Charters and PPS

10:04 am

Responding to the recent audit of PPS charter schools, PPS Superintendent Carole Smith had this to say:

“The track record of PPS charter schools — and of the district’s success in managing and partnering with those schools — is a mixed bag. After 10 years, it is time for a deep and thoughtful assessment of charter schools, in theory and in practice.”

Given the Board’s rejection of the most recent charter applications, it looks like the worm might be turning. Odd timing, given the rest of the country under our new President is going ga-ga over charters.

Full disclosure: my daughter attends Trillium right now. There are lot of great things about the school, e.g., not holding kids to artificial benchmarks, integrating art and music across the curriculum, theme-based education that ties in different learning styles, project-based learning, and allowing kids to choose things they are interested in learning and then giving them time and support to pursue these things. As an educator and parent, I appreciate these forms of pedagogy.

But as an activist, I question the role of charters and worry about their draining effect on neighborhood schools. On this blog, Rose and Stephanie have shared information about the way kids with IEP’s and kids with disabilities are served by PPS. The way charters handle this concerns me even more.

I think we as a community need to look carefully at the charter movement here in PPS. Is there a way that charters can become community partners, or will they always serve a niche? And why?

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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.

filed under: Charter Schools, Equity, IEP

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222 Responses

  1. Comment from Bruce Kroeze:

    The most consistent argument I’ve heard recently against charter schools is that they somehow get to ignore problem kids, so it isn’t “fair” to standard public schools. It is the old “draining the cream” argument. I think this is not only a red herring, and unnecessarily combative, but is patently false in the experience of my family.

    The fact is, I was referred *to* Trillium precisely because my son was failing in middle school, and in the words of his guidance councillor, “If you don’t transfer him to a charter like Trillium, or send him to a private school where he’ll get the individual attention he needs, he’ll be dropping out by the end of tenth grade.”

    Now, he’s happy, involved in his school, and while still not a stellar student in all areas, he will not be dropping out. He’s “bought in” completely, something neither standard public schools nor I could do no matter how hard we tried.

    I’m incredibly grateful that we had some accurate and honest guidance from PPS, and that the councillor felt able to give the advice to me. Our charter school has operated as a partner with the standard school system, taking and clearly turning around a student who was on the edge and heading out.

  2. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    Thank you for the link to that report. It was interesting to read. I noticed that the percentage of students with IEP’s was on par with the district but as Rose and I pointed out how many of those kids need significant supports and might have intellectual disabilities? I want to be careful though not to set up a hierarchy. One unspoken rule that empowered parents live by is that we do not compare our kids disabilities. The movement towards inclusion and higher expectations of our kids is an all or nothing mission and we consider it a civil rights issue. What I have heard about Trillium is that it is the best environment for kids that do not do well with the direct instruction model and I celebrate that even if there are a low number of kids with higher needs there.

    Here is a video of a charter school in California that is inclusive

    I am more of a tortoise than a hare when it comes to moving this district towards inclusion. Having a forum to bring this awareness into the community at large creates that slow burn and people start to get uncomfortable and things change. Let’s look at what Trillium is doing right for that high percentage of kids with IEP’s and how we can use those concepts for kids with more significant disabilities. I actually think trying to make sure we have an equal representation of the spectrum of disabilities is not a good use of time. How can we make sure that the basic floor of opportunity exists for ALL students and when a policy says that all students may go to their neighborhood school let’s move towards making that true.

  3. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    A white middle class guy with a son with ADHD asked what I thought of Trillium for his son. I thought it would be fine for his son, though I wouldn’t send my child there, nor would I refer most children I know there. Better moms of color than me (with better students than mine) have had a dismal experience there and realized there was something worse than a “failing” neighborhood school. This was in the inaugural years so maybe it’s better with the whole ethnic/economic diversity now.

    And just to halt this “what is poverty”, I am refering to generational poverty not “we’re poor because I’m doing an unpaid internship for my graduate program” poverty.

    So I know that it works for a small percentage kids but certainly not those that Rose and Stephanie have been describing. And not mine. And not my friend’s. Is Trillium creating equity? how are they adrressing neighborhood parity issues? Are they connecting with Ockley, Humboldt and other neighborhood schools? Part of the solution? My kid said that Ockley and Trillium kids always self-segregated on the bus. That makes me sad. Bridges should be getting built there.

