Initiative Background:  Goals and History

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Through the Oregon Small Schools Initiative, E3 seeks to create high-achieving and equitable small high schools. These schools will ensure equally high outcomes for all students so that success or failure can no longer be predicted by race, gender, home language, or economic status.


At the onset, the Initiative established three key goals that have remained intact through the duration of the Initiative:

  1. Close the achievement gap experienced by low-income students, students of color and students for whom English is a second language.

  2. Increase overall student graduation rates.

  3. Increase the number of college-ready graduating students.

Five-year trend analyses of student and school-based data indicate that promising advances are being made to reduce drop out rates, increase graduation rates and improve student achievement in math, reading and writing. Improvements are especially promising for low income students. For details visit SCHOOLS & RESULTS .


In recent years, Oregon students have made significant improvements at the lower grades, but improving high school achievement has proven to be particularly challenging. Across the state, nearly one-third of Oregon students drop out before graduation. More troubling, nearly one out of every two of Oregon's African-American and Latino students do not graduate from high school.

The Oregon Small Schools Initiative was created to help address these issues.

In 2003, E3 was chosen by Gates Foundation and Meyer Memorial Trust to lead the Oregon Small Schools Initiative.  The high school-focused Initiative placed special emphasis on communities of traditionally underserved students.

Initiative schools sprung up in 13 districts across Oregon, with staggered openings in the fall of 2004, 2006, and 2007.

The Initiative funneled more than just money to the schools that applied and were chosen to participate.  School and district leaders were awarded planning resources to design conversions from comprehensive high schools, and to launch new-starts.  The Initiative hosted annual conferences tailored to the specific needs and concerns of community education leaders, including superintendents, school board members, principals, school change coordinators and teaching and learning facilitators.  In exchange, schools agreed to commence with wholesale structural change, to adopt rigorous instructional design models and to provide detailed reporting on a broad swath of quantitative and qualitative measures.

All small schools had latitude in designing curriculum, hiring staff and assessing student learning.  Countless other influences shaped student experience and outcomes - such as district budgeting practices - which were not targeted by the Initiative.  The Initiative's work was geared toward systemic change of high schools on a human scale, first by redesigning school structures, then by providing options for professional development that would target teaching practices in the classroom.  It thus helped establish the necessary conditions for student learning, and provided impetus amidst other factors influencing student achievement. 

Plans were shaped to prepare schools for long term sustainability after the Initiative concluded in June 2010.  See Post-Initiative Planning.