As parents, we want the best for our children. Year after year, Oregon schools have one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation. Something needs to change. Oregon schools should be among the top in graduation rate. Other states have turned their schools around, and so can Oregonians. Our students deserve better. Oregon deserves better.
Room to Improve
The teachers work hard to teach our students. Often students do not even show up for classes. Oregon schools have an average graduation rate of 76%. Absenteeism runs anywhere from 30-50%, depending on the high school. With our short school year of only 165 days, Oregon students, by the end of their K-12 education, have a full school year of instruction less than students in neighboring Washington. This puts Oregon students at a disadvantage compared to students from other areas. In many cases, students do not lack talent, but lack interest in attending school.
Career technical education (CTE) classes is being re-examined as a way to get our students engaged in school. These classes give students opportunities to learn hands-on skills. Concepts are taught and then immediately used. Students are starting to be excited about what they are learning. To them, this is real and useful. Taking an intensive course in a real life skill is a way forward for students who are not interested in going to college directly from high school. They can be on their way to preparing for a meaningful career.
Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) offer many CTE courses in each of their regular high schools. The courses range from business to cabinetmaking to computer-aided drafting to early childhood education to graphic design. SKPS has 33 state-approved CTE programs and 13 startup programs. 5 programs offer industry certification, giving students a jump on a career. SKPS has the good fortune to collaborate with a private entity to have a CTE school (CTEC), where students are enrolled half time at their original high school and half time at CTEC for intensive real world instruction.
Central High School also has CTE classes, ranging from horticultural science, to welding, drafting, veterinary science, computer applications, account, and multi-media technology. In Central School District Middle Schools, STEM courses, robotics and career exploration courses are taught, giving students insight into the real world.
Students who take CTE classes are starting to be excited about learning. Students who take even one CTE class are graduating at a much higher rate.
Students Value CTE
A student that I know left school early and got his GED. He says that if he had had the opportunity to take CTE classes, he would have stayed in school. When asked what he wanted to learn, he said carpentry skills, culinary classes, cosmetology, auto tech, music production, and video production. He could have taken residential construction, culinary classes, cosmetology, automotive technology, or media production, classes that are now all offered in the SKPS career technical programs.
Ellie Starr, a graduate of the SKPS cosmetology program says, “CTEC was an awesome opportunity. They were able to set up career fairs and interviews for us. I was able to get my hair license right after I graduated, and I am now doing the associate program at Salon 554. CTEC has given me the opportunity to get free education and a career. I will always be thankful for what CTEC has done for me!”
Making a Difference for Our Kids
Education is the way forward to a bright future for all of our kids. It is of utmost importance that our educational system is improved. We need to help families with early childhood education, so kids are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. Children should get help so they are reading by the third grade.
A longer school year and longer school days mean more classroom time. Even teachers want more time with their students. We need to improve high school graduation rates and reduce school absenteeism.
Career technical education opportunities should be available to more students. Our students need to be engaged, excited and eager to learn, so they can move forward confidently in a competitive world.
Full funding of Measure 98 should be implemented so that all students can be helped with career technical classes, improved college-level classes in high schools, and help getting their diplomas.
Every child is our child. Our children are our future. Oregon should do better for each and every one of our children.