Bailey on K8s

4:13 pm

Note: this is Scott Bailey’s response to questions from PPS Equity about his positions on K8s. –Ed.

  1. PPS shifted to a K-8 configuration, but has never had a K-8 education plan.
  2. The reconfiguration was poorly planned, done too quickly, and so was poorly executed. Let me qualify that by saying given the task and the timeline, I would guess that line staff were overwhelmed and did the best they could with not enough resources. The responsibility lies elsewhere.
  3. And yes, there was no, and still is no, education vision for K-8s, it’s just a configuration.
  4. As is obvious, there are substantial problems with enrollment, with some K-8s being overcrowded and some under-enrolled. Those schools that are under-enrolled either have an under-populated catchment area or lose middle grade students to other schools. As a result, they are hard pressed to offer adequate electives, and so the latter are in no position to retain more students. Adding to the imbalance in the Northeast is that Beaumont, after losing one of its feeder schools, has to recruit from other schools in order to remain viable.
  5. K-8s, if properly implemented, do have some advantages over middle schools, in that they can be a more intimate atmosphere, and there is one less transition, which can be important for many kids. If the teaching staff is consistent, there will be teachers who know the kids all the way through 8th grade—potentially important relationships that can be maintained. If parent involvement is done right—and I mean specific programs to welcome all parents into the school community, good school-parent communication, education on what to do at home to help your child succeed, and inclusion of parents in decision-making at the school—then K-8s can be a great community. I think it’s tougher to do that at a middle school, and tougher for parents to work at school improvement, with only a three-year span. Finally, if a K-8 school intentionally links the big kids with the younger kids in positive ways, it’s a real plus.
  6. On the down side, especially if you don’t have the population, you won’t be able to offer the electives. Socially, at any school, there are some kids who don’t mix well due to personality dynamics, and if you only have one class in that grade level, you’re stuck. And there is often less diversity at a K-8 because of the narrower catchment area.
  7. The research seems to say that there isn’t a clear advantage of one over the other. I think it’s much more important to look at how a school is managed, regardless of the configuration.
  8. An important question that you raise, and that was raised in the workshop at the CPPS Parent Leadership Conference, is how do we measure success with this whole experiment—and by extension, at what point would we pull the plug. I think it’s important to remember that many of the middle schools that got dismembered were not working very well. I think the root problems are still with us, however—we don’t have an educational vision for the middle grades, the curriculum is often not challenging enough or engaging enough, the suspension rates for children of color are way out of line, etc. These are issues regardless of the configuration.
  9. So where do we go from here? Building on the last point, we need a clear evaluation of whether students will be getting a better education after full implementation of the K-8s than before. If not, then we need to carefully map out some better options. I think that part of the challenge is to “reinvent” middle grade education—this is a time when students are very active, and so there are great opportunities to involve them in project-oriented learning, and connect them with the greater community. This is also a time when parents may need some guidance shifting from hands-on to a different level of involvement, that focuses on building skills like time-management.
  10. The school choice policy that we have is clearly part of the issue in K-8s as well as high school. I think it’s clear that if we allow unlimited transfers, it can make it very difficult for a school that loses families to recover. Maybe we need to limit neighborhood school-to-neighborhood school transfers, to prevent schools falling below a certain population. On the other hand, that might lead to more families jumping ship to private schools or charters. I think we need to get the issue on the table for discussion, however, because it doesn’t serve anybody when a school’s population slowly drains away.
  11. The optimum solution, of course, is to improve our neighborhood schools. I have worked on and will continue to work on key factors like improving procedures for hiring and evaluating principals. I’m hoping that the current round of negotiations with teachers leads to a joint committee which will work on improving teacher evaluations. I’ve played a major role in laying the groundwork for building system supports for parent involvement. I think there are management systems that can be introduced that will help shift the Central Office to supporting schools as opposed to imposing on them. I was a founding member of the Community Education Partners, which is pushing PPS to address the suspension/expulsion rate for children of color, so far getting very little traction. This is an issue I bring up at every gathering I’m at, as one important priority among the many issues of equity that need to be addressed in PPS. And then there’s the vision thing for middle grades.
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Scott Bailey ran for the Portland Public Schools Board of Education zone 5 seat in 2009.

filed under: Elections, Equity, K-8 Transistion, Middle Schools, School Board

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6 Responses

  1. Comment from Portland Parent/Student Advocate:

    Is this a transcript or is this a written response? I ask for two reasons. First, I’m having a hard time reading the substance because the writing (unless it’s talking) is so bad. (Needless to say, that’s not a good thing when the person in question is a candidate for the School Board.) Second, I never played dodge ball in school but this looks like it. You’re running for the School Board and yet you can’t clearly articulate why the K-8 transition has been and continues to be a complete disaster?

    Worse yet, the solution is to (1) wait until the transition is fully implemented, (2) evaluate whether the education is better or not, and then (3) “map out some better options”? WOW, that’s providing service to children in a timely fashion!

