forecast, we're postponing our monthly meeting to next Sunday, the 15th. Be safe out there. You're needed in good condition for a hectic 2017!

In the meantime, don't forget to fill out your Opt Out form! Download the form and get more info here: