“Enrichment” in K8s: is Winterhaven the model?

What’s the current status of the K8 Action Team these days? As I recall, there was supposed to be a model K8 curriculum developed by now, but I don’t think I’ve seen it. Does anybody have an update on that?

I’ve also been looking at the information on the amount of “enrichment” — a term which I truly detest — offered at each school. I was dismayed to see that in the K8 FAQs (144KB PDF) they are using Winterhaven and MLC as examples of K8 (or K12 as the case may be) enrichment done right. I beg to differ.

Both schools rely very heavily — almost exclusively — on parent volunteerism and fundraising to provide anything beyond the three Rs. MLC has been at it for much longer and has a more elaborate system, with many more classes, including some taught by pros, but the principle is similar in both schools.

As much as I appreciate the efforts of the parents, these “interest classes” cannot be considered equivalent to a real class. For one thing, they tend to be very short term, typically 5-6 weeks. Obviously, that limits the the kinds of topics that can be tackled and the ability to explore anything in-depth. In fact, a lot of these special interest classes are, in fact, pretty fluffy in my opinion. (No criticism of the parents intended. You can only do what you can do. And this comment applies to my elective, too.)

Winterhaven does a lot of things right, don’t get me wrong. But “enrichment” isn’t one of them. The principals, staff, and parents have done, I think, a remarkable job providing these kids with what they can, and I am deeply grateful to them.

But when you compare the offerings at Winterhaven against the offerings at Sellwood, West Sylvan, or other middle schools, our kids are clearly being shortchanged. (It should be noted that doing this kind of comparison is exceedingly difficult, since there is no centralized source of information on offerings at all schools in PPS. The PK8 page includes a link to a document that lists “enrichment” in all those schools, but there are no details and no comparisons with middle schools.)

For example, my kid gets 5 “enrichment” periods a week, half of the recommended number for 6-8. Winterhaven has an accelerated math/science focus, so presumably extra time is devoted to those subjects. But I question the quality of even the few “enrichments” that the kids get.

Every middle schooler at Winterhaven gets one period of PE and one period of technology a week. The PE consists, as far as I can tell, of exercises (e.g., sit-ups) and running around the gym. His friend at West Sylvan gets a daily PE consisting of yoga, Pilates, and weight lifting, among other things.

In addition, kids in grades 6-8 can choose one among three official, year-long electives offered: Spanish, theatre, and study hall. The Spanish class (offered only in the last 2 years) is taught twice a week by a non-certified teacher hired with Run for the Arts cash. My son has never had what I would consider to be a real foreign language class. After one year of this elective — plus a year of after school Spanish that I paid for — he can barely say hello in Spanish. And he’s good at languages.

A theatre elective is also offered, but only because two teachers are doing it out of the goodness of their souls, giving up their prep time. That’s probably not sustainable. The third elective is a study hall. Hardly qualifies as an “enrichment” in my book.

Meanwhile, there’s no music at all for middle schoolers. (There is some singing offered for K-5 kids in a Run for the Arts-supported musical once a year, but no instruments, no reading music.) There are usually parent-run arts classes that the kids like, but, again, they’re short-term.

And there you have it. Not exactly an impressive array of “enrichments” if you ask me. In fairness, there is a fairly robust list of after school clubs, (most free and run by parents, some paid), but most of the students do not or cannot take advantage of them. (Winterhaven is, after all, an all-city focus option school, not a neighborhood school.)

The problem is that Winterhaven just plain doesn’t have enough FTE to provide what I would consider a full curriculum and supports. Why? Because we have only about 340+ students (not sure of this year’s latest numbers). But the reality is that we can’t have more because the building is too small; we are already overcrowded. [Some of you may recall that this prompted an ill-conceived scheme in 2006 to relocate Winterhaven to a larger building that was, unfortunately, utterly inappropriate to support the program and, oh by the way, landed on the demolition list a year later.]

I go into this detail only because I want to make sure that Winterhaven is not used as evidence that the K8 model is fully elaborated and just swell. It’s not. That doesn’t mean it can’t be, but I’d like to see some progress on that sooner rather than later. In fact, this K8 model is long overdue. For those who aren’t familiar with Winterhaven, it is now in its 13th year as a K8 program/school. Any curricular deficits, therefore, cannot be attributed to the more recent reconfiguration chaos.

More to the point, given that there were two K8 schools (Winterhaven and Sunnyside) and one K-12 school (MLC) already in existence when the decision was made to do a wholesale conversion of vast swaths of the city, it was at the time and remains a mystery to me why the District didn’t consider their experiences in planning for the reconfiguration. Now it appears that the District is simply declaring them cases of K8 done right without acknowledging that even in these “successful” schools there are some significant curricular deficits.

While I’m at, can we come up with a better word than “enrichment?” To my ear, this makes the subjects in question sound like luxuries that are, by definition, easily dispensable in hard times. The term strikes me as positively Rovian. I think we should come up with a term that implies that the subjects are not fluff, but essential to a child’s development with proven beneficial effects on both academic achievement and student retention. Any ideas?

Rita Moore has a Ph.D. in Political Science and taught at universities in the US and Europe for 18 years. She now works as an advocate for children in the child welfare system and volunteers as a mediator and facilitator. She has one child in PPS and recently ran for the zone four position on the Portland Public Schools Board of Education.

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K8 crisis molders on

Over the last school year, Carole Smith’s staff held a series of community meetings in response to outrage over the district’s complete lack of planning and funding for the K8 transition. As of the last meeting, held at the end of May, district staff painted a much rosier picture of things, with library staff at eight of 30 K8s remaining a significant gap.

Funding 2-4 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions to fill this gap (a half time or full time classified library assistant for each of the eight schools) from a half a billion dollar budget, didn’t seem too onerous at the time.

Another meeting was suggested for the summer, but it never materialized.

Now, as we begin the new school year, we find five K8 schools still have no library staff. We also continue to see many schools with only one class (if that) of a given middle grade year, which means staffing is bare-bones at best.

Many eighth grade students, whom we are supposedly trying to prepare for the high school transition, are spending their days in a single elementary school classroom, with a single teacher for most subjects, and a cohort of 25-30 students. They are not choosing electives, managing their time between classes, learning to deal with varied teaching styles, or learning to deal with other types of students (K8s, since they draw on much smaller geographic attendance areas, are significantly more segregated by class and race than middle schools).

K8s that were created out of middle schools appear much better off — middle grade students have lockers, change classes, and have a variety of electives to choose from. But that’s only a small number of K8s. Most of the K8s created from elementary schools simply don’t have — nor will they ever have — the economies of scale to offer the kind of breadth and depth of curriculum that a middle school can offer.

So even if we pour some real money into making K8 schools work (something we’re certainly not doing, and there doesn’t seem to be any money coming), we’re still looking at a model that is clearly not well-suited to preparing all students for high school.

Some students may benefit from a smaller cohort and the closer attention of a single teacher to get them through the difficult middle school years. But there is something fundamentally broken with a model that sees radically reduced opportunity at most K8s, and the distribution of middle schools, offering significantly more opportunity and high school preparation, mainly in middle class, white neighborhoods.

School board director Ruth Adkins has spoken of having a middle school option in every cluster, something I have advocated for here (the Jefferson and Madison clusters do not have middle schools). But other board members seem hesitant. One told me privately that this idea was premature, since “we don’t know how many clusters there are going to be.”

The lack of urgency on this crisis is troubling. Superintendent Carole Smith has correctly identified the transition from middle school to high school as a critical phase of a student’s career. But at the same time, her administration has pushed a middle school model that can clearly make this transition more difficult for many at-risk students.

There are school board members like Adkins, who was not on the board when the K8 transition was approved, and Sonja Henning, who voted against the K8 transition, who could take the lead on making sure we have a comprehensive middle school option for every student in every cluster. Since K8s seem to have fallen off the radar, now would be a good time for them to step up and push on this.

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

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Libraries: an equity index

Neighborhood middle schools no library staff: 0
Of 30 neighborhood K8 schools, number with no library staff: 4
High schools with no library staff: 1 (Young Women’s Academy)
High schools with no certified media specialist (librarian): 3 (Marshall campus, Roosevelt campus, Young Women’s Academy)
Library staff at each of Cleveland, Grant, Lincoln High Schools: 3

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

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On the right track with Carole Smith

Lest the casual reader believe PPS Equity is solely focused on the things Portland Public Schools is doing wrong (we’ve been described as “scathing” by Sarah Mirk at the Merc), we should pause and take note of the things that are on the right track.

