UO experiments with own 'extension service' in Pendleton

First published in the East Oregonian on September 17th, 2018. The University of Oregon wants to add another shade of green and gold to Pendleton High School.

Staff gave a group of university officials, including university President Michael Schill, a tour of the empty school Thursday and talked about the Oregon Schools Research Network, a pilot program that the university hopes will be to education what the Oregon State University Extension Service is to agriculture.

Randy Kamphaus, the dean of the University of Oregon College of Education, said schools in Pendleton, Portland, Eugene, and Coquille were selected to participate in the five-year pilot program, which is focused on improving professional development, customizing research using local data, and creating dual credit courses that would be co-taught by university professors and high school teachers.

The network hired Pendleton High School science teacher Piper Kelm to act as a liaison between the university and the high school, meaning she will continue to teach at PHS while coordinating the network’s initiatives at a local level.

While the program is still in its infancy, Kelm is already taking steps to integrate it into the district.

Kelm said she issued a survey to Pendleton teachers asking them what they most wanted from professional development.

The majority of responses showed teachers were interested in classroom management and student engagement, and Kelm is now focused on integrating Conscious Discipline, a disciplinary method meant to promote social-emotional learning and self-regulation that’s already used at the elementary and middle school levels into the high school.

Kelm is also in early discussions with a U of O chemistry professor on starting a dual-credit chemistry class at the high school.

Pendleton High School Principal Melissa Sandven said Pendleton High School already offers dual-credit courses through Blue Mountain Community College and Eastern Oregon University, but Kamphaus said the University of Oregon’s offerings would focus on “filling in the cracks” where no other offerings exist.

Kelm will also be involved in creating a local study, and she’ll spend this year devising the parameters of it.

While it may not be one of the central goals of the program, Kamphaus said one of its secondary effects is it could expand the pipeline of local students to the university through exposure to the network.

Schill has provided $1 million from his discretionary funding to run the program for five years, but Kamphaus is already starting to look at what the network will look like beyond the pilot stage.

Kamphaus said the network’s “audacious goal” is to have the same sort of presence as the OSU Extension Service, which has facilities and staffers in all 36 Oregon counties.

In order to meet that vision, Kamphaus said the network wants to emulate the extension service’s financial model, which derives funding from multiple sources at the local, state, and federal levels in addition to private funding.

The network may also be more cost-effective than the extension service, Kamphaus said, because it could rent space at schools rather than require independent facilities.

Despite the network still existing in an early phase, Kamphaus said officials from Hermiston and Redmond have already expressed interest in getting their own network posts. Additionally, the United Way has exemplified the network as exactly the kind of educational project they would want to fund.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836