What’s the Matter with Oregon?

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)



So, true story, last year I turned 40 near the end of a Phoenix summer. My fantastic wife, who I don’t deserve, told me that she had bought me a mystery trip for my birthday. “You’re leaving Thursday, I’m not telling you where you are going, but the high temperature there is around 78 degrees. You will be staying in a nice hotel and meeting an old buddy. Your pal has all sorts of fun things on the agenda.”



I said, “You had me at 78 degrees!”



So that Thursday I got on a plane for Oregon. I met my old pal Kevin, my partner in crime from my hipster-doofus days in Austin. We hit the Northwest Music Fest and sampled the local cuisine. We rented a car in downtown, and the kid behind the desk informed us that they only had a Jaguar.



Kevin and I looked at each other, and said “Usually we hate Jaguars, but if it the only one you’ve got…”


Twenty minutes later we were going 100 miles per hour headed out of Portland to see the wine country. I told Kevin “You can hit on the Asian women, I’ll be neurotic about merlots…”



Anyway- I noticed two things about Oregon while I was out there. First- the kids all have tattoos. Second, the place is very Anglo.



All of this is a prologue to wondering: why is a place as well to do as Oregon score so poorly on the NAEP?

Florida’s K-12 population is majority minority (50.4%) while Oregon is not (26.4%). According to the Census Bureau, they spend about the same amount per pupil.

One of these states is making substantial progress, and one of them is not. So, what’s going on Oregon? Where is the progress part of being progressive?

11 Responses to What’s the Matter with Oregon?

  1. Corey says:

    I give up. What’s the problem?

  2. Sarah says:

    From being a parent with kids in the school system: kids are not safe in schools, as the teachers don’t stop abuse from happening–it’s all about damage control for the school system, and keeping the teachers comfortable. They do not stand up, and frankly I (almost) don’t blame them–the disincentive to do the right thing is very, very large–
    Curriculum is another matter–when you are not taught to read using phonetics, and breaking words down into simple syllables, young-starting-out-readers have LOTS of trouble digesting, say, the whole word–
    Another thing is eyesight, another hearing, etc. Yes, American kids are taught (and Oregon) are taught that they are the center of the universe in many ways, yet if their basic major learning senses were checked for proper functioning, the kids would have a much better chance of correcting the above fallacy.
    Yes, there will always be idiots who run around furious whenever they’re corrected, and teach their kids to always have a legal threat in their hip pocket–but the rest of us know that makes a rotten society of ingrates, semiliterates, and in general bad taxpayers. You don’t need to hold a seance in the classroom–or teach kids to listen to their spirit guides, rather than the teacher–to know that.

  3. Raquel Currah says:

    All the smart parents and thus their smart kids moved to Florida.

  4. matthewladner says:

    Here is what went right in Florida:


    On Oregon, I’ll have to defer to those who live there. I can tell you that they’ve done very little on the parental choice front, and have pretty weak academic standards for public schools:


  5. Jane says:

    Matthew was traveling in one of the wealthier parts of Oregon. When you visit the eastern and southern parts of the state you see more in the way of poverty. The moratoriums on logging in OR in the latter part of the 20th century hit the western state very hard. The federal government recognized this and tried to make up for the slumping economy here with something called “county payments,” which were intended to help the rural areas out. Those payment dried up recently and things are going to get worse here before they get better. The libraries were forced to close in Jackson and Josephine counties last year. Citizen volunteers are desperately trying to find ways to get them back open and have met with some limited success. Closed libraries send a terrible message to children about the importance of literacy. Statistics are only as good as the understanding that interprets them.

  6. matthewladner says:


    I’m sorry to hear that about the rural parts of Oregon. There’s no doubt that you are right about the area I saw- it was extremely affluent, and I’m not sure I saw anyone who wasn’t Anglo the whole time I was there.

    If however you look at the trends in NAEP scores among free and reduced lunch eligible children in Florida- they show substantial improvement. Florida’s free and reduced lunch eligble Hispanic students score almost as well as the statewide average for Oregon students on 4th grade reading. Obviously, there are a whole bunch of well to do kids in that statewide average.

  7. GED Kids Mom says:

    My children, in their early 20’s, had a marginal public education and were so bored (except for the social life) in school that they dropped out at 16, immediatly got their GED’s and have gone on to adult life attending college and taking vocational classes. I was told my daughter was eligible for the Talented and Gifted Program but not to bother with it because there was nothing for these students. She was taking math classes with seniors in her freshman year. It is not (with exception of a few) the teachers fault. Their hands are pretty tied with what they can do. What we are doing in Oregon is trying so hard with No Child Left Behind that all children are left behind. Many of the children who could excell are mainstreamed into marginized learning where they are not expected to have potential, so the lower level learners appear to be preforming. Fortunatly for my family, as young adults, my children are tapping into their potential. What I see in our area (mid Wilammette Valley) is that the children who are taught to the test so they can appear to preform are struggling in the real world. Employers don’t have the time to attend to the special needs they may have. Social services are streched and diagnosis becomes the way into services. I am sorry if this seems more like a rant but on a personal level I am really angry about my childrens public education and feel like the children who can learn need to be allowed to excel, possibly that could bring our state up to the educational standards we so woefully lack in.

  8. KauaiMark says:

    I’m guessing from the charts that 2004 was when the schools started implementing “new” math and other “socially correct” instruction instead of the tried and proven 3R’s

  9. Maybe because Florida has a Republican Governor, and Oregon doesn’t.

  10. continued because I hit “submit” toosoon.

    Democrats tend to support Teachers Unions, which are run to benefit teachers and not their pupils.

  11. Michael G. Warren says:

    USA schools are failing because we still hang on to the system of local school boards and district leadership with no accountability to anyone except local voters. For example, school districts all along the US border with Mexico have elected mostly Mexican board members, most who can barely speak English and have little education themselves. These people hire disrict leaders, teachers, and classified personel who are also Mexicans, many who have questionable citizenship and mail order or on-line degrees at best. (Gadsen, Somerton, Nogales, etc., in AZ) If a person complains about corruption, very low standards, and unfair hiring and dismissal processes, for example, the State Board of Education (Arizona) refuses to deal with this, and tells you to go and meet with the local board. Bottom line, no oversight, no accountability, no education. There is much more but I’m busy, unless someone out there is interested and has the power and resourses to make a difference.

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