Madison teachers vote no confidence in principal, small schools

7:48 am

In a move teachers’ union president Jeff Miller calls “extremely rare,” Madison teachers have voted “no confidence” in their principal.

This is another blow against the Gates Foundation’s “small schools” model, which, under former superintendent Vicki Phillips, was implemented exclusively in Portland’s lowest income high schools: Jefferson, Madison, Marshall and Roosevelt.

Evidence continues to roll in showing this model is failing by virtually all measures to achieve its goals, and instead robs our poorest students of equal educational opportunity and accelerates the outflow of students and their funding from these schools.

Yet PPS, under new superintendent Carole Smith, has demonstrated no serious intention of returning comprehensive high schools to these neighborhoods. And there seems to be no thought of shifting the “small schools” model to a “small learning community” model, as proposed by educator and activist Terry Olson.

As with the PK8 transition, another serious mess left by Vicki Phillips, half of PPS high schools remain in serious crisis, and Carole Smith’s administration takes only tentative, superficial steps to address foundational design defects.

At some point the school board needs to assert some leadership. They need to define what constitutes a comprehensive education, and guarantee it in every neighborhood school. Until they take that fundamental step, talk of equity is meaningless and the district remains in turmoil.

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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, High Schools, Jefferson High, Labor Relations, Madison High, Marshall High, Reform, Roosevelt High

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5 Responses

  1. Comment from Keri:

    This is yet another blow to the small schools. Correct. Small schools, merely by virtue of being small, are not one and the same. Until the district, the union and our community begin to understand these are separate schools, we will continue to take blows to the very work we do. These blows come at our very foundation and core.

    No one involved in small school reform believes that small schools work for every one, every school, or every teacher. Teachers must be the ground swell of this work. It is on their shoulders. The outfall at Madison is not due to small school reform, it is a product of reform work when your main stakeholders are not bought into the process or the ideal.

    Small schools are taking a blow everywhere when the distinction is not considered or noted.

  2. Comment from Teacher 2:

    Once again the frustrations of teachers surfaces and makes the news. Within the system of PPS little heed is given to those who teach in the classroom. Top down management systems have replaced any former efforts by both sides to find a mix that would work for both sides. Decisions are made according to the latest fad in education, not well thought out educational plans that are best for kids. The K-8 fiasco was so disruptive and naive that we now have 2 schools sending kids to a high school because there is not enough space for them in their schools. Even though this was all pointed out in the faux meetings allowed by the district for input before these schools were created. The visions of Vicki Phillips were visions for her life not the kids in Portland and Carole Smith has shown little new leadership other than following the plans of Phillips who brow beat into submission any principal who differed with her myopic goals.
    The frustration point at Madison has its foundation in the less than receptive principal who is guided by the district office. She becomes the district puppet and moves from there…..the mess left by Miss Phillips will take years to undo and at a cost to students, teachers and the community of the east side of Portland. One minor note here is that no changes in school formats took place west of the Willamette except at one school that went K-8.

  3. Comment from Marvin McConoughey:

    Small schools, like many reforms, work in some situations but not universally. Oregon would do better to focus on more productive reforms such as a longer school year, honest grading, and stronger in-school student discipline.

  4. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Let’s count: Madison, Marshall, and Roosevelt pretty much destroyed by the small school approach — and the refusal to heed the obvious problems pointed out by the people who work there. Jefferson decimated by the “reforms” brought about there. Benson, previously recognized as one of the finest technological high schools in America, totally messed up by the decisions brought about from the top. Pretty pathetic record on high schools.

  5. Comment from Teacher:

    It’s not about the model – it’s about ineffective leadership. Small schools work and there are examples all over this country. If we want our schools to be equitable places where real learning takes place, then we need to have true educational leadership. From what I’ve seen – there isn’t any. The reasonable gains and efforts made in Portland small schools are due to the devoted and exceptional teachers who take the work on – it is work that is done with incremental success in spite of poor leadership. Imagine what could actually happen if our schools were organized and managed by individuals who have a real grasp on education, instructional practice, and democratic ideals.