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New report details risks that may undermine student success in Oregon

The K-12 education systemic risk report essentially takes information from previous audits and gives state leaders a birds-eye view of education-related issues.

PORTLAND, Ore. — On Tuesday the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office released a first-of-its-kind report looking at areas needing attention in Oregon’s K-12 education system.

The report is almost 20 pages long and it’s meant to be a resource to not only state lawmakers and leaders, but also parents who want to hold their legislators accountable when it comes to education.

“We're going to be talking about our first ever systemic risk report, which draws on six K-12 audits conducted since 2016 and identifies five key risks that could undermine promising new efforts to boost student success,” said Shemia Fagan, Oregon’s Secretary of State, at a virtual press conference on Tuesday morning.

The K-12 education systemic risk report essentially takes information from previous audits and gives state leaders a birds-eye view of education-related issues.

“While most audits look at … past performance, this systemic risk analysis and report is designed to head off problems before they occur,” Fagan said.

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The first of five main risk areas identified starts with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).

“One is for leaders to make sure to watch how ODE is monitoring performance of districts and supporting districts as well,” said Scott Learn, a principal auditor for the Secretary of State’s Office.

The second risk area targets the need for transparent and public reporting on results and challenges in districts so lawmakers can address them. Another risk area involves scrutiny on spending at the district level.

The report also calls for more clarity and enforceability in state standards for operation and performance. Right now, the report said the system allows low performance to persist.

“We would like for the state to put more resources to check to see if districts are following set standards,” said Andrew Love, an audit manager with the Secretary of State’s Office.

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The last risk area deals with making sure Oregon's Student Success Act, passed in 2019, is successful as it pumps one billion dollars into the education system every year.

The report said changes in leadership, too many programs and unrealistic timelines could hamper the Student Success Act’s effectiveness.

The hope is for the report to be a non-biased resource that state lawmakers can refer back to, no matter who rotates in and out of positions.

At the heart of it, Fagan made clear that the goal is to make Oregon’s education system more equitable so all students have equal opportunities to succeed.

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