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Equity in education includes culturally relevant content, advocates for SB 204 say

Karanja Crews, who founded Teaching With Purpose, told the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday that Oregon needs a plan for culturally relevant content and pedagogy in instruction.

The group is the main proponent of Senate Bill 204, which aims to tackle Oregon’s persistent student achievement gap.

“We have been in this state of emergency for years,” said Crews. “We have so many different types of emergencies in education-achievement gaps, disproportionate discipline gaps, even a wealth gap since the early 1970s.”

Crews talked about the challenges that students from traditionally underserved communities face. According to data Crews presented, there were approximately 43,000 instances of discipline in Oregon schools last year.

  • 70 percent of instances involved students from low‐income families.
  • 16 percent of the 14,000 black/African-American students had at least one discipline incident.
  • 11 percent of the 10,000 American Indian/Alaska Native students had at least one discipline incident.
  • 9 percent of the 118,000 Hispanic/Latino students had at least one discipline incident.
  • 9 percent of the 4,000 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students had at least one discipline incident.
  • 8 percent of the 26,000 multiracial students had at least one discipline incident.
  • 7 percent of the 366,000 white students had at least one discipline incident.
  • 2 percent of the 22,000 Asian students had at least one discipline incident.

Crews’ presentation advocated for a systemic change, focusing specifically on equity and culturally relevant pedagogy in education. SB 204 would require every “school district, school and educator” to “be certified in culturally responsive practices and competencies.” The specific provisions of this proposed certification are not detailed in the measure’s text.

OSBA supports directly addressing the achievement gap. The 2017-18 OSBA Legislative Priorities address our commitment to the issue, clearly stating that OSBA “Supports Student Achievement” and specifically identifying support for “efforts to increase graduation and high school completion rates, lower the number of dropouts, close the opportunity and academic achievement gaps, and provide additional supports for students from traditionally underserved student populations.”

With that acknowledged, OSBA submitted testimony registering some concerns with the measure. In submitted testimony, OSBA Legislative Specialist Richard Donovan said, “Creation of a statewide mandate that would affect every educator, school, and school district that is also absent specificity and details is of concern to OSBA.”

Although OSBA supports the goals of the measure, we have registered our concern that the measure still needs more work before we can fully support its passage. OSBA will continue to work with Crews and Teaching With Purpose on SB 204.

- Richard Donovan
Legislative specialist