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Working To Improve Rural Oregon’s College and Career Readiness


Monday, July 18, 2016


students receiving diplomas

Oregon has set an ambitious goal of having 80 percent of adults earn a postsecondary degree by 2025. To meet this goal, state and local leaders recognize the need to address the specific issues faced by students who attend rural schools. These students represent nearly a third of all public school students in the state. Assisting with this is the Oregon College and Career Readiness (OR CCR) Research Alliance. Through OR CCR, REL Northwest is partnering with practitioners and leaders from both K–12 and higher education on using data and evidence to better align the two systems and ultimately to improve college access and readiness for Oregon students. This summer, REL Northwest staff members are offering professional development sessions and making several presentations related to this important topic.

Secondary-to-postsecondary curriculum alignment

GEAR UP is a federally funded program that supports rural, low-income middle and high schools to help students prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education. At the Oregon GEAR UP Summer Institute for educators in August, high school teachers will work with college faculty from across the state on instructional solutions that provide a more seamless transition between high school and college. REL Northwest’s Rachael Radick and Jacqueline Raphael will lead participants through an intensive four-day session on strengthening the rigor of high school instruction and better articulating secondary and postsecondary instruction in writing and math—two areas in which high school students have the greatest need for remediation in college. ”Our goal in these sessions is to facilitate focused conversations about expectations and instruction,” says Raphael. “We help participants identify specific skills that need attention across the secondary-postsecondary continuum, and then we ground the conversation in standards, student work, high-leverage assignments, and effective teaching strategies. This is a unique opportunity for high school and college educators to collaborate on a project that is both practical in the short term and contributes to the long-term goal of improving secondary-postsecondary alignment in Oregon.”

Cross-REL event: Postsecondary readiness in rural communities

This national event is cosponsored by three Regional Educational Laboratories (REL Appalachia, REL Mid-Atlantic, and REL Northwest) and will take place July 25 in Nashville, Tennessee. Speakers, from all the three REL regions will explore:

  • Research on preparing students in rural areas for college and careers
  • Educator perspectives on/experiences with programs assisting rural students
  • Student perspectives on barriers to college and career readiness and how they have overcome them

REL Northwest Director Chris Mazzeo will facilitate several sessions, and OR CCR researcher Ashley Pierson will share information from research she’s conducting on dual-enrollment/dual-credit programs in Oregon. She will be joined by Jennell Ives from the Oregon Department of Education, who will talk about dual-credit program expansion in rural Oregon.

report cover

Pierson will also discuss findings from an Oregon-based research study on barriers to college enrollment and persistence, and Ives will be part of a panel discussion about education policy related to improving postsecondary readiness in rural communities. Pierson’s study was published by the Institute of Education Sciences in 2015. It found that rural students in Oregon were less likely to enroll in postsecondary education and less likely to persist to the second year of college than their urban and suburban peers. “This study offers a first look at the postsecondary enrollment of rural students in Oregon,” says Pierson. “It has been of particular interest to rural K–12 educators and state policymakers looking to improve college access and readiness, and it also provides incentive for higher education leaders to examine the additional supports rural students might need. There is a growing recognition that these students face a different set of barriers to college success than those faced by their nonrural peers.”

Reach Higher Summit

REL Northwest staff members will be making presentations related to promoting postsecondary readiness in Oregon at the Reach Higher Summit in Bend, July 19–20. Be sure to catch Shannon Davidson and Sarah Tollefson as they present on a hot topic related to social and emotional learning—practical interventions to cultivate students’ sense of belonging in school. REL Northwest’s Michelle Hodara, the lead of the OR CCR alliance, will also present at the summit, sharing best practices for helping students create and use personal education plans.