- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon board that oversees education from preschool to college held a daylong retreat to assess where it stands after three years, and there were some concerns about how things are going.

Members at the Tuesday meeting said the public either overestimates the power of the Oregon Education Investment Board or doesn’t know it exists, The Oregonian newspaper reported (https://is.gd/tUvuzt).

The board was created in 2011 to better coordinate early childhood programs, public schools and public higher education so the state can attain its “40-40-20”goal by 2025. The goal calls for 40 percent of Oregon’s young adults to have four-year degrees, another 40 percent to have two-year degrees or industry certification, and the final 20 percent to have high school diplomas.

The board, however, has little authority and no control over education spending.

“We don’t have the ability to increase the funding level,” said board member Julia Brim-Edwards, a Nike executive. “That is the purview of the Legislature and the governor.”

Oregon’s chief education officer, Nancy Golden, told board members they have more power and influence than they might think. She said their proposals from 2012 led to tens of millions of dollar being spent to “incubate” good ideas this school year, some of which will prove effective and spread.

Gov. John Kitzhaber will also strongly weigh the advice of the panel as he crafts his proposal for the state’s next two-year budget, she said. The board is publicly vetting almost 30 proposals to improve results. In September, it will vote on which ones it thinks the Legislature should fund.

The retreat included a review of student outcomes in several key areas targeted for improvement, such as kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading proficiency and high school completion.

Most of the results were from 2013, because 2014 test scores have yet to be released. In all areas, the state either lacks the data to measure any progress, or, in the case of reading and math scores, has evidence that student achievement went down.

Though the board hasn’t been around for long, member Ron Saxton said he is impatient to see improvement.

“Are we moving the dial?” asked Saxton, a former Republican candidate for governor. “There has been lots of good talk, but ultimately it’s about ‘are we moving the dial fast enough?’”

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Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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