K-8 Equity?

7:23 am

On the theme of equity, which has become a very popular word at PPS, I’ve been thinking more about the K-8 transition.

The locations of the remaining middle schools seems to be entirely capricious, which is typical of the entire K-8 transition, but, not surprisingly, the only two clusters to lose 6-8 schools entirely are clusters hit hard by the enrollment drain of open transfers: Jefferson and Madison.

Ironically, these two clusters have unique issues that could have been avoided entirely if they’d kept 6-8 options.

In the Jefferson cluster, Chief Joseph only has room for Pre-K-5, and there is no place for sixth graders to go, besides one of the K-8 schools or the 6-12 gender-segregated academies at Jefferson. Robert Gray, on the west side, has been the default middle school for Chief Joseph for years. Why should these kids have to take TriMet across town for middle school?

We also could have avoided this problem by keeping Kenton open, instead of merging with Chief Joseph. The Kenton building, now leased to a private religious school, could have housed K-8 or a comprehensive 6-8.

In the Madison cluster, the K-8 schools are too small to house eighth graders, so they’re sending them to Madison. These students may be lucky compared to eighth graders at schools like Beach, in the Jefferson cluster, where there were five eighth graders enrolled last fall.

So I ask again: where’s the equity in all this? Why are students in the Jefferson and Madison clusters denied not only comprehensive high schools, but comprehensive middle schools, too? How is it equitable for the Cleveland and Wilson clusters to have two comprehensive middle schools and comprehensive high schools, while our Jefferson and Madison cluster kids get nothing?

Pushing ahead with the K-8 transition is moving us away from equity, not toward it.

Here are the middle schools by cluster:

Cleveland: Hosford, Sellwood
Franklin: Mt. Tabor
Grant: Beaumont, da Vinci Arts
Lincoln: West Sylvan
Marshall: Binnsmead, Lane
Roosevelt: George
Wilson: Gray, Jackson

Jefferson: none
Madison: none


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Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

filed under: Equity, K-8 Transistion, Transfer Policy

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17 Responses

  1. Comment from Neisha:

    Great post. The inequities become really stark when you look at the math offerings. Sellwood, Gray, West Sylvan and Jackson (not sure re Mt. Tabor or Hosford) all offer Algebra 1 and 2 and Geometry. Beaumont offers Algebra 1. According to what has been written about the K-8 meeting at Rigler, many K-8s are struggling to offer Algebra 1. You can’t get more “core” than math. It’s pretty outrageous that math offerings depend on zipcode.

  2. Comment from Fred Stewart:

    I do have a position on this topic and I hope when my responces to the questions Steve sent out are posted everyone is able to review them.

  3. Comment from Neisha:

    OK, so I did a little bit more digging about math offerings because it seemed to me to be a reasonable way to compare middle school and K-8 academics. All of this came from school-created web pages or brochures, so it’s not scientific.

    What I found is that, in addition to the schools I mentioned above, daVinci, George, and Hosford also offer math through high school Geometry. Hosford also has an arrangement with Cleveland allowing middle school students to take Algebra 3 & 4. I could not determine math offerings from the Lane, Binnsmead or Mt. Tabor websites. Also, isn’t Binnsmead converting to K-8?

  4. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Fred’s responses to the PPS Equity questionnaire have been posted. (Fred Stewart is a candidate for Portland City Council seat #2. See the Election ’08 page for a complete listing of candidates, and their responses to our questionnaire.)

  5. Comment from Neisha:

    And here’s a wee bit more from the school fact pages. Math through Geometry is offered at Mt. Tabor, but Binnsmead students need to go to Madison or Marshall to get Geometry. So, there’s inequities even among middle schools.

    Going back to Steve’s post, though, not all K-8 schools can offer Algebra 1 as yet, but math through high school Geometry seems to be offered at most middle schools. So, as things stand right now, K-8s can’t compete with middle schools even in terms of core course offerings. My guess is that the disparity in terms of electives and enrichment is much greater.

  6. Comment from Zarwen:

    One correction to your list, Steve: “Binnsmead Middle School” as such no longer exists. All of its former feeders are now K-8s. This fall, the current Clark population will move into the Binnsmead building to eventually become another K-8. NOT AT ALL what that community wanted!

    If I may wax nostalgic for a moment here: I worked at Binnsmead Middle School in the mid-90’s. Even though it is in a poor part of town, that school was able to offer PE, health, choir, band, art, shop, computer lab, and Spanish. This was in addition to 1.5 FTE for library services, 4 FTE dedicated to student management, and two full-time administrators. I think there were three secretaries. The enrollment was near 800 at the time. (Very Important Note here: the PSF did not yet exist.) When the big cuts came down in 1996, the principal cut all of the “enrichment” classes except PE and Health. Enrollment has been spiraling downward ever since. Neither the idiot principal nor his supervising Area Director were willing to admit that it had anything to do with the sudden lack of electives. Although I do remember that some Foundation money was used to restore the shop program–temporarily.

  7. Comment from Zarwen:

    I might as well just go ahead and say it: there will be NO EQUITY in PPS as long as the Foundation exists. The drastic inequities we see all over town today, which keep increasing every year, can be traced right back to the beginning of the Foundation, even to the exact date. If you really are after Equity, the Foundation must be dismantled–and not replaced. It’s as simple as that.

