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Another "F" Grade for the Oregon Department of Education - Fact-Check Finds 2016 Chronic Absenteeism Plan is Biased and Flawed
This is the second in a series of of articles unveiling the fraudulent research & reporting practices by the Oregon Department of Education
Today’s release is part of an ongoing process to review reports and other significant assets produced by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). As you may have seen, this process kicked off last week with a major announcement & release of a joint report between Save Oregon Schools & Oregon Association of Scholars.
I would love to offer everyone another in-depth report like that first one Dr. Gilley and I did, there simply isn’t the time to do it. That 27-page report took nearly six weeks with both of us working on it. I hope you will settle for what I’ll call a “highlight reel” of falsehoods, bias, and other fraudulent work in ODE’s December 2016 “Chronic Absenteeism Statewide Plan”, which was in response to the passing of House Bill 4002 (HB4002) in early 2016. While this article won’t go into the same level of depth as that joint report, I can assure you the examples I’ll address here are 100% true.
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Brief Introduction of HB4002
HB4002 aimed to reduce student chronic absences in Oregon public schools. A student is considered chronically absent when they miss 10% or more of school days within a single school year for any reason (excused, unexcused, suspensions, etc.) The bill addressed chronic absenteeism in two ways:
Asked ODE and the Chief Education Office (CEdO)1 to “develop a statewide education plan to address chronic absences of students”
Provided $500,000 in funding for ODE and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to distribute to requesting school districts and education service districts implementing “trauma-informed approaches” to address chronic absences
This focus of this article is on first item - the “Chronic Absenteeism Statewide Plan”. As HB4002 was signed into law on March 29, 2016, ODE and CEdO had 8 months to put together their plan. They had a head start on this plan as the CEdO had already commissioned research on the subject of chronic absenteeism, which led to the Chronic Absenteeism Report (published in May 2016). This CEdO-commissioned report heavily informed the statewide plan HB4002 required ODE and CEdO to complete by December 1, 2016.
I realize this can be a bit confusing, so here’s my best attempt to make it clear.
HB4002 asked ODE & CEdO to create a statewide PLAN to reduce chronic absenteeism by December 1st
CEdO had already kicked off research to create a REPORT on this subject
CEdO’s REPORT was completed in May
ODE & CEdO used the REPORT to build their PLAN
ODE & CEdO delivered their PLAN to the legislature in December
That report may be the subject of a future article, but for now I’ll focus on the statewide plan and the many issues with it.
Key Findings in “Fact-Check” of the Statewide Plan
I want to reiterate the intent of this article is not to identify every issue with the statewide plan, but to instead provide enough evidence to support the claim that this plan is fraudulent and therefore should be retracted & investigated. With that said, these are the key findings from this review of the plan:
Misrepresentation of multiple research studies outcomes related to chronic absenteeism
Makes unsupported claims about issues specific to LBGTQ youth
Fabricated a foundational component of their plan: the root causes
The remainder of this article will break down those three findings and provide the relevant details to support my claims of fraud by ODE & CEdO. An important thing to keep in the back of your mind as you go through this and other reports is that CORRELATION is not the same as CAUSATION. The intro in this Khan Academy lesson does a great job explaining the differences between these two important terms.
If you want to just straight to the worst of them all, scroll down to finding #3. I saved the worst for last!
Finding #1: Misrepresentation of multiple research studies outcomes related to chronic absenteeism
The citations and misrepresentations come fast and furious in this statewide plan, starting on page 62 in the “Why Attendance is Important” section. I’ve highlighted the first two paragraphs of this section to make it easy to connect what the plan stated in comparison to the cited research.3
Yellow : Cited research does not support the highlighted statement
ODE/CEdO’s statement: “In fact, chronic absenteeism rates are often our best predictors of on-time graduation rates and drop-out in Oregon and nationally; second only to grade point average.”
