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2015 Policy Priorities



During the 2015 legislative session, we are focusing on the following high-impact policy strategies that are aimed at increasing the number of children who are poised for success by third grade. Learn more in our policy brief. We’d also love it if you’d be willing to formally endorse our strategies.


  • Expanding Access to High Quality Preschool. More than 30,000 low-income 3- and 4-year-olds lack access to high quality preschool. We propose opening the door to high-quality preschool for more low-income children. Oregon should build on its existing Head Start preschool program while paving the way for additional high-quality preschools, including schools and community-based private and culturally specific providers.


  • Expanding Evidence-Based Home Visiting. Only a small fraction of eligible families receive support from a trained and skilled home visitor. Effective, voluntary home-visiting programs for families prenatally until children are 3-years-old build healthy parent-child relationships, improve health outcomes, increase school readiness, and reduce child abuse.


  • Expanding the Kindergarten Partnership & Innovation Fund. This fund created the first opportunity in Oregon’s history to intentionally increase the connection between early learning and the K-12 system by investing in promising alignment efforts across the state. Oregon should build on the momentum that has begun in the 16 communities that received funding this year.


  • Addressing Chronic Absence. Oregon has one of the worst chronic absence problems in the country and we know that addressing it in the early grades is critical. In Oregon, 24% of kindergarteners are chronically absent. Research shows students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read proficiently in third grade. Communities need the data on chronic absence and tools and support to address the problem.

Ready for School Policy News and Blogs

  • Lessons learned from New York City on beating chronic absence

    low 2014-05-29 041The Children's Institute was excited to meet last week, along with some of our partners, with leaders from the Oregon Department of Education to encourage them to release more detailed data on students who are chronically absent – those who miss 10 percent or more of school days. We're working with a wide range of policymakers, educators, students, families and others who are trying to tackle the problem, and we believe that having an accurate understanding of the problem will help address it.

    That's why we appreciate the Department of Education leaders' commitment at the meeting to annually release detailed information on chronic absence – by school district, school and by some student subgroups – starting next year.

    In the meantime, I was reminded last week that Oregon is not the only place in the country working to address chronic absence. Other states and organizations are working alongside us to find creative solutions, and much can be learned from some of these other extraordinary efforts.

    I learned about these initiatives last week in Washington, D.C., where I was privileged to represent the Children's Institute as part of a work group on chronic absence in the United States convened by the National Collaborative on Education and Health. The meeting brought together some of the nation's best thinkers on the subject to lay the groundwork for solutions around chronic absence. Nationwide, between 5 million and 7.5 million children are chronically absent from school every year.

    In particular, one New York City effort to address the problem has seen some especially promising results. In the summer of 2010, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched his city's Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement. It was the first effort of its kind in New York, and it pulled together more than a dozen city agencies and private partners to help tackle the problem of chronic absence. At the time, one out of five New York City students were chronically absent – over 200,000 students in the metropolitan area.

    The program was multi-faceted, and I recognized in it the same basic components that I've seen at work in schools and districts across Oregon that are beating the odds. Working with The Children's Aid Society, a New York charity, the governor's office pulled in community partners, including the housing authority, the health department, homeless services, the New York City Police Department, and youth development agencies. They implemented school-wide strategies, weekly attendance meetings, connected families to community resources and, critically, set up a program called Success Mentors.

    Success Mentors are caring adults who were matched with students who have a history of chronic absence. These adults can be teachers, guidance counselors, school aides, custodians or security guards. Their credentials are less important than their emotional and physical capacity to connect with these kids and encourage them to get to school.

    The bottom line: the schools working with this task force significantly reduced chronic absence. All three cohorts of task force schools consistently outperformed comparison schools, and positive impacts were consistent across elementary, middle, and high schools. Most importantly, impacts were most significant for students living in high poverty and temporary housing – the population that we know is most likely to be chronically absent and that stands to gain the most from being in school.

    I was impressed with this effort for many reasons, but chief among them was that the people working on the initiative were able to focus on practical solutions that were achievable. Chronic absence is a complex problem with many contributing causes. It will not be solved in a day. But if the architects of education and health policy can focus on scaling up solutions like these, we'll be on our way to keeping more kids in school from a very early age and setting them on a path to success – from New York City to rural Oregon.

    Read more

  • National report praises parts of Oregon’s preschool program, also shows not enough children have access

    YB14 bannerThe release this week of the annual “State of Preschool” report by the National Institute of Early Education Research underlines the commitment the state of Oregon has made to invest in high-quality preschool. But it also shows the state must do much more to ensure more Oregon children – especially those from low-income families – have access to publicly funded preschool.

    The “State of Preschool” report examined preschool programs throughout the nation during the 2013-2014 school year. The report showed that quality standards for Oregon’s preschool program had improved. The state program now meets 9 of 10 benchmarks for quality that the organization uses – the most ever for the state. But the report also showed the state ranked near the bottom – 31st out of 41 states that could be measured – for access to publicly funded preschool by 4-year-olds.

    The report received coverage from media throughout the nation and state. The Oregonian did a piece. Portland’s KOIN-TV interviewed the Children’s Institute’s Dana Hepper for its coverage; Dana stressed that more children from low-income Oregon families should have access to high-quality preschool.

    The “State of Preschool” report underlines why the Children’s Institute is supporting state legislation that would help make that happen. A proposal being considered by the 2015 Oregon Legislature would invest $30 million to set up a system where various types of preschool providers – Head Start programs, school districts and community providers – could offer high-quality preschool to more children from low-income families.

    The Children’s Institute and 34 other organizations that advocate for children and families support the proposed legislation.

    “Research shows that high-quality preschool works. It helps to get children ready for kindergarten and on a path to succeed in school,” said Swati Adarkar, the Children’s Institute’s president and CEO. “Yet we know that about three-quarters of children from low-income Oregon families don’t have access to the preschool that could change their lives. The state must do more.”In a news release issued with the preschool report, NIEER Director Steven Barnett said Oregon “made gains in quality and dedicating resources, though it was it was unfortunate the needle didn’t budge for expanding enrollment.” Oregon has made no real progress in expanding access to publicly funded preschool since 2007. Barnett said his organization was hopeful that the proposal before the Oregon Legislature would “provide quality early learning opportunities for many more of the state’s children.”More information on the report’s assessment of Oregon’s preschool program is here.

    Details on the Oregon preschool legislation are here.

    Read more

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