  8. Comment from Steve R.:

    Thanks for the correction on Binnsmead.

    Another example of middle school options being taken away from our least affluent students.

    Is there any threat of taking this option away from our wealthiest families in the Wilson, Grant, Cleveland, Franklin or Lincoln clusters?

    Why are they immune from this kind of reduction of educational opportunity? (That’s a rhetorical question; I think I know the real answer.)

  9. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Speaking of inequities. Libraries are a key component of a good education — strong elementary schools need to be centered around them. Each school should have a strong and viable library with a person running it, preferably a librarian. This is definitely a top priority — which means it should be funded at the beginning of the budget, not scrape around at the end of the budget for a few dollars. It is a top priority. Yet PPS this year had no central funding dedicated to libraries. Next year there will be $45,000 out of a $400,000,000 plus budget! Two high schools (Marshall and Roosevelt) will not have a librarian and one middle school at least (Lane) has no library. Library funding is evidentally left up to principals and not all see libraries as important enough to support in a meaningful way.

    The district should take the following steps immediately:

    1) Send out the word that the superintendent expects each school to solidly support its library both with people and materials.
    2) Rebudget a large amount of money and earmark it solely for library improvement with the express purpose creating an excellent library in every school in the district.
    3) Call upon the Portland School Foundation to move a substantial amount of their shared money into library materials support. (The schools who can raise money more easily have the option to use that money for library support and evidentally some do.
    4)Create a chief librarian position held by a full-time outstanding librarian to spear head these improvements.

    All of these are doable within the next year.

  10. Comment from Zarwen:

    Steve R.,

    For what it’s worth, the middle school option was reduced (but not eliminated) in the Grant and Franklin clusters, thanks to the closure of Kellogg and the reformattings of Fernwood and Tubman. Also, I would suggest that, if you are going to list da Vinci as part of the Grant Cluster even though it is a focus option that has no geographic catchment area, then you should list SEI Charter as part of the Jefferson Cluster too.

  11. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Okay, strike da Vinci.

    Still, Jefferson and Madison cluster students are the only ones without a middle school option.

  12. Comment from Nicole:

    I believe that SEI is physically located in the Grant cluster, not the Jefferson cluster. Jefferson’s Young Women’s Academy at Tubman (formerly one of the Jefferson cluster’s middle schools) is also physically located in the Grant cluster.

  13. Comment from Zarwen:

    Steve and Nicole,

    I did some checking and found out some interesting things.

    First, Nicole, I stand corrected about the location of SEI (even though it is only a stone’s throw from Jeff).

    Second, Steve, you will be interested to know that da Vinci is actually in the Cleveland cluster. Probably not too many people know that the Cleveland cluster actually extends north all the way to Broadway. Da Vinci is in the Buckman school catchment area, which makes some sense, because if memory serves, it was meant to be an extension of the K-5 arts magnet program at Buckman.

    Steve, I acknowledge, sadly, your original point about Jefferson and Madison having no middle schools. The point I was trying to make is that some other clusters have had middle school offerings reduced (Grant, Franklin) while others have kept them intact (Cleveland, Wilson, Lincoln).

    I am also worried that Marshall will lose their last middle school too. Lane has been suffering from falling enrollment for years, and the district deliberately passed up an opportunity to bolster them when they started bussing the Woodstock kids all the way to overcrowded Hosford instead of sending them a much shorter distance to Lane. I construe that as a sign that Lane’s days as a middle school are numbered.

    You know, PPS has set this thing up in such a way that there seems to be a direct correlation (Terry’s gonna love me for using that word!) between income levels and the number of middle schools per cluster. Who would ever have thought that middle schools would become a status symbol?

  14. Comment from Terry:

    Zarwen, I’m sure there is a strong correlation between income and the number of middle schools in any given cluster, just as there’s a strong postitive correlation between high test scores and the relative wealth of students taking the tests.

    There’s also an obviously strong correlation between the SES profile of a school and its enrollment, or at least its capture rate. I attribute that to “white flight” and PPS’ transfer policy. I can’t statistically prove “white flight”, but I’m not reluctant to point to the transfer policy as an exacerbating factor in school depopulation.

  15. Comment from Extremely Frustrated:

    I am an Arts teacher in the PPS schools. All your comments are correct. I work at a middle school, and a K-8. The differences in the core class options are huge. The difference in the elective, or now “enrichment” options is not only alarming but verges on ridiculous. The K-8 students will NOT have a competitive education with the middle school kids. They are missing class time in all subject areas–math, science, social studies, pe, and the electives. Its time to take REAL action against the districts poor planning. A rally must be held in which thousands of angry parents swarm the big pink building and demand equity

  16. Comment from Madsion Cluster Parent:

    Ms Phillips gave us her word our new K-8 merged school would be safe.

    We simply asked to hold off one year to let the 8th graders move on to HS (like some other schools were allowed). Bullets on the Bus in the Madison Cluster today. Can’t wait to see the response.


  17. Comment from Neisha:

    Here’s a link to how PPS plans to address K-8 equity issues: