The long division

What is The Long Division?

Visiting students door-to-door, has made the different in the small Marion County school district

Two fundamental truths about Oregon’s public K-12 schools: One, the system has not served families of color and low-income families as well as it has served white and higher-income families.

And two, the coronavirus pandemic of 2020-21 worsened the problem.

This inequity — this longstanding division of equitable outcomes based on race and economic status — is well known to every educator and lawmaker, but finding solutions has been difficult.

This spring, the Pamplin Media Group set out to study this long division, and to seek solutions.

What we found is widespread understanding of the problem but few universal solutions. Among our findings:

 

  • Some districts, accepting that these disparities are real, have turned to nongovernmental organizations, such as the Immigrant Refugee Community Organization or the Latino Network, to supplement the classroom work.
    SCHOOLS HAVE ALWAYS TURNED TO NONPROFITS FOR HELP. THANKS TO THE PANDEMIC, THAT NEED HAS NEVER BEEN GREATER
  • We took a look at the number of Latino students who drifted away from public schools during the pandemic. The shift occurred at different rates it different communities. In the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, strangely enough, Latino enrollment rose during the pandemic. We went there to find out why. In the town of Gervais, in rural Marion County, school leaders went door-to-door to find the students who weren’t participating in video-conference classes. They also offered night school for Latino students who need to work or to watch young siblings, in order to help out the family.
    UNDERSTANDING OREGON’S LATINO EDUCATION GAP
  • A vast number of kindergartners simply didn’t show up during the 2020-21 school year — and the missing students skewed white. Does that mean white families have more options, such as home-schooling and charter schools? And what happens in 2021-22 when public schools receive a large number of first-graders, many of whom lack the socialization skills taught in kindergarten?
  • When the Oregon Legislature passed the Student Success Act in 2019, the $2 billion-per-year influx of funds for public schools was hailed as a historic investment in Oregon’s students. Then the pandemic hit, and the tangible impacts of that funding have been difficult to track.
    OREGON’S STUDENT SUCCESS ACT WAS SUPPOSED TO FIX MUCH OF THE ILLS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL — THEN THE PANDEMIC HIT
  • Since the pandemic began, the number of Oregonians enrolling their children in online schools that are chartered under the umbrella of public school districts climbed by more than 50% — even as enrollment in traditional schools has declined. We looked at which families have taken advantage of this shift, and what it could mean for the future of Oregon’s traditional classrooms.
    COVID-19 HAS BEEN GREAT FOR OREGON’S ONLINE CHARTER SCHOOLS
  • Latino enrollment in public K-12 schools dropped nearly everywhere in Oregon, but it actually rose in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. The reasons are hazy, educators say, but early and frequent contact with Latino families, before their children are even enrolled, might be part of the solution.
    LATINO ENROLLMENT IS UP AT WEST LINN-WILSONVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT — BUT OFFICIALS AREN’T SURE WHY
  • Almost all of Oregon’s public K-12 school districts faced the same problem during the pandemic — how best to serve the Latino student population. The Pamplin Media Group took a close look at two districts with vastly different outcomes: Mt. Angel and Woodburn school districts.

    UNDERSTANDING OREGON’S LATINO EDUCATION GAP

  • School officials in the small Marion County town of Gervais needed to find creative approaches to helping Latino students learn from home — especially given that many of them had day jobs or cared for younger siblings. Back in December, we asked the educators how they handled this. We went back and talked to them again in May to see what was working.
    GERVAIS TURNS TO UNCONVENTIONAL METHODS TO KEEP STUDENTS ENGAGED
  • Oregon Department of Education records show nearly 22,000 fewer students signed up for public instruction statewide at the start of the current school year, compared to a year earlier, a decline of almost 4%. Closer analysis of the data shows that enrollment data varied significantly by race and ethnicity, grade and type of public school.

    OREGON’S ENROLLMENT DATA TELL SEVERAL STORIES

  • The fallout of the pandemic hit schools far away from the Portland metro area the same way it hit right here. Bend-La Pine Schools and Redmond School District lost more than 1,500 students combined, while enrollment in private and online charter schools skyrocketed, the number of local students being homeschooled has spiked, and many parents of younger children have opted to postpone starting school all together.

    ENROLLMENT PLUMMETS AT MOST CENTRAL OREGON PUBLIC SCHOOLS THIS YEAR

  • A few years ago, the graduation rates in the Jefferson County 509-J School District were shockingly low. But in recent years, the district has turned a corner, making huge gains in graduation rates. That all changed when the coronavirus hit. Now families in Jefferson County, like those across the state and nation, worry that their children are falling behind, losing some of the momentum the district had gathered. 

    BATTLING A COVID BACKSLIDE IN CENTRAL OREGON SCHOOLS

  • A few years ago, the graduation rates in the Jefferson County 509-J School District were shockingly low. But in recent years, the district has turned a corner, making huge gains in graduation rates. That all changed when the coronavirus hit. Now families in Jefferson County, like those across the state and nation, worry that their children are falling behind, losing some of the momentum the district had gathered. 

    OREGON EDUCATORS WORRY ABOUT SIGNS OF A RESURGENT ACHIEVEMENT GAP

Time and again, we found real disparities but real efforts — sporadic and often difficult to measure — to find solutions.

These disparities, this long division between outcomes based on race and economics, is nothing new and won’t be solved any time soon. But educators and families are seeking solutions.

These are a few of their stories.