SACET to review high school designs publicly

7:53 am

Portland Public Schools staff will present the five proposed high school system designs to the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Enrollment and Transfer (SACET) Tuesday. This will be the first detailed public look at the various models (PDF) being considered for our high school system.

The meeting is 5:30-8:30 pm, Tuesday, March 17 at BESC, 501 N. Dixon, in the conference room L1 on the lower level. Though public is invited to attend, there will not be formal opportunity to participate in the discussion at this time (later public forums have been promised).

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

filed under: High Schools, Transfer Policy

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12 Responses

  1. Comment from Steve Buel:

    The high school design process is pretty interesting. By far the best stuff Carole Smith has done. The question that remains is which of the designs will be chosen. And also, how equitable will be the final choice.

    If the result is only a basic education plus some extras in the lower income schools then this is not equity. Take a look at the recent counseling distribution. At first glance, a counselor in every school seems pretty fair. But when you consider that in an upper income middle school there might be 50 kids who could use some counseling whereas in a lower income school there might be 350 kids who could use some counseling then one to one is certainly not equitable. Maybe 7 to 1. (This is the trick of the board and their supporters like Stand for Children. They are only willing to add programs if their schools get an equal amount, even when equal is certainly not equity.That’s why Stand for Children can hit the legislature to work for more money for all schools, but you will never see them out working for improvements which will solely benefit poorer schools.)

  2. Comment from Ruth Adkins:

    I realize this is off topic, but in response to Steve B’s comment, just as an FYI here is the counselor staffing breakdown in Carole’s proposed budget….there are

    - 9 schools (K5s & K8s) that are over 500 & get a 1.0 counselor

    - 10 K-5 schools that are size 350-499 and over 20% free/reduced & get .5 counselor (this is the same formula as was used last year)

    - 19 K-8s under 500 that receive increments of counselor FTE from .3 to .5 based on size

    This leaves the following K-5 schools with *no* counselor staffing built into the formula:

    5 that are size 350-499 and less than 20% free/reduced – Ainsworth (481/6%), Bridlemile (429/13%), Duniway (373/12%), Forest Park (457/1%), Richmond (473/14%)

    8 below 350 with over 20% free/reduced – Capitol Hill (302/25%), Chief Joe (303/49%), Grout (316/70%), Lewis (325/42%), Maplewood (314/20%), Markham (349/55%), Sitton (309/80%), Whitman (347/87%)

    3 below 350 with less than 20% free/reduced – Abernethy (337/17%), Rieke (334/11%), Stephenson (310/5%)

    Obviously, the factors of size/number of kids to be served, population served, being Title 1 or not, and the ability of a school (based on size and/or fundraising ability) to provide a counselor via other FTE, all need to be weighed. Just wanted to put the data out there since I had already done the analysis. Anyone with ideas for how to do this better or more equitably, please send them in to

    Back to the original topic of high schools- I am eager for the broad community discussion of potential system models to get underway in April (meetings will be 4/20, 4/29 and 5/2, details TBA). So far I’d agree with Steve B that the work being done is far better than we’ve seen before. I look forward to hearing SACET’s (and everyone’s) take on the models.

  3. Comment from Rita Moore:

    Thanks for the information, Ruth. I’m glad you’re listening. I’d like to ask you a question related to the High School Redesign proposals. As a member of SACET, I received a copy of the powerpoint laying out the alternative models and heard the accompanying presentation by Sarah Singer and John Wilhelmi.

    Let me say right off that I think the models have promise. I’m glad to see the explicit intention to balance enrollment and provide equivalent course offerings at all the schools, including both advanced academic courses and significant career-related options. A couple of the models strike me as more attractive than others, but, as with most choices, each of the models has advantages and disadvantages. Some of those I think I can imagine, but I’m sure that there are many others that I can’t.

    That being said, I am profoundly skeptical of using powerpoints as the basis for policymaking. This powerpoint is well done and I anticipate will be very useful as a mechanism to elicit community input on general preferences. And I’m very glad to see that there will be opportunities for broader community comment. But I think it is important to underline that given the level of information provided to the public in this powerpoint presentation, our feedback can only be conceptual. This powerpoint – like all powerpoints – is a Cliff Notes version of analysis. It gives no indication of the depth of the work done by the design team over the last year. It’s a snapshot of these 4-5 models (I understand that Model E is being blended with A) at the 10,000 foot level. That’s probably appropriate as a way to solicit community response, but to my mind it hardly constitutes sufficient information and analysis to make a final decision.

    The session that SACET had on the redesign models was lively and productive and both Sarah and John were receptive to vigorous questioning. Sarah’s responses suggested considerable research behind these proposals. But all we had to work with was the powerpoint. The kind of discussion possible with that superficial level of information is certainly worthwhile, but I think would have been more appropriate sometime last fall. I’m very worried that we’re talking at this level of abstraction a mere 8-10 weeks before a final decision is to be made by the Superintendent and the Board.