In Carole Smith’s September 5 speech (58KB PDF) to the City Club of Portland (reviewed by Peter Campbell here and by Terry Olson on his blog), she highlighted what I see as a significant policy shift from her predescessor. In her prepared remarks, she says

…our high school campuses with the lowest enrollment — the ones usually suggested for closure — each have at least 1,400 high school age students living in their neighborhoods. As a city, we have a choice: We can declare defeat, shut down those campuses and tell 1,400 students they have to take a long bus ride every day to a high school in a more affluent part of town — sacrificing their ability to participate in athletics, after-school programs at those schools that meet families’ needs and are attractive to students.

I’m not ready to give up on those schools and on those neighborhoods.

Hey, I could have written this! In fact, I have, many times.

(The next step is to figure out how to pay for it. I’ve long suggested balancing enrollment through a combination of equalizing opportunities across the district and a neighborhood-based enrollment policy. Carole Smith and her staff haven’t made that next step yet, but unless they have a 50% increase in funding or want to cut programming in wealthier neighborhoods, balancing enrollment is the only way we’re going to get there.)

Finally, we’re hearing talk of “equity of access,” which sounds pretty darned close to the “equity of opportunity” I’ve been calling for.

The significant question about “access” is whether we will continue to have a two-tiered secondary school system — comprehensive middle and high schools for the wealthier half of the city and K8s and “small schools” high schools for the rest — or whether we’re going to work toward eliminating the ability to know the wealth of a neighborhood by the type of school you find there.

Smith is taking the first steps on the path to what I call equity; to that end, her staff, “by the end of this school year, … will define the core educational program to be offered at each of our high school campuses, as well as a plan to fund it within existing resources.”

You have to assume this will be a pretty low bar, as it has been with K8s. (The minimum 6-8 curriculum being defined for the K8 transition is significantly less than what was already available at every middle school in Portland before the K8 conversion.) But we’ve got to guarantee that students are at least able to graduate with the classes available, something that isn’t necessarily possible at some of Portland’s poorest high schools, a problem aggravated by the district’s rigid implementation of the “small schools” model at Madison High School, for example.

Nevertheless, these implementation details, along with a continued focus on assessment, do not detract from the fact that Carole Smith is on the right track in significant, broad stroke ways.

Talking about high schools before talking about facilities. Talking about “equity of access”. Talking about where students live (as opposed to where they’ve transferred to) as a critical element in the design of the high school system.

It’s easy to point to missed opportunities to take immediate action and show a real commitment to equity of opportunity: Madison High, K8s, Libraries, etc. But it seems to me the winds have shifted, and if we actually put some of Carole Smith’s words into bold action, we’re going to see a turn-around from the laissez-faire, two-tiered, self-segregated “system” of education we currently have.

Then it just becomes a question of urgency. Every year we wait, we lose another class of students.

It wouldn’t hurt if the school board put a little more wind at Carole Smith’s back in this regard.

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

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No Child Left Behind: Truths and Consequences

This video explains, in very nice detail, most of the things that are wrong with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It’s 9 minutes and 25 seconds long.

And here’s another video from North Carolina teacher Doug Ward, explaining why he refused to administer the state test to students with disabilities. In response to his courageous stand, Doug was fired.

Maybe there’s a reason why so many educators are afraid to speak out against NCLB? Time for the elected leaders to speak on their behalf. And take action.

Peter Campbell is a parent, educator, and activist, who served in a volunteer role for four years as the Missouri State Coordinator for FairTest before moving to Portland. He has taught multiple subjects and grade levels for over 20 years. He blogs at Transform Education.

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Assessment OF Learning vs. Assessment FOR Learning

I’ve never understood why PPS does not have a closer alliance with the Portland-based Assessment Training Institute (ATI). Its founder, assessment expert/guru Rick Stiggins, is one of my heroes.

Stiggins and his colleagues at ATI frame the question of assessment by distinguishing between assessment FOR leaning vs. assessment OF learning. In the former, assessment informs and improves learning; in the latter, assessment determines learning, i.e. creates the conditions for the curriculum becoming test prep.

Assessment OF learning is about proving that you have learned something that can be measured. Assessment FOR learning is about using information produced by rich forms of assessment to enhance instruction and improve learning.

As you might guess, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) promotes assessment OF learning. And some would say that its obsession with quantitative measures makes any kind of assessment FOR learning difficult.

