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Chapter 02

In winter 2015, All Hands Raised published Chapter 02, a document highlighting the dynamic work happening throughout the All Hands Raised Partnership, sharing the progress, challenges, impacts and accomplishments of our collective efforts to improve outcomes for the 225,000 children and youth living in Multnomah County. You can access a PDF of Chapter 02, as well as the companion overview, at allhandsraised.org.

This tool serves as a deeper dive into the data on each of the 12 community-wide Indicators prioritized by the All Hands Raised Partnership. Please contact info@allhandsraised.org if you need more information.

The All Hands Raised Partnership

Learning doesn’t begin and end in the classroom. Transforming children into educated, independent adults is the job of the entire community. The All Hands Raised Partnership gathers Multnomah County’s diverse efforts and aligns them in ways that strengthen supports for kids—from cradle to career.

All Hands Raised serves as the backbone organization for the All Hands Raised Partnership. Together, we are changing the way adults collaborate to help children grow. To do this, we bring together our six school districts with leaders from the county, the city, businesses, nonprofits and higher education to help individuals and organizations understand how they fit together. A set of community-wide Indicators drives this work and helps us to stay focused. We use data to measure everything we do so that we can continuously reflect, redirect and improve.

In other words, we help rally the community to change expectations and behaviors. We collectively answer the question, “How can we improve?” to ensure long-term success for our kids.

Our Top Priority: Racial Equity

We work to create opportunity for every child in our community. This is what we mean by “all.”

Young people of color, age 25 and under, make up nearly half of all youth in Multnomah County. Yet their outcomes consistently lag behind their White counterparts along the entire cradle to career continuum. If we continue to fail kids of color, the social and economic consequences for our community are dire. And unacceptable.

Since day one, racial equity has been the top priority of the All Hands Raised Partnership. This commitment shapes all aspects of our work—from who is at the table, to how we look at data, to the way we organize action. Being part of this work means sharing this value of racial equity.

The core partner in this work is the Coalition of Communities of Color, which educates and organizes our community to address inequities. We work together to drive systemic change and stay focused on the voices and experiences of those who are most impacted by historic and current inequities.

From our early childhood work to our focus on college and careers, we are committed to eliminating disparities. Equity isn’t about one particular project or committee. It’s the driving force every step of the way.

Community-wide Indicators

The work of the Partnership is to help our community improve the academic and social well-being of Multnomah County children, with an acute focus on racial equity. We have prioritized 12 community-wide Indicators that span kids’ development from birth to career. These Indicators help us to facilitate thoughtful and measurable action.

— Birth Weight

The path to a healthy life begins before a child takes his or her first breath. A healthy birth weight of at least 5 pounds, 8 ounces helps set the stage for a healthy life. In Multnomah County 6.3% of babies are born below that threshold, placing them at a higher risk for learning disabilities and other developmental challenges. Ensuring a healthy start for more babies in our community will help set them up for success in school and a thriving adulthood.

— Kindergarten Readiness

A child’s readiness for school is influenced by many factors, and the fact is not all children begin school with a strong foundation for learning.

Oregon education leaders recently established the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment to better understand the skills and abilities that children show up with when they first enter school. At the beginning of the school year, incoming kindergarteners spend about 20 minutes with a teacher answering a set of simple questions related to letters and numbers. Then, over the first several weeks of school, teachers observe and assess each child’s ability to follow directions and interact with others. Based on these assessments, every kindergartener receives a score in “early literacy,” “early math” and “approaches to learning.” The findings are intended to unearth patterns at the school, district and state levels in order to guide policies and investments. Individual student data from the assessment is not meant to guide instruction at the classroom level, though the observation process can contribute to early insights for teachers about their students’ assets and abilities.

What happens during the Kindergarten Assessment?

For the early literacy portion of the assessment, teachers ask children to say the names of as many letters as they can in one minute while looking at a chart with upper and lowercase letters. They complete similar exercises for letter sounds and simple math questions.

How are local students faring?

It’s hard to say. The assessment is new and educators and policy leaders are still exploring the data. Because the significance of particular scores is not yet determined, we have not published data from the 2013 baseline assessment. However, one message appears clear in the early data: disparities in school readiness— particularly in early literacy—impact far too many children of color.

— Kindergarten Attendance

Too many children don’t have quality, affordable preschool—which means kindergarten often represents a child’s first formal opportunity to build academic skills. Yet 1,477 kindergarten students were chronically absent from Multnomah County schools in 2013–14. Chronic absenteeism in the early grades is strongly linked to lower test scores, continued absenteeism in higher grades and increased dropout rates.

As a community, we are working harder than ever to keep students in school by building a culture of attendance and addressing the root causes of absenteeism. These efforts seem to be paying off. The percent of kindergarteners consistently attending school increased by four percentage points countywide over the past two years, including increases for nearly all racial/ethnic subgroups.

Regular attendance in kindergarten is connected to students’ academic performance in later years, including impacts on third grade literacy and later school success.

DATA NOTE: Data on kindergarten students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was not available in 2014.

DATA NOTE: The method used for calculating English Language Learner data in 2013 varied slightly from other data sets in the same year, and so is not directly comparable to other disaggregations for the same year.

— Third Grade Reading

Third grade represents the critical stage when students shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Early literacy is influenced by a child’s learning at home, in the community and at school—and it’s a pivotal marker for future success.

Average third grade reading scores for Multnomah County students dropped by 4.5% since our baseline year of 2011–12 and massive gaps of as much as 35% continue to separate White students from students of color. In fact, reading levels among every racial/ethnic subgroup either dropped or remained flat over the past two years.

As a community, we are falling short when it comes to early literacy—and as a community it is up to us to turn it around. Schools alone won’t drive the dramatic improvements needed here; neither will families. It will take schools, families, early childhood programs and a diverse set of community partners working in concert toward a common goal: every child reading at grade level by third grade.

DATA NOTE: Data on third grade students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was not available in 2014.

— Sixth Grade Attendance

Local rates of chronic absenteeism follow national trends: they start high in the early elementary grades, improve over the middle school years and worsen again in high school. Still, over 800 sixth grade students were chronically absent last year. Taking the time to engage with each of these students can be the first step to bring them back on track.

Absences often point to deeper issues: a lack of meaningful adult or peer relationships at school, mental health challenges, family instability, illness, bullying or a struggle to find real-world applications for school work.

Missing critical amounts of school in any grade has an impact on academic performance, and as early as sixth grade, chronic absenteeism can be a warning sign that a student will drop out.

DATA NOTE: The transition to a new student data management system resulted in limited reliability for middle and high school attendance data in 2014, and as such, no district-level data can be shared.

DATA NOTE: The method used for calculating Economically Disadvantaged data in 2012 varied slightly from other data sets in the same year, and so is not directly comparable to other disaggregations for the same year. Data on sixth grade students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was not available in 2014.

DATA NOTE: The method used for calculating English Language Learner data in 2013 varied slightly from other data sets in the same year, and so is not directly comparable to other disaggregations for the same year.

DATA NOTE: The method used for calculating Special Ed. status data in 2012 varied slightly from other data sets in the same year, and so is not directly comparable to other disaggregations for the same year.

— ELL Annual Progress

English language learners account for 25% of Multnomah County students. They speak over 70 languages and come from all over the world. To succeed in school, college and career, these students need the opportunity to master the English language. About six in ten English language learners make the expected gains in English over the course of the year, up from 49.9% in 2011–12. This represents a significant improvement but also highlights the continued need for stronger strategies and supports both in and out of the classroom.

DATA NOTE: American Indian/Alaska Native student data was excluded to preserve confidentiality due to small sample size.

— Equity in School Discipline

When students are suspended or expelled, their connection to school is broken. Their learning suffers and they are left vulnerable to a range of risks, including trouble with the justice system. Students of color, particularly Black/African American students, are much more likely to be removed from school, despite evidence that they don’t misbehave more than other kids. Students of color are also more likely to be disciplined for subjective reasons such as “insubordination” or “excessive noise.”

Schools and community partners have cut suspensions and expulsions by 28.3% since 2012 and reduced the disparities impacting students of color. Restorative practices are being implemented in more schools across the county to support positive behavior and help students and educators repair damaged relationships. Nonprofits and other partners are working together in new ways to keep students in school. Yet while fewer students of color are being suspended and expelled, major disparities remain. This work is far from finished.