    So here’s my question: are there any supporting materials that provide a deeper analysis of these models? I know Sarah is currently working on what she’s calling a “white paper” and, since she has so far impressed me, I’m hopeful that it will provide the context and the research that produced these proposals. But I am concerned that this momentous decision may be made precipitously if the District and the Board are really going to stick with the June deadline without a much deeper comparative analysis of how these various models would be implemented.

    Forgive me, but I’ll be blunt. PPS has a history, both long and very recent, of making very significant decisions without performing due diligence and thousands of children have suffered as a result. So the District and the Board need to understand that they are working with a deficit of trust on this one. We need to be shown – not just told – that the policymakers are really thinking this redesign through. So far, I haven’t seen it. What I’ve seen is a powerpoint. That’s it. If this is all that’s been produced after a year’s worth of work, then I have some serious concerns. If there is more out there that we haven’t been shown, then I’m still concerned, but in a very different way.

    I would certainly hope that somebody has analyzed these models comparatively in terms of what would be necessary to implement them. In a powerpoint, the K-8 reconfiguration sounded just swell, especially when accompanied by vague assurances that it was a “data-driven” decision and promised both educational benefits and cost savings. But then, in a powerpoint pretty much anything can sound good. What never appear in powerpoints are the boring details. But it’s the details that help you decide whether a great idea is actually doable. What inputs – facilities, staffing, enrollment numbers, money – are going to be required to make each of these models work? How do they match current and anticipated resources? What are the embedded assumptions about school size? Given the history of growing inequity in educational opportunities in Portland schools, how might each of these models impact equity? What assumptions is that analysis based on? Has there been any consideration of the staffing implications of each model? What are the embedded assumptions around school autonomy vs. central control, teacher assignments, contract issues, etc. I could go on, but you get my point.

    So before we blithely sign on to a new model of high schools that thousands of children will have to live with for decades because it sounds like a swell idea, I want to make sure that we perform due diligence. So far I’m not seeing it. Don’t get me wrong; no plan is ever flawless. There are always unintended consequences and unforeseen complications. But I want to make sure that the unforeseen is really unforeseeable. Not predicting that 8th graders will need bigger desks than 5th graders doesn’t qualify as unforeseeable in my book. It qualifies as appalling planning. I don’t want us to repeat it.

  4. Comment from anon:

    Well said, Rita!

  5. Comment from Dale Sherbourne:

    We are about to be boarded by the Broad foundation and they already have agents on board in the name of Sarah Singer

  6. Comment from pdxmomto2:


    I know nothing about the Broad Foundation, However from your tone I assume you think they are not a good thing. I’m curious about your conclusion regarding Sarah Singer. I have been very impressed with Ms. Singer and her apparent grasp of equity issues.

  7. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    I want to pipe in for support of Sarah as well. I thought she did a great job at the school board meeting last night and I have found her to incredibly receptive and honestly curious about the issues in PPS.

  8. Comment from Dale Sherbourne:

    Sarah is just the latest Broad affiliate.
    Sarah Allan and Don Mcadams also have Broad connections along with PPS board members who have taken Broad fondation training.
    Just google Eli Broad to find out how he is trying to take over school boards throughout the US and in some cases have them disbanded in favor of a mayor running the schools or mayor appointed school boards unelected. He is also funding charter schoools in an attempt to ruin public education in favor of privately operated schools.

  9. Comment from Rita:

    I attended the first public forum on the high school redesign last night and was pleasantly surprised at the level of discussion that I heard. Most of the night was spent in small groups, with only a couple of summary statements shared with the larger group. But there were a few clear themes that emerged. Many groups asked for more details on each model, especially about what closures would be associated with any change and where the money was going to come to support any of the models.

    I was heartened by the call for more info and have been encouraged by recent statements that sound like the District is backing off from the June deadline for a “final” decision. I still have real concerns and think we once again have a fundamentally flawed planning process, but I’m glad to see some official recognition of the magnitude of the change and the need to be careful and deliberate.

    I encourage everyone who can to participate in one of the remaining public forums on April 29 (evening) or May 2 (morning).

  10. Comment from Dale Sherbourne:

    I went to the public input meeting at Franklin and one comment that came out was what do you do about athletics under these proposals there was no mention of how any of that would play out.

  11. Comment from lakeitha:

    So, when is the High School redesign meeting in the Jefferson or Roosevelt Cluster?
    I’d like to see it.

  12. Comment from Rita:

    Meeting is scheduled at Jefferson for Saturday, May 16 8:30am-12:30pm. This meeting is billed as different from the other public forums. This is where the attendees “go deep” in looking at the 3 models.