    All of Mr. Bailey’s focus on parent involvement begs a central issue in the lack of equity. So long as the teachers’ union allows teachers to choose where they teach, and protects lousy teachers, neither equity nor quality education can be achieved. For example, please explain how the “improv[ed] teacher evaluations” will change anything. If a principal cannot get rid of a teacher but can only stick the evaluations in a file folder, how does that deliver a better education to the students?

    Without going on and on, my take on Mr. Bailey (who I like personally) is that he either doesn’t have a vision himself (notice that all the tricky issues are to be resolved after he is elected) or he’s hiding his vision. For once, I’d like a candidate to tell us what he or she intends to accomplish as PPS gets worse and worse.

  2. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    This is Scott’s written response.

    Criticisms of policy positions are totally fair game, but let’s please stay away pot shots about writing style. Thanks.

  3. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Parent’student advocate. Give me a call (I’m in the phone book) and I will send you my issue sheet for my campaign which lays out many of the resolutions I will bring to the school board if elected. (fat chance of that however since Stand for Children basically appoints the board members — they have supported the winner in every election for years now and they know how to make sure their candidates win)
    Because of this you can’t be so hard on Mr. Bailey. If he clearly articulates a position which actually addresses the equity issue(as I have many times) he will find himself facing Ms. Knowles with the SFC endorsement in her back pocket and thus he will be a sure loser. So he has to dance around. I like Dan Ryan but when he ran against me for the board and raised $70,000 and had the full help of SFC which brings not only huge contributions but also Mark Weiner who knows how to win these elections, he had no cogent or stated positions on issues which weren’t generic — protect neighborhood schools and work on the achievement gap were two big ones. And I imagine parent involvement, though I don’t really remember. That one always gets thrown in there. So you see you can’t win with statements that talk about how to help poor kids, particularly if you get specific and what you suggest doesn’t help the SFC school neighborhoods also (Wilson, Lincoln, Cleveland, and Grant).
    I do agree that Mr. Bailey’s arguments were pretty much gobbligook. But I didn’t think the writing was that bad. I AM glad Steve Rawley isn’t letting you attack mine in this post.

    Another thing is that SFC doesn’t want people on the school board who are really going to raise the critical issues most affecting PPS. The critical issues are in lower income neighborhoods and are what is actually taking place in those schools. Take a look at Trudy Sargent on the school board. She has been there 3 and a half years and has not brought one resolution to the board, NOT ONE. Neither has my opponent, Martin Gonzales, but he hasn’t been on that long. So between the two incumbents — who will be endorsed, thus reappointed, by SFC — they have not brought one thing to the school board that addresses any of the major issues that are constantly discussed on this site. It is how it works.

    P.S. You are way off base if you think the major problems in equity center around lousy teaching. Most PPS teachers care deeply about their students and are pretty good. PPS creates the context within which teachers must perform. This is a far more important problem than a few lousy teachers (unless of course your kid gets one). Thanks for your take on things.

  4. Comment from Susan:

    “we need a clear evaluation of whether students will be getting a better education after full implementation of the K-8s than before. If not, then we need to carefully map out some better options.”

    How much longer will it take to evaluate the results? Aren’t the majority of K-8s fully implemented? According to PPS, “By September, when Laurelhurst, Rigler and Scott add eighth grade, PPS will have completed the reconfiguration process.”

    Improvements for next year include “Offering a minimum of five enrichment classes (art, music, physical education) per week for students in grades 6-8.” I wonder how that will affect the K-5 offerings – both in the K-8s that are under-enrolled because of low FTE, and in the over-crowded K-8s which have the FTE, but which require the same 1.0 FTE specialist to teach hundreds more children a year.

    Do we really need to “reinvent” middle school education? Aren’t there plenty of local middle schools that are working well that can be used as guides?

    What are your specific proposed solutions for the K-8 problems? Will funding be boosted for the under-enrolled K-8s regardless of student population? Will boundaries be redrawn to equitably distribute student populations? I’m a little weary of hearing that parent involvement will make the K-8 configuration work. Parent involvement will make any school configuration work better, but first a school needs to be adequately funded to serve its student population – in this case all grades K-8th.

    I do agree that how a school is managed has a huge impact on the school’s success. School administration that welcomes parents and community into the building create a unique and compelling atmosphere.

    I’m waiting for more specifics from you.

  5. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Susan, as always good comments. Answer to middle school question: No, there probably no excellent middle school models in Oregon. Try Evergreen in Vancouver, where I work, and you can find some though.Yes, Mr.Bailey seems good on the parent involvement piece.

  6. Comment from Marian:

    I like what Bailey has to say. I think he understands the big picture needs of PPS and seems willing to dig deeper into the discussion on how to better our situation. To date, he’s been far more substantive than his opposition. I just checked out her website and there is nothing that gives us a clue as to what her feelings are on any of the issues Bailey addressed above. I do know she is COO for the Portland Business Alliance, which is a huge detriment in my mind. I could be wrong about her but I would like know more about where she stands.

    Steve R., have you contacted any of the other candidates to give them an opportunity to voice their ideas in this forum?