Ignored first footnote in cited report: “Because the analyses that follow are correlational, it is important to keep in mind that causation cannot be determined. Although the language we use to talk about hypotheses includes some implied causation, we recognize that it is not possible to draw causal conclusions from these data.” (pg3)
Study was based on only a total of 640 students and from Santa Clara county (Fall 2004 & 2005) and San Mateo county (Fall 2005) (pg4) and demographics are significantly different than Oregon, especially in the given time period
Associations between attendance and later school outcomes don’t match ODE’s and CEdO’s statement. This research describes later school outcomes as 3rd grade performance (i.e. ELA and Math test scores & proficiency levels), not graduation rates or drop-out rates. The report only monitored students from K thru 3rd grade. (pg10-11).
Green : Cited report makes no mention about preschool or kindergarten
ODE/CEdO’s statement: “Chronically absent preschool and kindergarten students are more likely to have lower school readiness scores”
There’s not much else to say as the previous bullet calls out the main issue here
The only other point to call out is there wasn’t any specific reference to “readiness scores” in the report
Blue : Cited study uses different chronic absenteeism definition and does not support the highlighted statement
ODE/CEdO’s statement: “and are more likely to be retained in school”
Cited study’s chronic absenteeism definition: “missing more than one-ninth of days enrolled” (pg. v)
ODE/CEdO plan’s definition: “missing 10 percent or more of [school] days in an academic calendar year for any reason including excused, unexcused and disciplinary exclusion.” (pg2)
Orange : Cited research does not support statewide plan’s claim
ODE/CEdO’s statement: “These gaps in achievement and performance are widened as students with early chronic absenteeism issues often continue a pattern of absenteeism into subsequent grades”
ODE/CEdO’s statement claimed that early chronic absenteeism often continues into future grades
The cited research paper by Attendance Works makes no such claim of a connection between early and future chronic absenteeism. This paper focuses primarily on early chronic absenteeism and academic performance
Finding #2: Makes unsupported claims about issues specific to LBGTQ youth
On page 9 of the statewide plan, the “Populations Affected” section, they identify student populations who are chronically absent at a rate above the state average, such as American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Economically Disadvantaged, and Students with Disabilities. However, ODE/CEdO then stray from the research and data when they begin addressing LGBTQ youth.
Yellow  & : Cited reports contain no supporting evidence for statewide plan’s claim
ODE/CEdO’s statement: “When schools do not intentionally address school climate, Oregon’s Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, and Queer (LBGTQ) youth often experience bullying and harassment which leads to, chronic absenteeism for these individuals .”
Cited report #13 did have some related information, but ODE/CEdO misrepresented their research by fabricating a different statement related to chronic absenteeism, which was a claim this report did not make.
This is what the cited research stated, “When LGBTQ youth face bias at school they are: more than three times as likely to have missed school in the past month than their peers.”
This isn’t referring to chronic absenteeism, but how bias in school could lead to increased absences over the norm.
The source of this cited research appears to have come from the 2015 Oregon Healthy Teens survey, which only polled 8th and 11th grade students.
It is also a fabrication for ODE/CEdO to claim that intentionally addressing school climate will lead to reduced experiences of bullying and harassment against LGBTQ youth. The research included recommendations for improving school climate, but made no claims to their effectiveness of addressing the issues.
Cited report #17 made no mention at all of LGBTQ youth, bullying, or harassment of any kind.
Green : Cited data isn’t available to validate and likely wouldn’t validate ODE/CEdO statement, even if available
ODE/CEdO’s statement: “In the Oregon Healthy Teen Survey (2010) LGBTQ youth were more likely to miss school in the last 30 days due to feeling unsafe at or on their way to school .”
There was no 2010 Oregon Healthy Teen Survey. It ran every two years, on odd years (i.e. 2009, 2011, 2013, etc.) Also as mentioned in an earlier point, this survey was only taken by 8th and 11th grade students, and the questions did vary between the two grades.
The Oregon Center for Health Statistics page does not allow you to download the survey data to validate the results. For example, without access to the data you can’t compare the answers for LGBTQ youth against all other youth to determine whether or not LGBTQ youth felt unsafe at or on their way to school.
