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The Oregon Secretary of State Audits Division released its first ever systemic risk report today. The report draws on six K-12 audits conducted since 2016 and identifies five key risks that could undermine promising new efforts to boost student success.
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan ordered this new style of report to provide proactive support to state leaders. While most audits look back at past performance, this systemic risk report is designed to head-off problems before they occur.
"Education was a lifeline for me," Secretary Fagan said. "Schools in Dufur and The Dalles gave me opportunities to climb out of poverty. All Oregon students, and especially those who are the most vulnerable, deserve the same opportunities."
Strong state leader monitoring and support of the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is crucial to successful implementation of the 2019 Student Success Act and overcoming pandemic setbacks for students, the auditors found. The 2019 Act, which focused on improving results for low-income and historically underserved students, set new accountability standards and established a corporate activities tax to provide new revenue to K-12 education. It also expanded ODE’s capacity for oversight and district support.
The report is addressed to the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, and the State Board of Education. The auditors identified key risks and actions these state leaders can take to address them.
Risk #1: Performance Monitoring and Support: Performance monitoring is crucial to school improvement. State leaders and policymakers must work with ODE to ensure monitoring of district performance and state support when needed to promote success.
Risk #2: Transparency on Results and Challenges: To foster accountability and timely adjustments, leaders and policymakers must require thorough reporting of school improvement results and challenges.
Risk #3: Spending Scrutiny and Guidance: Leaders and policymakers should support ODE in providing more analysis of school district spending, helping districts focus spending on student support and offset rising costs.
Risk #4: Clear, Enforceable District Standards: Oregon’s Division 22 standards for K-12 schools lack clarity and enforceability, allowing low performance to persist. To increase accountability for state funds and student success, leaders and policymakers must balance local control of school districts with reasonable, enforceable standards.
Risk #5: Governance and Funding Stability: Reforming education is a complex, long-term effort, requiring leaders and policymakers to set clear goals and foster a long-term focus. A large number of separate programs, unrealistic timelines, and frequent changes in funding priorities and leadership can undermine reform efforts.
State leaders must ensure ODE closely monitors and reports on school district performance, effectively scrutinizes district spending, and quickly discloses challenges in program implementation. State leaders must also think long-term, instead of generating multiple separate programs and priorities for ODE and districts to address.
Other suggested actions included increasing standards for rapidly growing online schools, authorizing ODE to collect crucial student data to increase high school graduation, and supporting ODE’s efforts to improve K-12 standards and ensure districts are complying with them. The auditors also asked state leaders to work with ODE to ensure that any new K-12 initiatives and requirements are aligned with the agency’s school improvement work.
The report can be read on the Secretary of State’s website: https://sos.oregon.gov/audits/Pages/recent.aspx.
Source: Oregon Secretary of State