Teaching in Oregon

With a summer high of 81 and a winter low of 30, Oregon’s climate is comfortable year-round. It rains a little more in Oregon than other states—and consequently, it has some of the most beautiful spring flowerings in the country. Biking, hiking, and many other recreational activities abound. Plus—and this is the best part for a lot of people—the state has no sales tax.

The educational climate is also good in Oregon. Graduation rates for both high school and college are above the national average, and the state has an ambitious program to improve those rates even further. Thus, Oregon might also be the perfect place for a new teacher to help students reach their educational and career goals.

What’s the education climate in Oregon?

2012 marked the beginning of a major process of education reform and development in Oregon—one that’s expected to continue through the next decade-plus. In 2011, the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) was established, in order to initiate a plan to further improve the state’s education from pre-kindergarten all the way through its postsecondary schools. The board’s goal is to coordinate education efforts at all levels, so that all Oregon citizens obtain their high school diplomas, along with 40 percent of students earning bachelor’s degrees and an additional 40 percent earning associate’s degrees.

Average Salaries for Oregon Teachers
  • Elementary School—$53,250
  • Middle School—$52,500
  • High School—$53,810
  • All Oregon jobs—$44,290

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The deadline for this ambitious goal is 2025, and reforms have already begun. The plan begins with several key components:

Integrated Early Learning Programs—Oregon is consolidating and improving pre-kindergarten education and services. Oregon’s early learning programs, which aim to help more than 100,000 at-risk children, are being given more local control, greater incentives for improving service quality, and increased accountability.

Achievement Plans and Compacts—Every school and grade level, from pre-kindergarten to the state’s colleges and universities, is responsible for establishing a set of educational goals, and committing to being held accountable to those goals. Since different schools have different opportunities for improvement, each “achievement compact” will look a little different. In contrast to a top-down mandate, this bottom-up approach allows schools to use the more specific information they have about their individual successes and failures, and be more invested in the changes. Additionally, parents of students and local communities will have access to information about their schools, their schools’ goals, and how well schools are measuring up to those goals. All goals are submitted to the OEIB for approval and tracking.

Alternative to No Child Left Behind—Oregon’s plan for developing its education system and raising the college-and-career readiness of its students does not fit exactly into NCLB’s mandate, which relies on high-stakes testing to measure how students are reaching national benchmarks. Consequently, in January 2012 the state applied for a NCLB waiver, offering its alternative plan for reform. Oregon’s plan uses broader measures to determine if students are on-track for college and/or career, and seeks to promote (and measure) growth in students at all levels. It also seeks to provide Oregon parents and taxpayers with a more consistent reporting of student and school achievement. Lower-performing schools will have plans for improvement established without the punitive measures of NCLB, using a more customized set of interventions and supports.

How’s the job outlook for Oregon teachers?

Oregon was hit hard by the national recession, and continues to have a higher unemployment rate than the national average. One of the consequences of this has been a drastic slowdown in population growth. Consequently, school enrollments have not been increasing, either. For the past two years, the total number of teachers in Oregon has actually decreased, from 37,000 in 2009 to about 30,000 in 2011. For the last year, Oregon colleges and universities have been graduating more credentialed teachers than the number of teaching job opportunities in the state.

However, this trend may turn around in the next few years. The average age of Oregon teachers has been steadily rising—meaning that more teachers are approaching (or currently delaying) retirement than before. When these teachers do choose to retire, a greater number of job openings will become available.

Also, the state reports teacher shortages in some areas, including bi-bi-lingual education, mathematics, science, and special education.

What benefits do Oregon teachers have?

There are a variety of benefits packages for Oregon teachers to choose from, providing various levels of health, dental, and vision coverage, as well as disability and life insurance. The comprehensiveness of these programs compares favorably with the private sector, with additional health services added each year. Currently there are at least nine different options for health care plans; and any choice can be mixed-and-matched with dental and vision options.

Additionally, teachers enroll in Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), which is considered to be one of the most solvent in the nation. Adjustments made to the Oregon PERS in 2003 have created a program better able to weather economic difficulties. Meanwhile, court cases in the past decade have confirmed the principle that “a promise is a promise”—meaning, any changes to the plan cannot reduce commitments made by the state to teachers already in the system. Oregon teachers may retire with full benefits at 65, or earlier if they’ve taught in Oregon for 30 years. Many teachers retire as early as 58.

Several organizations in Oregon (see below) are devoted to teacher development, and to providing educational resources to Oregon teachers—including substitute teachers. These organizations often publish and discuss research on teaching programs and techniques, and often offer classroom activities or curriculum supplements.

What are the credentialing requirements in Oregon?

In order to be licensed to teach in Oregon, applicants must have completed an approved teacher preparation program at a bachelor’s degree level or higher. Completing a program approved in another state may also qualify an applicant for licensure in Oregon, although some additional courses may be required. Any teacher preparation program will include a period of student teaching, which may take as long as an entire semester. Additionally, applicants must pass the Oregon Educator Licensure Assessment (OELA)—or for some subjects, the Praxis II—appropriate to their subject.

Different Oregon teaching credentials have some degree of overlap. The Early Childhood Authorization licenses one to teach children from age three all the way through the fourth grade. The Elementary Authorization covers grades three through six, while the Middle Level Authorization covers fifth through eighth grades, excepting specialty areas. Finally, the High School Authorization, awarded by department (such as math, science, history, or language arts) covers teaching from seventh through 12th grades.

Graduates of a bachelor-level teaching preparation program will obtain an Initial I Teaching License, while graduates of a master’s-level program will obtain an Initial II Teaching License. After teaching for five years, teachers may complete additional requirements to obtain a Continuing Teaching License. Additional details and information can be found at the Oregon teaching certification website.