    We’re focusing on Trillium because so many of us have connections to it as it is in North Portland vs. Emerson or Opal. I must admit I’m a little more open to Emerson because I’d heard many more good things. And have seen children of color who go there and are NOT treated like mascots. But I don’t think that there is necessarily economic diversity there either.

  4. Comment from Liz:

    I feel like I may be jumping into the middle of a conversation with out knowing all of the facts but I just read the above postings and have a few things to say. I am the mother of two boys at Trillium and have been there since this charter opened it’s doors in Southeast Portland. While I am in agreement that Trillium has it’s short coming I feel that the benefits way out-way anything else. The sense of community and support that this school offers is across the board. We are all here to help eachother. Both of my children have IEP’s and both have been diagonsed with learning disabilities. They would be completely lost in one of my neighborhood schools. Trillium teachers, staff and students are supportive to my children and allow them to learn in a way that works for them. They by no means feel stupid or inferior compared to the other children in their classes. They do volunteer work in the community with their individual classes and are very proud of their school and who they are. I will admit that I have thought of moving them to a neighborhood school so that they became familiar with our neighborhood and the kids living close to them but I can’t get away from the community and support that they get where they are. A child should be nurtured and supported and be excited to go to school each day and that is what my children are getting at Trillim.

  5. Comment from Rose:

    Thank you so much Peter, for posting that report and this topic.

    I noted a few things:

    1.In our North area of Chief Joseph and Ockley about one in twelve students is currently in a magnet.

    2. As the report notes, this draw does seem to be primarily white parents.

    3. On the IEP issue, I also saw there appears to be parity. I would like deeper examination of these numbers. Is it true that charters draw the higher-functioning “different thinking” kids but don’t serve the mentally handicapped or those with more profound needs?

    4. I realize this is a horse I have beaten before, but I find it frustrating that reports like this do not address how charters exclude foster children. It is impossible to get a foster child into a charter because they require advance application, and foster parents don’t know next week who will land on their doorstep. This is not a small issue, because thousands of kids in Portland are in foster care.

    5. On a bigger note, I would love to see a breakdown of how many kids in our area go to Robert Gray and other PPS schools, as opposed to charters. It may be that school choice is the bigger problem here.

    I agree with Stephanie that it is important not to set up an educational hierarchy, and I suppose that is my deepest concern with charters. I believe in education as the great unifier and equalizer. It is hard to get that when families self-segregate into a variety of small schools.

  6. Comment from Charter parent:

    My daughter goes to Trillium Charter school. Overall, I think Trillium is a great school. I appreciate the flexibility in curriculum, the personalized attention my daughter receives, the school’s approach to project-based learning, exploration, catering to what individual children are interested in, the mixed age classes, the personal responsibility for the students, field trips, general intellectual stimulation, the teaching of real-life skills, and the abundance of drama, art, music, free time, and the supportive community. Trillium is a relatively new school, and they get better and better with every passing year. I do not expect them to be in a position to do everything that they ’should’ be doing immediately. My relationship with Trillium has not always been all roses. I work and go to school, and, particularly in the past, felt judged that I could not volunteer or participate how other parents could. I also felt like there were incidents in which my kid was treated unfairly because, well, as a family, we don’t always have it together as well as a lot of other families seem to (again, working and single-mom-ness come into play here, and the vulnerability to subtle judgments that can come with this. I understand these concerns). These incidents took place years ago, and as Trillium has grown and figured things out, there is less stress, more professionalism, and more inclusiveness. The staff don’t seem as stretched thin. They are, after all, just people. I stuck it out at Trillium because I looked at the mainstream alternatives and realized my daughter could get a better ‘whole child’ overall education at Trillium. I am glad that my daughter is still at Trillium. I am very grateful that the Alternative that is Trillium exists. I also see the disparity that exists among Portland schools (and across the country…I’ve lived in a few different cities in my life), however I think that the problem lies in the overarching system, and that any potential bad feelings to charter schools would be better directed at the general lack of funds across the board. All education is underfunded. Many charters, including Trillium, are doing their best to create and form the alternatives that many people wish for their children. Of course, it is always good to think about how things could be better, and how all kids can be better served in the community, and how the charters should reach for those goals, too. But I think it would be a shame to point fingers at a group of people who have tried so hard to do so much good and largely succeeded. I did not want life to feel like a grind to my daughter. I grew up in an AWFUL public school system in a different state…no one noticed I didn’t know how to read until I was 10, there was asbestos falling from the ceiling, many of my teachers were outright bigots, I got told to take a nap when I was vomiting with a concussion, my high school math teacher told us we were all lazy pieces of **** and he didn’t want to ever see any of us again so he’d leave the room during tests so that we’d cheat and at least get D’s, etc. The list goes on. Here in Portland, I know of nothing this bad, but still I do not want daily life to feel institutional, monotonous, or confining for my daughter. I do not think my daughter would do well in a more ‘mainstream’ school, and am so glad that I don’t have to feel perpetually guilty for my daughter feeling miserable while she is at school, and that she is instead in a stimulating, supportive environment. I love Trillium.

  7. Comment from Jacquelynn:


    In regards to #5, on page 69 of the audit you can see that from Robert Gray, 68 kids go to focus options, 85 attend other neighborhood schools (non-focus option) and 2 attend charters.

    As for 4, I know of two foster children who attend one charter in N Pdx and another foster child awarded a slot at Emerson, whose foster family elected instead to send her to MLC.

    Unfortunately, due to the way the charter law was written, charters aren’t allowed to give weight in the lottery to children from low-income families, children of color or those in foster care. In discussing this with two charter admins, they would like to see the law re-written to allow for more weighted diversity.

  8. Comment from Jacquelynn:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think the real pressing issue is the 13,000 children in PPS transferring via lottery to both other neighborhood schools(8,122) and magnets(5,486) versus the 1246 in charters.

  9. Comment from Rose:

    Jacquelynn, thanks.

    Can you tell me how those foster parents got their kids in? Are they long term placements? I am thinking of foster parents who take a child, say, with two days notice in the middle of February. How would they get that child into a charter? Usually the procedure is to either 1) enroll the child in the new neighborhood school or 2) drive the child to their old school, which is considered preferable by DHS.

    I completely understand your point about the lottery, and I agree. However, if we get more and more charters it would simply mean more and more of another drain. But I do agree the overall pressing issue right now is the school “choice.”

  10. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    I am not an expert on charter regulations, but federal guidance for charter schools says that charters may weight their lotteries in favor of students seeking to change schools under the choice provisions of ESEA. Many of the schools required to offer students choice are schools that enroll large numbers of low-income students or minority students, so that is a path worth exploring.

  11. Comment from marcia:
    Here’s a link to a charter school issue in Corbett..I was talking to a parent from there today on a plane..She said Reynolds and other districts have lots of transfers into corbett district..Guess they were losing so many kids to Corbett they decided not to allow the transfers anymore. So preserve their numbers, decided to create a charter school..which actually will operate in the same facility as the public school.. Very interesting if you ask me..Another way to use charters..Skimming from other districts?

  12. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Children don’t belong to districts, they belong to their parents. If parents are able to send their children to schools that they like and that work well, that’s a good thing. If districts are concerned that parents are leaving for better schools, the districts should work on improving their schools so that parents will want to stay in them.

  13. Comment from steve:

    Hi, all!

    I am the father of three who sent two to Trillium. We were there from day one and have watched the school move from the struggles of the first year to a well-established school with a clear philosopy and some very workable structures.

    I would agree with the comments that Trillium is not for everyone. It really didn’t work for my older son. But for Kevin, a very active, intelligent, kind of oppositional, hands-on learner, it has been fantastic!

    Kevin fits the profile of the ADHD child pefectly (or he used to!) He hated to sit still, changed activities quickly and spontaneously, was emotionally volatile, and enjoyed and sometimes provoked the intensity of arguments and conflicts. It was obvious that he would do very poorly in a standard classroom setting. He is thriving at Trillium, to the point that no one would think to label him as “ADHD” or anything else. He sets his own goals, works hard, learns advanced skills in mathematics, and loves going to school every day. He is now in 7th grade and is well ahead of benchmarks in both reading and math. He has friends and is very connected to his teachers and the school. In short, Trillium has been the perfect school for him.

    One reason Trillium may have fewer students labeled “special needs” is because kids like Kevin don’t become “special needs” in this school and never end up with the label. It feels to me like I can arrange the equivalent of an IEP or 504 plan just by talking to his teachers and setting it up. The school has always been willing to individualize its approach to Kevin, so he never has had to be diverted to special ed, which very well might have happened in a standard classroom.

    My point is that Trillium is a special niche school. It is definitely not for everyone, but for those that it works for, it works for really well. That’s what Charter schools are supposed to be about. They aren’t supposed to be a “one size fits all” approach, they are supposed to provide options that can meet the needs of kids who need something other than the standard fare offered in local neighborhood schools.

