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Education LR - November 29, 2021

by Anne Nesse

Starting first with the Senate Education Committee on several issues of note:

Michael Elliot reported on the many state-funded summer program grants. Grants had some degree of success for helping students secure High School credits that they had difficulty completing during the first phases of the pandemic. Other grants simply brought fun and equity. A creative summer program came from the Gresham-Barlow District. It allowed all the students signed up to learn to bait a fish hook, and catch a trout!

A contested issue came up at the end of the Senate meeting, as a result of a report from Andre Ourso, Oregon Health Authority, on SB 283. This Bill was a study of the research about the potential dangers of routers, laptops or large numbers of IPADs inside K-8 classrooms, and cell towers on K-8 school grounds; all devices that could possibly affect young children’s growing brains with radiation, according to the opposing scientific testimony in the hearing. Ourso reported that after studying 200 peer reviewed articles, no causal relationship to cancer was found. Ourso admitted that the report by OHA was not well funded. Numerous others testified that OHA’s research testimony might be biased by manufacturer’s claims. OHA’s report is not in line with a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, or other reports submitted in the meeting notes. And, because as was stated, we are the first state to challenge the care for this use of technology, it is significant to get this information correct, or at least not approve it, until proven completely safe. Interestingly no one asked the question, “Are broadband devices necessary in the K-8 classroom, when other means of instruction may be more appropriate, and more centered on social and emotional learning, and physical development, a necessary education for those age groups?”

SB 744 was briefly discussed, noting that the committee working on these changes to graduation requirements will be looking at setting up a series of geographic engagement meetings across the state soon.

Sen. Dembrow also stated there would be a special committee of legislators to meet during the interim on our severe staffing issues in many areas of education. He also mentioned a new bill during the interim to decrease turnover on school boards, with the possibility of holding elections less often, to maintain less turnover, and greater knowledge base on our school boards.

House and Senate Interim Committees heard reports on the many issues of the re-opening of in-person K-12 public schools during a continuing pandemic from Oregon Department of Education (ODE).

Colt Gill, ODE Director, presented many issues of stress for students and staff. He states there has currently been a decrease in enrollment of 17,000 students in our K-12 public school system. Answering questions that some families from that number have chosen home schooling, or the limited 3% online choice of virtual private charter schools. Some school districts and public charter schools have their own online virtual schooling.

Other issues stated include:

1) staff shortages, 2) Covid-19 protocols both state and federal, 3) impacts of quarantines, 4) social emotional and mental health impacts, 5) attendance, 6) addressing unfinished learning, 7) community harassing, 8) intimidating and threatening educators and their families for doing their job following state and federal guidelines, 8) or misconceptions about equity in schools

The Covid-19 pandemic is now recognized as being in the process of changing to an endemic, meaning a disease that will likely always be with us in some form. There are currently issues worldwide, as yet unsolved. This will continue to have an impact on education.

As we ease out of the pandemic, Jackson Weinberg, Oregon Student Voice, testified that classes are still large, students use masks poorly, and aside from sports there are no other after school activities.

It was reported that we are now in the process of conforming to a statewide uniform 7-day quarantine from in person school for positive-testing unvaccinated students. 10-25% of students statewide have been quarantined at any one time, due to contact tracing, even though they were without symptoms. Therefore we are aiming at a futurestay in school 7 day period” for unvaccinated non-symptomatic students who were exposed, but who test negative 2X, at the beginning and the end of the 7 days. Vaccinated students do not have to quarantine.

Teacher Standards and Practice is in the process of creating new non-traditional pathways for Teacher Licensure through TSPC, as a result of HB 2166, on building more equity in the pre-K-12 grades.

A brief plan summary was presented in the House Committee on Education, and is shown from the meeting material below:

  1. Individual candidate program plans developed by sponsoring district, academic partner, and candidate

  2. Allow blended learning/work experiences to satisfy licensing content & pedagogy requirements

  3. Plan is based on competency in standards rather than specific course sequence

  4. Guiding teacher provided through district support throughout program in a step-down approach

  5. This “apprenticeship” model varies from a residency in that it is a continuous improvement and growth model through professional licensure that is paid and emphasizes credit through experience

  6. Advocates with HECC and university leadership to adopt experiential tracks to degree

  7. Create an apprenticeship license allowing limited teaching of record with co-teacher support

TSPC and EAC must work together with EPPs, districts, ESDs, ODE, HECC, and Community Colleges to make sure we can get as many candidates supported.

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