The Oregon Healthy Teen Survey did have a question asking if they identify as “Heterosexual (straight)”, “Gay or lesbian”, “Bisexual”, or “Not sure”, but only for 11th grade (not 8th grade). So the claim in ODE’s report about this being related to LGBTQ youth is inaccurate for three reasons:
The survey did not have “Trans” or “Queer” as available choices
ODE/CEdO should have provided the full survey data
Most importantly, ODE/CEdO should have specified the survey results were based on 11th grade responses only
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Finding #3: Fabricated a foundational component of their plan: the root causes
As I stated earlier, I saved the worst for last. If you follow me on Twitter/X, you may have seen this teaser graphic I shared yesterday.
This simple comparison I put together shows what ODE/CEdO claimed the cited research study said against what the study actually said. This type of misconduct is considered a serious ethical violation in research, and is often referred to as Fabrication.
Fabrication involves creating false data or results, especially in research contexts. When someone alters content from a cited study and misrepresents it as true to the original, they are engaging in fabrication. This unethical behavior compromises the integrity of research and can propagate misleading information.
As you can see, ODE/CEdO made a few minor tweaks to the citation, which I highlighted in gray. These don’t change the meaning in any significant way, but were worth calling out to be precise.
The text highlighted in yellow shows where ODE/CEdO fabricated results. In other words, they inserted additional claims and statements that were not supported by or included in the cited research.
Why is this the worst issue of them all? It’s because these issues represent their entire root cause analysis. Starting on page 13 (below) is the section titled, “Root Causes of Absenteeism”. Continued on the next page is the text I captured in the table in the previous image. You typically don’t start developing a solution until you’ve determined what the root causes of the issues are. So by fabricating a very significant portion of the root causes of chronic absenteeism, they inserted concepts and issues that aren’t rooted in evidence, research, and so on. If you read the rest of their report, you will see how these fabricated root causes take on a life of their own, tainting this entire report.
Congratulations to those who have the tenacity to have made it this far in the article. I acknowledge a thorough fact-checking is not exactly a “fun read”. It is an important one though, which is why I took the time to include all the relevant details. I do not make the claims of fraud lightly.
As I was thinking about how I should wrap this article up, I ran across this recent article, “Oregon Kids of Color are Cutting Too Many Classes” by William MacKenzie at Oregon Catalyst. In this article, MacKenzie calls out the increasing chronic absenteeism rates we’re seeing across Oregon, and how they continue to impact some student groups more than others, like students of color. MacKenzie also referenced the 2016 bill and ODE/CEdO statewide plan this my article is about. I might need to reach out to him and share notes!
Hopefully it is becoming more clear how the Oregon Department of Education has been committing very serious acts of fraud and deception in order to push apparently predetermined outcomes and narratives as they progress down a path to transform Oregon public education. There is no doubt they have fabricated content and “research”, misrepresented legitimate studies, and made many unsupported claims that have ultimately led to worse outcomes for Oregon students, their families, and school staff.
I will continue to produce more reports and evidence like this to arm our legislature and other agencies able to hold them accountable with actionable, accurate information. Your help to share this and other articles and reports will greatly expedite the process. So please share this far and wide! Encourage others to sign up for my newsletter or follow me on social media.
If you want to contact your representatives in Oregon’s legislature but aren’t sure who they are or how to reach them, you can use this page to search by your address. You can also view the full list of State Senators and State Representatives, both of which have all of their contact information.
So on a personal note, thank you for reading and for sharing this! -Jeff (aka @PapaBearMyers)
In case you hadn’t heard of the Chief Education Office before, it used to oversee all education agencies in Oregon (Early Learning Division, Department of Education, Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and more). It was closed through legislation on June 30, 2019.
Page references are based on the page numbers in the bottom left corner of the statewide plan, not page numbers in the PDF (which are off by two). I.e. Page 6 in the plan is actually page 8 of the PDF.