    I do understand about the “creaming the crop” argument. There is something to that, especially when transportation is such a barrier for low income families. But does that mean that Kevin should have to suffer through an “education” that makes him feel weird, inadequate, and difficult, just so we can have “equality of education”? At least we don’t have to pay for private school to get this option, because I am poor enough that I could not even dream of sending Kevin to a private school.

    I think we should work on the barriers to full participation rather than remove the options that have been created for kids like Kevin who would not do well in a regular classroom setting, but who fit perfectly into the Trillium setting. If there were no Trillium, where would the many Kevins in our school system go to get their needs for an open, flexible, self-directed and challenging environment met?

    Though much work has been done on public schools, we have to be honest in acknowledging that the system we have created doesn’t work for a lot of our kids. The current 25+% dropout rate (and I recently heard a rumor it is climbing toward 50%) testifies to that fact. If Charter School alternatives are not available, what happens to those who don’t fit in to the regular system? The answer is: they suffer. Trillium has alleviated or prevented that suffering for Kevin and for many others. Whatever its shortcomings, I don’t think we should take that opportunity away from those who need it.

    Let’s make it work!

    —- Steve

  14. Comment from Nancy R.:

    Now come the testimonials…

  15. Comment from Stephanie:

    Trillium parents, students, and teachers. Ockley Green really has the bones to be a fabulous school. There is a strong base of K parents and we are driven to create community connections and partnering with Trillium has come up. Does anyone have thoughts on how to bridge this? Please contact me at or comment here. I would like to end this year with a solid plan for next year for OG and how to change the rep it has that is truly unwarranted in a lot of ways.

  16. Comment from marcia:

    Steve, I hear your arguments about Trillium. My question would be, why should it have to come in the form of charter schools? One example is MLC, which has been around about 40 years now. Why not keep such options within the public school domain?

  17. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Marcia, a different Steve here, but I think I can answer in part.

    I appreciate your rhetorical question “why not,” but as a practical matter, PPS has not provided the things charter parents are looking for in their neighborhoods.

    I’ve been a stalwart opponent of new charter schools in N/NE, but at the same time, I’ve pleaded with the school board to listen to the salient points that keep coming up over and over in charter applications (as well as in existing charters): teaching to the whole child, project-based learning, etc., etc.

    So while PPS should provide these things within their existing schools, the perception is that they generally don’t, particularly in neighborhoods with high poverty and minority populations.

    One original idea of charter schools was to create laboratories for innovation that could be replicated back into the district at large. Instead, to a large extent, they’ve become an escape valve for frustrated families.

    So to Peter’s original question: “Is there a way that charters can become community partners, or will they always serve a niche?”

    I’m not so much interested in them being community partners as being labs for innovation, as originally intended.

    But until PPS policy makers show a willingness to learn from existing charters and new charter applications, they’re just going to serve a niche.

    As I’ve said over and over and over again, this is not about personal choice — we’ve all got to do what we think is best for our kids — it’s about public policy.

  18. Comment from Terry:

    What goes unmentioned in this discussion of charter schools is their tiny enrollments. Size alone accounts for the “flexibility” that charter proponents praise about the schools their children attend.

    Take Trillium for example, a K-12 school. Its 2008 enrollment was a minuscule 337 students. A traditional public K-12 school, if one existed, would by necessity enroll anywhere from 1000 to 2500 students.

    Here’s another example. Emerson and Opal, both K-5 charters on the West side, enroll 129 and 75 students, respectively.

    Rieke K-5, on the other hand, which the district threatened with closure for being “too small”, had a 2008 enrollment of 348 students.

    Charters as they now exist will always be niche options, not the laboratory for reform claimed by Obama and other charter school proponents.

    I say it’s a “reform” that the district can ill afford.

  19. Comment from marcia:

    Good point Terry. The school where I teach grew from K-5 to K-8, and just the increase in numbers has greatly affected our school community…not to mention all the other problems.

  20. Comment from Jacquelynn:

    If the mentioned schools attempted to expand and increase enrollment, wouldn’t you then be complaining about them taking more children from neighborhood schools? It just seems to me they are damned if they do, damned if they don’t in the eyes of some people.

    I attended two charter renewals this Spring and both mentioned increasing enrollment and were met with disapproval from the board sub-committee. So, what exactly do you want them to be…limited in numbers to not skim the cream of the crop or larger in enrollment to allow for more potential diversity and to fit the lab model?

