The state of Oregon has the fourth lowest high school graduation rate in the country. In 2016, approximately 25.2% of students did not graduate.
University of Oregon’s College of Education, with the help of an anonymous donation of $50 million to the university, has created a partnership with high schools in the state of Oregon to improve these numbers. The program, called the Oregon Research Schools Network, or ORSN, aims to teach professional development, offer dual credit to students and conduct collaborative research.
The ORSN was created by Randy Kamphaus, dean of the School of Education, as a solution to the ever-rising high school dropout rates in the state of Oregon. Nancy Golden, a UO professor, former superintendent of the Springfield schools and former chief state schools officer, will facilitate this program and communicate with the high schools and their respective UO faculty representatives.
According to Kamphaus, “The Oregon Research Schools Network is designed to be a long-term and high impact partnership with the College of Education, the University of Oregon and local high schools.”
This program will place a UO faculty member in the affiliated high schools for two days a week to teach students professional skills and offer them opportunities to earn college credit while in high school. The program will also conduct collaborative research to diagnose issues within the community, such as low graduation rates or student behavior, in an effort to solve these problems.
“One of the exciting, innovating aspects of the ORSN is we will have someone on the ground in each high school two days a week, which we think will make the partnership more impactful and more enduring,” Kamphaus said.
The representatives will be important liaisons with the College of Education and will communicate between the university and the high schools.
At some schools, UO will appoint a qualified high school teacher with a masters degree or higher as a clinical professor, and they will facilitate the program as a UO faculty member. This will mainly occur at distant schools where a faculty member could not travel back to Eugene for the remaining three days to teach UO students.
Hannah Brown, a sophomore education major, said, “the College of Education is a great program in and of itself, strengthening the whole college will make it extremely competitive across the nation and even internationally.”
This new addition to the university is being funded using a portion of an anonymous $50 million donation to the school. This donation, awarded to the College of Education by President Schill, is going toward a five-year pilot period for the program.
According to Kamphaus, the goal of the five-year pilot for the program is to have 10 schools signed on.
The program made its first formal agreement with North Eugene High School. They are having conversations with high schools from coastal Oregon to eastern Oregon, and expect official signings in the coming week, Kamphaus said.
Partnering with each school will cost approximately $300,000 for the five-year pilot period according to Kamphaus. All of the expenses are going to the salaries of the UO faculty working at the high schools. Kamphaus said the College of Education will have a better idea of where funding will come from to sustain the program in the long run after the five-year pilot period. It does not want to receive funding from one source, in case that source is depleted.
According to Golden, this program will create opportunities for UO students pursuing their degree in teaching to gain additional training in urban high schools.
“The program will especially benefit the College of Education’s Masters and Doctoral students by opening doors to multiple research opportunities and settings,” Golden stated.
Kamphaus said that down the line, this program could even include opportunities for business internships with neighboring companies near these high schools. He said it is expected that becoming a permanent fixture in the various communities around the state will open up several opportunities for UO students with businesses, neighboring schools and governmental agencies.
“The ORSN could really make us the first school in the country to bring the deep and broad intellectual resources of a major research university to bear on public education,” Kamphaus said.