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The Joint Committee on Student Success toured Washington County schools today; next up, public hearing, 7 p.m., ACMA.

TIMES PHOTO: AINSLIE CROMAR - Business representatives and Oregon senators gathered to discuss methods of strengthening Oregon's public school system on Wednesday, July 11. 
Oregon Legislatures who sit on a task force on school reform have been touring Washington County schools today. They attended roundtable discussions with business leaders and education leaders, and, starting at 7 p.m., will take public testimony in the auditorium of Beaverton's Arts and Communications Magnet Academy, or ACMA, 11375 S.W. Center St., Beaverton.

The event, from 7 to 9 p.m., is open to the public.

The Joint Committee on Student Success is touring the state and seeking input on ways to improve Oregon's public schools. A set of proposed bills likely will be crafted for the 2019 legislation session, which begins next February.

At 2:30 p.m., they met with business leaders in the Beaverton City Council chambers.

One of the topics discussed with the creation of better training materials within business that students can access in order to obtain apprenticeships or internships. Such materials would allow students quicker and more certain transitions into the workforce, participants said.

Pamela Leavitt of Tigard is Oregon State advocacy and grassroots policy adviser for the Northwest Credit Union Association. She said her organization's goal is to provide schools with financial literacy curricula. "Students are graduating and telling us they're not getting that in schools," Leavitt told the group. Her children attend Tigard High School.

Steven Zika, chief executive officer of Hampton Lumber, said his company's goal is to expand the forest products industry by breaking gender barriers and to better explain the company. He said he often hears comments from female students saying, "Oh, that's these big guys that carry two-by-fours around. That's not me."

Zika said such presumptions limit student's workforce options.

Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, sits on the committee. "The economy is red-hot," he said, referring to the year-long run of unemployment figures for Washington County ranging under the 3.5 percent level. "How important are good schools to economic development?"

Kimberly Howard, Portland General Electric's program officer, said if classroom curricula better reflect what fields students were going into, the economy might change. "This is what we did in the '50s. Schools looked like factories because students were going into factories," Howard said. "But they're not going into factories anymore."

She also said public schools should incorporate smart-phone abilities into curricula. Schools should expand on ways in which students comprehend and analyze all the information that they have at their fingertips.

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