  21. Comment from Terry:

    You misunderstand me, Jaquelynn.

    If we must have charters at all, I wish them to remain small in number and small in size.

    Unfortunately, too many people, including Obama, see in charters salvation for public education. I see nothing but thousands of public school children left behind.

  22. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Charter schools receive public funds and are accountable to local school boards (or to the state board in Salem). They are bound by the same laws as other public schools. In short, charter schools are public schools 100 percent.

    The notion that when some children attend charter schools other children have to lose is simply false. Public education should be going full speed ahead to improve schools for all children, and if that is not happening, it isn’t because some people had the get up and go to create charter schools that parents want to send their kids to.

  23. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    I have a question about Charters and the idea that they would be experiments in innovation. Who exactly would be responsible for bridging that information? Is there a department in the district responsible for this. Honest question. It seems like it could be an oversight issue and someone just needs to be filled in on this part of their job description. I saw this a lot when I worked for a human services corporation where something was supposed to be happening but no one bothered to tell or train the person responsible until they got fired for not doing it.

  24. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Steve R. – can you expand on your distinction between personal choice and public policy? (You wrote, “this is not about personal choice — we’ve all got to do what we think is best for our kids — it’s about public policy.”) If public policy limited choice, then how would parents exercise choice (assuming parents would choose to transfer their kids or send them to a charter)?

  25. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Terry – can you expand a bit on your response to Jacquelynn? I think she made an excellent point in that charters are damned if they do (expand their enrollments) and damned if they don’t (limit their size.) Why do you wish them to remain small in size? (I understand why you want them to remain small in number.)

  26. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    One of the things I’ve been calling for is a change in how the lottery is handled for low-income and low-income minority kids. If we really want diversity in the charters, then we have to change the lottery process to increase the likelihood that we’ll actually achieve diversity.

    The PPS charters can make themselves better known in under-represented communities (e.g., ELL’s and low-income minorities) and increase the number of under-represented communities in the applicant pool, but those communities still go through the same process of entering the lottery, crossing their fingers, and hoping they get in. It seems this is the most important issue to address. But as it stands now, given that the applicant pool for charters is disproportionately white middle-class parents, statistical probability guarantees that the school will always reflect the applicant pool.

    Of course, over time, we might anticipate that the applicant pool would grow and become more diverse and thereby increase the likelihood of achieving diversity. But what steps can we take to get this started?

    One suggestion: weight the applications of under-represented communities in the community so they have a better chance of getting in to the school. Ideally, from my perspective, charters should reflect the socioeconomic composition of their neighborhoods. They should be “neighborhood schools.” Race as a criterion for admission was dismissed by the Supreme Court. But income is the new metric that people are gathering around as a way to revive affirmative action. And, since minorities are also disproportionately low-income, an income-based enrollment policy that gave low-income kids a better chance of getting in would certainly help the charters gain a more diverse student body.

    One other huge issue: why do the charters attract a certain demographic? What is it about them that does not appeal to under-represented communities? Folks on this blog have said, quite understandably, they they don’t want their kid to be the only minority kid at the school. Others have said that minorities are not welcome at the charters. If it’s the case that the charters are simply not an attractive option, how does this affect their desire for diversity? Are they being wistful romantics? Or is there something they can do to make the school more attractive?

    Finally, at the end of the day, charters could be said to be special because they are “boutique schools” that serve the interests of their majority populations. But couldn’t the same thing be said about focus options and magnets?

  27. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    I have already explained that charter schools may weight their lotteries in favor of students who want to take advantage of the choice options granted them under NCLB. Many of these students will be poor students or minority students. However, beyond a certain point you can not have it both ways – you can not have a lottery that is not a lottery.

    Charter schools are required to inform their communities of their existence and their programs and to inform parents of the procedures for applying on behalf of their children.
    In some locations charter schools serve populations of students that are largely low-income minority students. KIPP schools are an example.

    Finally, the real issue is improving public schools, whether they are charter school or not.

  28. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Peter, what I mean is that every time the charter issue comes up, people get really defensive about choices they have made for their own families.

    While I’ve been steadfast in my opposition to new charter schools, I have never been critical of families who choose charters.

    During one of the school board’s recent charter school rejections, David Wynde gave a really good (if lengthy) disquisition on “choice” in PPS. The district is awash in choice, he pointed out, and adding still more choice does nothing to solve the core issues we face as a district.

