Oregonians call for smaller, well-rounded classes

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Oregonians call for smaller, well-rounded classes

5:57 p.m. PDT September 27, 2016

Oregonians want their school-age children to be taught in smaller classes and receive a well-rounded education that includes art and music as well as math and science, according to a new survey.

Nearly 11,000 people responded to the Oregon Rising survey on education, part of a statewide outreach effort inviting Oregonians to help shape the future of education in Oregon. The program was sponsored by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, Oregon School Boards Association and Oregon Education Association.

The number of people who participated appears to be unprecedented. According to Oregon Rising officials, single candidates have conducted state-wide “listening tours,” but only Tom McCall’s 1970s-era public land discussions come close to the level of civic participation that the Oregon Rising gatherings and survey prompted.

The survey consisted of 23 questions, including six open-ended queries, and took approximately 15 minutes to complete; 10,894 respondents took it online, with approximately 30 percent participating while at a meeting, and 70 percent completing it independently.

Respondents identified two main priorities for providing the education they want for Oregon students: First, they said, add teachers and staff to reduce class sizes, engage students and give them the individual attention they need to be successful.

Next, provide a more well-rounded education. Respondents called for art and music, science, engineering and technology (STEM/STEAM), career technical/vocational training, civics and culture.

“Remarkably, these priorities were identified by at least half of respondents – and not from a checklist of options, but from an open-ended question that asked them to describe priorities,” said Craig Hawkins, executive director of the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators.

Responses show a high level of support for education, officials said. Ninety-seven percent of those who took the survey considered a ‘good education’ to be “very important” to the future of each Oregon student, and 94 percent said a ‘good education’ is “very important” to the state as a whole.

According to the report itself, in all three Oregon Values and Beliefs surveys — conducted in 1992, 2012, and 2013 — funding for public education was one of the most important problems Oregonians wanted their government officials to do something about.

“Going into this project, we had statistics that showed Oregonians place education high on their list of priorities, but we didn’t know the intensity of their support, or what aspects of education matter most to them,” said Betsy Miller-Jones, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association.

“The vast majority of the dreams are possible,” she said. “Our next step is to define what it would cost to deliver on the requests and how to get that funded.”

To read the full report, go to www.oregon-rising.org/What-Oregon-Said.

Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist or on the Web at nataliepate.com

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