CORVALLIS - Oregon State University students are bringing together community leaders and educators from across the Northwest to strengthen Oregon schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

"Oregon Goes Back to School," a Sept. 16 conference at OSU, will focus on creating a network of programs for educators who want to improve instruction throughout the state.

More than 500 people are expected to attend the conference, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Education, the Oregon State Department of Education and the Commission for National and Community Service.

The event, which begins at 9 a.m., will end with the broadcast of an interactive teleconference hosted by the America Goes Back to School Program and the U.S. Department of Education, according to Scott Palmer, director of student advocacy for Associated Students of OSU.

The teleconference will follow a town hall format and be broadcast live nationwide. It will give people in Corvallis the chance to interact with educators in Washington, D.C., Palmer said. While other sites nationwide will tune into the conference, only Corvallis and Washington, D.C. will be linked interactively, he said.

The OSU conference, which is free and open to the public, will help develop a clearinghouse of information on third-grade literacy, eighth-grade math proficiency and access to higher education, Palmer said.

"There are hundreds of successful community partnerships all over Oregon," Palmer said. "The problem is that a third-grade teacher in La Grande has a difficult time discovering what a third-grade teacher in Beaverton is doing. Oregon Goes Back to School will hopefully create a network of program materials that can be accessed by anyone interested in improving education."

For conference information and registration, contact Palmer at 541-737-6349.

The conference grew from a concept first proposed by Matt DeVore, OSU student body president.

Last spring, DeVore was appointed to the national steering committee for America Goes Back to School. The program is a coalition of more than 3,000 business, community, religious and education organizations seeking improvement for the nation's schools.

"DeVore was one of only three students on the 55-person committee and the only student body president," Palmer said.

When he walked out of his first committee meeting in March, DeVore said he was thinking of ways to aid Oregon education.

"There are just so many reasons for ASOSU to be involved in this project," DeVore said. "We recognize the connections between successful K-12 programs and the likelihood of a child enrolling in higher education. The more we engage children in early education, the greater the chance they will ultimately enroll in college."

"By hosting this conference, we are helping to ensure the long-term success of Oregon's children and, therefore, the long-term success of OSU," Palmer said.

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Scott Palmer, 541-737-6349