Oregon Education Summit Positions Chapter as Helpful Collaborator
Last month, the Oregon Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (OACTE) convened the second annual Oregon Education Summit, organized to unite as many stakeholder groups as possible around educator preparation and related topics. Held January 5 at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, just 15 miles from the State Capitol in Salem, the gathering attracted representatives from every OACTE member institution as well as community colleges, legislators, PK-12 district staff, the state Department of Education and licensing agency, and nongovernmental agencies.
The summit was borne of the desire by OACTE to both claim a seat at the state table and access first-hand information – while establishing the organization and its members as willing collaborators on all aspects of education in the state. The first summit, held a year ago, was a success that organizers were eager to build on in Year 2. “Our first step is always a proactive one. We begin by asking, ‘How can we help?’” said OACTE President Leif Gustavson, who is dean of the College of Education at Pacific University. “Then we tend to get invited to the table. We are not an obstructionist organization, and we need to not think of others that way either. The summit gives us all an opportunity to meet face to face and realize the potential of what we can accomplish collectively.”
The first portion of this year’s agenda focused on policy, with a goal of informing educators about the latest legislative developments in the state and giving them an opportunity to ask questions and connect directly with policy makers. Elected officials and staff from both the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives briefed the group on recent bills such as Senate Bill 221, which requires all educator preparation programs in the state to be nationally accredited and provide specific instruction around literacy, and House Bill 2998, which requires community colleges and public universities to develop statewide transfer agreements for education and other major courses of study.
Next the agenda turned to ongoing work to develop a statewide system for collecting and sharing student data. This work carries some urgency in that the system is needed for compliance with the new mandate for national accreditation, but Gustavson emphasized its deeper importance as a source of evidence about educators’ collective work that can inform improvement in teacher development and support. Representatives from the state higher education system reported on the status of the data system’s development and pilot projects under way. The group discussed how preparation programs would like to be able to use the data and what specifically is needed for accreditation requirements.
Following these sessions, a luncheon capped off the summit, providing further opportunity for participants to interact and continue their conversations. Members of OACTE then held their winter quarterly meeting during the afternoon, which offered them a chance to immediately reflect on the summit and plan next steps as well as prepare for their spring visit to the capitol.
Gustavson said he’s pleased with the summit and looks forward to continuing the tradition, as relationship-building takes time and persistence. Assembling stakeholders and policy leaders not only brings critical perspectives together, he said, but also boosts accountability for all involved. “It holds people to account [to discuss their work in person],” he said. “You have to stand by what you’re doing and be ready for the questions.”
For organizers, he advised, the most important goal is to bring people together. If you feel the need to know everyone’s position and the likely outcomes ahead of time, you’ll never get a summit off the ground. “You’ve just got to go for it,” he said. “Trust that something good is going to come from getting everyone there and having an action-oriented agenda that supports meaningful conversation and future planning.”