— Eighth Grade Math

As students leave middle school, a few key Indicators predict success on the pathway to on-time high school graduation, including math proficiency in eighth grade. Mastery of math concepts in middle school prepares students for more rigorous coursework in high school and college and career training and equips them with critical skills for navigating adult life.

Fewer than 60% of our local students meet eighth grade math standards, down 3 points from 2011–12. This metric also highlights persistent and striking disparities impacting students of color, and it marks a place where the gaps have grown rather than narrowed.

Given the projected growth of math-related careers, accelerating every student’s math skills will be closely linked to the strength of the community’s workforce and our overall economic prosperity.

DATA NOTE: Data on eighth grade students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was not available in 2014.

— Ninth Grade Credit Attainment and Attendance

Students who finish ninth grade on track—earning six or more credits toward graduation—are four times more likely to graduate than students who fall behind in ninth grade. Regular attendance also signals that a student is on track to graduate. Falling behind in these areas is a warning sign that a student may disconnect from school completely. For many students, school may not seem relevant to the immediate demands of real life, like the need to earn money or care for family members. Others lack a connection with adults or peers at school or face mental and physical health challenges and other forms of instability at home and in their neighborhoods.

Both of these measures either stayed flat or declined for Multnomah County students since 2011–12. Despite concerted efforts that have helped keep many students on track to graduate, these figures show that the ninth grade transition remains tenuous for too many students.

DATA NOTE: Data on ninth grade students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was not available in 2013 or 2014.

DATA NOTE: The transition to a new student data management system resulted in limited reliability for middle and high school attendance data in 2014, and as such, no district-level data can be shared.

DATA NOTE: The method used for calculating Economically Disadvantaged data in 2012 varied slightly from other data sets in the same year, and so is not directly comparable to other disaggregations for the same year. Data on ninth grade students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was not available in 2014.

DATA NOTE: The method used for calculating English Language Learner data in 2013 varied slightly from other data sets in the same year, and so is not directly comparable to other disaggregations for the same year.

DATA NOTE: The method used for calculating Special Ed. status data in 2012 varied slightly from other data sets in the same year, and so is not directly comparable to other disaggregations for the same year.

— High School Graduation

High school graduation is a gateway to further education, higher wages and steadier employment. It bolsters a person’s quality of life and the health, economic growth and stability of the community.

Local graduation rates have climbed 10% in five years, and the graduation gap between students of color and White students has narrowed to single digits. Still, continued disparities and an overall on-time graduation rate that remains well below 70% illustrate that, as a community, we have work to do to ensure all students find their way from high school to post-secondary education or training, and ultimately a career.

— Post-Secondary Enrollment and Completion

By 2020, 70% of Oregon jobs will require some form of post-secondary education or career training. Unfortunately, the current reality is that we cannot meet that demand with local talent. Helping students transition to college and career training is as critical for a person’s life as it is for our local economy.

Post-secondary enrollment rates measure the percentage of local high school graduates who enroll in a post-secondary program anywhere in the U.S. within sixteen months of graduating from high school.

Post-secondary completion rates measure how many of those same students go on to complete a degree, whether a 1-year certificate, a 2-year associate’s degree or a 4-year bachelor’s degree, within 150% of the standard time. These numbers can be surprising. While our local colleges and universities may post completion rates higher than the 27.9% portrayed here, it’s important to remember that these data reflect the outcomes for our local high school graduates—not any one post-secondary institution as a whole.

DATA NOTE: Multi-racial student data was excluded to preserve confidentiality due to small sample size.

— Connected with a Career Track

Another way to understand what’s happening in our community is to look at the number of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are enrolled in school and/or employed. In Multnomah County, 85% of youth are enrolled or employed, leaving 15% of youth completely disconnected from an educational or career path. While all of our collective efforts aim to reduce the number of youth falling through the cracks, it is also critical to find and reengage our disconnected youth.

Raise Your Hand

Every child’s dream is to grow up and do something amazing. If they are to do so, children need a dedicated community of adults to support them every step of the way. There is no single person, program or organization that can guarantee a child’s success, but through collective action, we can create equity for all kids and give them every possible opportunity. In this way, all adults share accountability as stewards of our children’s success.

Our role is to rally members of the community to improve kids’ lives. Please visit allhandsraised.org to learn more.