But even in using more valuable kinds of assessment, e.g., classroom-based formative assessment, there’s a tension between assessment for learning and assessment of learning for documentation and accountability purposes. In other words, it’s hard to care about students when you’re so busy writing down observable performance data about them that ties into State Standards CA42.A1, SS16.B12, and M27.J4. Learning vs. proving you have learned are two different objectives. In the former, both the student and the teacher may actually care about the outcome. And they may care less whether it can be quantified and recorded. It’s hard to empirically validate an “a-ha” moment, yet good teachers in caring relationships with their students have them all the time.

Proving I have learned, i.e., showing I’m a good student, and proving I have taught, i.e., showing I’m a good teacher, are euphemistic covers for “please don’t fail me” and “please don’t fire me” respectively. Under NCLB, even really good assessment practices, when operating under the weight of “accountability,” can become about covering one’s derriere. Inevitably, and quite logically, students may focus only on those things they can demonstrate they know and that they are good at. Teachers may focus only on those things they can demonstrate they can teach with predictable, positive outcomes. Neither can afford to show process or ambiguity, and certainly neither wants to show a lack of knowledge or competence or even – heaven forbid – that they are wrong about something.

So what effect might this have on quality, substantive, in-depth teaching and learning? It’s not hard to imagine.

Peter Campbell is a parent, educator, and activist, who served in a volunteer role for four years as the Missouri State Coordinator for FairTest before moving to Portland. He has taught multiple subjects and grade levels for over 20 years. He blogs at Transform Education.

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A challenge for Martín González

As the newest member of the Portland Public Schools board of education, I would like to extend a cordial welcome to Martín González in the form of a challenge on a number of critical issues, in no particular order.

  • High schools: advocate for comprehensive high schools in every neighborhood, with the schools offering the best variety of courses and the most qualified teachers sited in the poorest neighborhoods. This policy, the inverse of the current high school system, would rebuild enrollment and public investment where it is most needed. “Small schools,” as currently implemented, may be offered as a special focus, but should never be substituted for comprehensive schools.
  • Facilities: advocate for building new facilities based on where students live, not where they’ve transferred, a policy of investing in proportion to local student population and encouraging families to stay in (or return to) their neighborhood schools.
  • K8 transition: advocate for a comprehensive middle school option in every neighborhood. K8 schools may be the best option for some students, but they offer dramatically less educational opportunity and are more segregated than middle schools. (Before this transition, every middle school student in PPS had access to a staffed library. Now many do not.) PPS middle grade students assigned to K8 schools are significantly more likely to be non-white and poor than those assigned to middle schools. If any student has a middle school option in their neighborhood, all students should.
  • No Child Left Behind: bring a resolution to the board calling for the repeal of the punitive aspects of this law that unfairly target poor and minority students, and introduce policy directing district administration to de-emphasize assessment in favor of a more rounded, whole-child educational focus.
  • Student transfer and school funding policies: advocate for a school funding policy that would reinvest in schools that have been gutted by out-transfers as a way to bring enrollment back. Introduce policy that would shift our public investment back to where families live, and guarantee a minimum core curriculum (including the arts) in every neighborhood school. If you really want to be bold, propose policy that would limit neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers to those that would not adversely impact socio-economic segregation. That is, students who qualify for free or reduced lunch could basically transfer anywhere, but other students could only transfer into Title I schools, much like the transfer policy in place during the 1980 desegregation plan (but keying on income instead of race).
  • Charter schools: come out strongly for neighborhood schools. Learn from charter school applications what’s missing in our neighborhood schools, and advocate for policy to provide these things in neighborhood schools. The most recent PPS charter school proposal suggests nothing we shouldn’t already be doing in every neighborhood school.

González has a unique opportunity to “audition” for the seat that he will have to win by popular vote in May. How he performs on each of the above issues will signal where he stands with those of us who want school system based on equity of opportunity, where the wealth of a neighborhood does not correspond to the wealth of offerings in its schools.

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

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Charter school reflux

The latest charter school to rear its head in north or northeast Portland represents a clear challenge to Portland Public Schools, a challenge they have so far refused to meet.

Nothing proposed by the Emerald Charter’s organizers is anything we shouldn’t get in our neighborhood public schools: community building, respect, excellence, and diversity. (In fact, the charter schools movement by its very nature goes against community building and diversity and will likely never come close to neighborhood schools in those areas.)

