Ore. teachers talk teamwork at symposium

'Transformation' the buzzword - but what really works?

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Oregon education system is going through what's being called a "transformation," but what do all the changes really mean?

On Saturday in Corvallis, teachers, school administrators and other staff members from around the state will hear from experts and share their views.

Lily Eskelson, vice president of the National Education Association, will address the group. She says she's been traveling the country visiting schools that have overcome big challenges, and is seeing a pattern she thinks Oregon can learn from.

"Time and time again, we're finding they're putting the test away," she explains. "They're saying, 'Stop focusing on these cold-hearted tests that tell us so little, and let's really focus on the whole child.' And that means we have to involve the families, the community."

This is the third annual symposium by the Oregon Education Association. Individual workshops will focus on improving collaboration and implementing the Common Core Standards for learning, ensuring fairness in schools that are becoming increasingly diverse, and navigating Oregon's new system for teacher evaluations.

Eskelson says Oregon's efforts to revamp education may seem like one meeting after another so far, but the idea is to get input from as many groups and individuals as possible. She's convinced the only way school reform can work is if Oregon crafts its own approach.

"I think what we're moving away from is this 'reform in a box, it's got to look like this,'" she says. "Or, 'It's pay by test scores.' Those are the things that families are going, 'You're not playing those games with my student.' That's what this symposium is all about - finding what really works."

Oregon's Chief Education Officer Rudy Crew will also address the crowd on Saturday.

Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service prepared this report.

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