This is the first entry in the Oregon Leadership Network's monthly blog series. Future posts will cover discipline policy and practice, high school success, English learners, and other topics related to building the capacity of education leaders to sustain research-based equitable practices across Oregon’s P-20 education system.
As we begin a new school year, we greet a new class of students, the class of 2026! This class is likely to be the most diverse student group in Oregon history. Entering our schoolhouse doors are students who speak over 100 languages and come from countries around the world that represent a variety of cultures and circumstances.
Collectively, it’s fair to assume that we want the best for these eager young students. We want them to succeed in school, grow into responsible citizens, and productively contribute to our state and national journey of improvement. As participants in the education system, we work hard to support all kids and make yearly improvements.
But, our data tell a story of a different sort — we have much to do. In this 50th anniversary year of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, significant access and opportunities challenges remain for students, and inequities persist for the changing faces of school children across the Northwest.
The Oregon Leadership Network (OLN) serves 42 percent of Oregon’s students, 50 percent of Oregon’s students of color, and 50 percent of Oregon’s English learners. Together, with Oregon state education agencies, higher education institutions, professional associations, and nonprofit organizations, the OLN seeks to eliminate disparities in educational outcomes as reflected in the Oregon Education Investment Board’s Equity Lens.
Ours is an urgent task. By deconstructing current practices, OLN member organizations can create a future that is not grounded in institutional racism, implicit bias in classroom practices, and harmful stereotyping. OLN members speak the truth, challenge each other to examine data, and seek productive ways to solve intractable educational challenges that they see in their professional practice. In a sense, we hold each other accountable by developing safe places to learn together and by deepening our understanding and action. We strengthen our resolve and skill to better serve every student.
This collective journey is not easy, and it is not just about increasing achievement on test scores. It is an essential commitment focused on personal and organizational leadership for equity that demonstrates a coherent and equitable P–20 education system in Oregon. Only this resolve and skill will enable each student to thrive. Beyond test score comparisons, leadership for equity is about proactively confronting the inequities that result in achievement gaps. It is about eliminating disparities in student discipline, effectively supporting English learners, preventing chronic absenteeism, and leading bold action resulting in equal educational outcomes across student groups.
As the OLN welcomes the class of 2026, our collective work builds on a unique history of examining diversity and developing standards for educational leadership practice. The promise we give to the class of 2026 is seen in our personal and collective leadership for equity to create a P–20 education system that effectively serves every Oregon student.