But you don’t have to read very far into Emerald’s Web page to see a perfectly reasonable rationale to break away from PPS. “Are we teaching students how to learn,” ask the organizers, “or are we giving them a series of rote exercises to get them through the next series of tests?”

This is exactly the question that many activists have asked, and some have pointed out that the PPS obsession with assessment predates No Child Left Behind. The more recent obsession with the “achievement gap” has ensured that Portland schools, especially in neighborhoods that are not predominately white and middle class, have increasingly focused on preparation for assessment to the detriment of “enrichment” (art, music, P.E., world languages, recess etc.).

Whether or not this focus does anything to help bridge the “achievement gap” (some schools that have done away with test prep entirely have actually shown better progress), it is clearly driving white, middle class families away from their inner north and northeast neighborhood schools. The resulting self-segregation reflects the contemporary sociological phenomenon of people tending to associate almost entirely with people who think, act, and look like them.

I cannot criticize anybody for doing what they think is best for their children — that’s their job as a parent. I want nothing to do with name calling and angry debates about personal choices, but people who believe their charter somehow won’t be part of a regressive social movement — with race as a significant aspect — are sorely misguided and misinformed.

Charter schools are, in fact, a regressive social movement; their promise is illusory. I wrote about this in a Portland Tribune op-ed last winter. Nothing has changed since then.

There is a notion that since PPS has historically failed poor and minority students, these communities should be allowed to take their state education money and take care of themselves. It’s hard to argue with the success of the Self Enhancement Academy’s work with its almost entirely African-American student body (five of 137 students were non-black last year).

But the fact that more black students are enrolled in Self Enhancement than in the other six PPS charter schools combined tells the story of “diversity” in charter schools. Every recent charter school application has promised diversity; none have delivered. Portland’s charter schools represent another form of the self-segregation encouraged by the district’s student transfer policy.

Postmodern identity politics is no way to run a public school system, and it is certainly not what we should be teaching our children.

The PPS board of education must be made to understand this latest charter school as a shot across the bow of the district’s assessment obsession. At least three of the current board (Adkins, Williams and Wynde) appear opposed to new charter schools on principle. But Carole Smith’s administration seems entirely sold on the current edu-speak lingo that says we need to focus on “closing the achievement gap” and “equity of outcomes,” goals that have put us into the vicious cycle of stripping “enrichment” as we chase “achievement” as measured by standardized tests.

If school board members want to head off this kind of challenge to the common schools model, they need to create policy that pulls the district away from assessment mania and creates neighborhood schools that consciously focus on the simple things the Emerald Charter’s organizers talk about.

There is nothing revolutionary in turning away from educational trends that have been disastrous for poor and minority children, not to mention the middle class children who would be their classmates. The PPS board needs to quit waffling on this. They should proclaim NCLB a bad law, and declare assessment obsession a detriment to whole-child learning and a significant contributor to inequity and segregation. It makes no sense to continue creating fertile ground for more charter schools that will drain more families from neighborhood schools.

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

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Carole Smith’s Plan: What’s Wrong (and Right)

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith’s vision, articulated in her Friday address to the City Club (57KB PDF), focuses on academic skills in early elementary, then continues to focus on academic achievement vis a vis test scores as a measure of whether kids are likely to graduate. Two examples from her speech:

Are [students] ready to read by the time they enter first grade?

As they leave third grade, are they reading fluently enough to understand the
information and ideas presented — do they have strong foundation for the rest of their schooling?

But what’s missing from these recommendations are the voices of the students who chose to drop out of school. If they had had a mentor who monitored their academic progress, would they have stayed in school? Smith thinks so, and cites the examples of two students — six-year-old Charles at Rosa Parks and 9th-grader Eric at Cleveland High. While these stories are moving and powerful, they are — of course — success stories, stories about the ones that made it.

But what about the ones that didn’t make it?

We don’t know. But it would probably be a good idea if we found out. After all, in the day and age of high-quality customer service, it might make sense to ask the customer why they no longer patronize your business.

Here’s what I see:

  • the new OR exit exam will increase drop-outs, as is the case in most states that have adopted high-stakes exit exams
  • an intense emphasis on “how am I doing?” undermines “what am I learning?’ and, more importantly, “what do I care about?”

Smith calls for partnerships with local businesses and organizations to give students real-world learning opportunities similar to what The Met School does for its students. That’s great. But let’s not kid ourselves: focusing on academic achievement alone is not going to save kids from dropping out. But making schools exciting, relevant, fun places to be will.

