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Governance Divide Report

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THE GOVERNANCE DIVIDE - The Case Study for Oregon

  Introduction

Over the past decade and a half, Oregon has embarked on several ambitious initiatives seeking to improve the college readiness of high school students. These efforts are particularly relevant to this national study on K–16 reform because of the unique ways Oregon's initiatives were developed and implemented. K–16 reforms in Oregon were not mandated by the state, they received little state funding, and no governor was actively involved in their design or implementation. In Oregon, the reforms were spearheaded by staff members of K–12 and higher education systems, working collaboratively to create consensus around issues such as the alignment of K–12 standards with expectations for college-level academic work. Partially as a result of the locus of control for these reforms—that is, within and across educational systems rather than in the Legislature or governor's office—the reforms have focused on programmatic and curricular issues rather than governance changes.

When our research team arrived in Oregon in March 2004 to conduct field research to better understand the extent and nature of the state's K–16 reforms, Oregon was in the midst of a financial crisis that had a particularly significant impact on higher education. Access to college was declining, tuition was increasing, financial aid was decreasing, and a pay freeze for faculty had been in place for three years.

Prior to our arrival, on March 1, 2004, Governor Ted Kulongowski changed the make-up of the State Board of Higher Education and appointed former Governor Neil Goldschmidt as its chair. As one administrator at the Oregon University System (OUS) said:

    You have come at a very interesting time… Our governor has reconstituted the higher education board. He has a new person at the lead [Goldschmidt] and many of those people have not been involved in the work of P–16 in our state. I know there are some key people who are still in place. The [Oregon University System] chancellor [Richard Jarvis] has a real passion for seeing that this work continues to move forward and sees the value of working closer together to help students … and to open up access.

The governor and the chair articulated new goals for higher education in Oregon through the More Better Faster initiative, which focuses additional attention on such issues as dual enrollment, an integrated data system, and K–16 standards and proficiencies.

During our visit to the state, our main research questions included the following:

  • To what extent is K–16 reform perceived as a state policy concern?

  • What are the incentives and disincentives for improved connections?

  • What are the main goals and objectives of current state-level K–16 reforms?

  • Who is responsible for developing and implementing those changes?

  • What have been the main successes and failures to date?
Given the changing nature of Oregon's reforms, finances, and governance structures in 2004, many of these questions were very difficult to answer. As an appointed official said during our interview, "You're actually asking me [these questions] right at the point of maximum uncertainty."

The day after we left the state, major controversies brought new changes to the educational landscape. The newly reconstituted State Board of Higher Education forced out the chancellor of the Oregon University System, Richard Jarvis (although he technically resigned), and eliminated the system's Academic Affairs Office. Soon thereafter, former Governor Goldschmidt resigned from the state board after admitting to criminal activity that had taken place 30 years earlier.1 Governor Kulongowski responded by appointing himself to the State Board of Higher Education and becoming its chair.

This study, while being cognizant of these fast-paced changes, provides a snapshot of Oregon's K–16 reform efforts as of March 2004, with additional contextual and historical information collected from previous research from Stanford University's Bridge Project,2 and with follow-up interviews with selected participants in fall 2004 to identify key changes between March and August 2004.

In presenting the findings, this report first describes the context of Oregon's education reforms, including descriptions of each relevant agency and public education entity. The report summarizes the major statewide K–16 reforms and outlines some of the key accomplishments as well as challenges to K–16 reform in the state. The report then offers a short summary of changes in the state from March to August 2004 before concluding with thoughts about the present and future of K–16 reform in Oregon. The appendix provides a list of key questions that comprised the interview protocol for the research visit to the state.


1. Nigel Jaquiss, "The 30-Year Secret," Willamette Week, March 12, 2004,
http://www.wweek.com/story.php?story=5091.

2. See http://bridgeproject.stanford.edu.

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