Peter Campbell is a parent, educator, and activist, who served in a volunteer role for four years as the Missouri State Coordinator for FairTest before moving to Portland. He has taught multiple subjects and grade levels for over 20 years. He blogs at Transform Education.

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A response to Carole Smith: Close the opportunity gap and the achievement gap will follow

In an e-mail sent to staff and some community members, Carole Smith expresses great enthusiasm and joy in her work on the first day of school. As a parent, I find this encouraging.

What I find discouraging is how she frames the issue of equity.

“…[W]ith every decision,” writes Smith, “we must ask ourselves about equity. All too often, a student’s family income and ethnicity predict his or her eventual success in school.”

This is true, sad, and terribly unjust.

But this defines equity exclusively in terms of outcomes. It omits two critical facts. The first is that as a school district, we control only a small portion of the inputs that lead to unequal outcomes.

Secondly, by focusing on outcomes, we conveniently avoid the inconvenient fact that a student’s race and income are also extremely accurate predictors of the wealth of curriculum and the level of teacher experience on offer at that student’s school.

The problem with striving for equity in outcomes is not that it’s a bad goal. It’s imperative that we improve things for our poorest students. The problem is that it is impossible for any school district to do this alone. We need a concerted federal, state and local anti-poverty program to make a serious dent in this problem.

“Closing the achievement gap” is a logical fallacy, in fact, and it’s perpetuated by the a breed of “reformers” we’re all familiar with: the Gates and Broad foundations, and our old friend Vicki Phillips. As they have pursued this false, unattainable goal, they have driven public investment out of Portland’s poor and minority neighborhoods and have set up schools for failure. This has led to increased out-transfers and decreased opportunity, and is a logical path to school closures. There can be no question that as a national movement, this is opening the door for more charter schools, and from there it’s just a small step to vouchers.

I don’t believe Carole Smith wants to convert our schools to charters or give out vouchers for private Christian schools. But I do believe her concept of equity is unduly influenced by those who are doing active harm to the institution of the common school.

It is a fundamental truth that we as a school district can never attain equity in terms of “success in school.”

Success, or “achievement,” are terms that boil down to extremely crude metrics (standardized tests and graduation rates), and they invariably have led to a narrower, shallower curriculum with a focus on “core” academics (numeracy and literacy) in Portland schools that serve disproportionate numbers of poor and minority students.

I’ve documented repeatedly how secondary students in the Jefferson, Madison, Marshall and Roosevelt clusters have been systematically robbed of comprehensive high schools (0 remain) and middle schools (3 remain). The predominately white, middle class students in the Cleveland, Grant, Lincoln and Wilson clusters have preserved their comprehensive high schools (all 4 remain) and middle schools (6 remain, including two each in the Wilson and Cleveland clusters).

It’s not hard to see how this reduction in the breadth and depth of curriculum would actually be detrimental to “achievement.”

Instead of tilting at windmills trying to shape outcomes while controlling only a small portion of the inputs that contribute to a student’s success or failure, Portland Public Schools needs to focus on the inputs it does control: equity of opportunity. This we can achieve, with existing funding, city-wide, today. We can end the equity “debate,” and I’ll gladly shut down this blog tomorrow, and start hammering on the state for better funding.

Let’s talk about equity in terms of not being able to tell the wealth of a neighborhood by the wealth of course offerings at the local high school.

Until we first see it in this light, and as a greater societal issue of poverty, it’s hard to take seriously the conflation of “equity” with the the logically false goal of “closing the achievment gap.”

Don’t get me wrong. I like Carole Smith, especially her energy, enthusiasm, and her desire to work with stakeholders to find solutions. She ends her e-mail with a quote from Ron Heifetz: “Solutions are achieved when ‘the people with the problem’ go through a process together to become ‘the people with the solution.’”

It is my goal to help our superintendent recognize the problem of approximately half of Portland as one of dramatically unequal opportunity. If you stand on the eastern boundary of PPS and look west, it’s hard to miss that students on the fringes of PPS (and of society) have been getting a progressively worse and worse deal as we strive to “close the achievement gap,” a process which has systematically widened the “opportunity gap.”

Instead of focusing on crudely measured outcomes, largely determined by inputs we have no control over, we need to focus on the inputs over which we have total control.

I firmly believe that if we first address the opportunity gap, gains in closing the achievement gap will follow.

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

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