    Stephanie, the district does have a charter schools manager, and you would think that this office would be responsible for transferring knowledge. But the reality is that there have been significant problems with many charter implementations in PPS, and I suspect this office spends most of its time and energy just making sure the schools meet the terms of their charters.

  29. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    PPS_Parent – you wrote: “charter schools may weight their lotteries in favor of students who want to take advantage of the choice options granted them under NCLB.” Not sure what you mean. Are you referring to the Year 2 sanctions under NCLB through which students can choose to transfer from a school not making AYP? If so, then are you suggesting there’s a way to allocate weighted positions to students who may choose to transfer to a charter? From what I understand from PPS administrators, there is no provision for transferring to a charter. The only way you get into the charters is through a lottery.

  30. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    First, note that federal regs for charter schools apply to charters funded through the federal charter school program. That said, federal guidance on charter schools says …

    “Weighted lotteries (lotteries that give preference to one set of students over another) are permitted only when they are necessary to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, or applicable State law.

    In addition, a charter school may weight its lottery in favor of students seeking to change schools under the public school choice provisions of ESEA Title I, for the limited purpose of providing greater choice to students covered by those provisions. For example, a charter school could provide each student seeking a transfer under Title I with two or more chances to win the lottery, while all other students would have only one chance to win.”

    Note, too, that some children may be admitted outside the lottery process – eg siblings or children of the school’s founders.

  31. Comment from pdxmom2two:

    Two ways to increase diversity in charter schools. First, disallow the mandatory meetings parents must attend before applying – struggling parents are not going to be able to find childcare and get off work to attend these meetings, just so they can have a small “chance” of sending their children there. Second, provide student transportation to and from school. Those are the two barriers to charter school attendance, I would think.

  32. Comment from Terry:

    I think I’ve made it quite clear, Peter, that I oppose charter schools. Along with many others, I believe that charters are the first step toward school privatization –a big step in many districts, where charters, although publicly funded, are privately managed.

    So naturally I want to keep the charter option small, both in size and number.

    Furthermore, I think that if charters were to become as large and diverse as the typical neighborhood school, they would instantly lose their appeal to those –most, anyway– who seek an alternative to traditional public schools.

    As Steve R. put it, charters “to a large extent, [have] become an escape valve for frustrated families.” Speaking more bluntly, I say that charters are just another excuse for fleeing low income schools.

    In the linked post above, I argue that

    “…all public schools should be granted a ‘charter’ for innovation. Loosen the reins and let the energy and creativity for reform flow upward from the educators within the buildings. School restructuring only works when it taps the expertise of those who work in the classrooms, those who work with the kids.”

    Charter schools are the darlings of the libertarian crusade to do away with public schools.

  33. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Somehow I have a hard time placing Barack Obama at the head of the libertarian crusade to do away with public schools.

  34. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Terry – you know I respect you a great deal and agree with most of what you write about on your blog. I value your perspective on the issues because you are an educator. But I don’t agree with you that “charters are just another excuse for fleeing low income schools.” My wife and I did not flee our low-income neighborhood school. We sent our daughter there for pre-K. We were alarmed at how anti-child it was, esp. with regard to recess, free time, and testing. I met with the principal and with the classroom teacher and expressed my concerns about the overly-academic orientation of the curriculum. I noticed the effect the school was having on my daughter’s attitude towards school and learning. So we decided to look elsewhere, knowing that the Kindergarten curriculum at our neighborhood school was even more anti-child, overly-academic, high stakes, test-centric, and highly structured. As I wrote about here, my daughter’s experience with writing her name before she was able to or willing to do so had a profoundly negative effect on her, and I still harbor bad feelings towards the school for forcing kids to be at the same “grade level benchmarks” at the same time.

    Trillium was a real life-saver for her because the school honors the fact that different kids develop at different paces. She is now thriving there and really likes it. And not only is she writing her name, but she’s actually copying text out of books on her own, writing stories (most of which she dictates to me), and writing words she sees on a daily basis.

    Had she stayed at our neighborhood school, she would have been labeled “a slow learner.” She would have been put into a slow group. She would have known right away that there was something wrong with her (at least, from the school’s perspective.) Of course, I’ll never know what may have happened in the long run if she had stayed there. But it’s not too much of a stretch for me to imagine her hating school, hating the fact that she had to write anything, and generally feeling like she was a failure.

    These are the stakes here. We are talking about paving the future for the lives of children.

    I agree that “…all public schools should be granted a ‘charter’ for innovation. Loosen the reins and let the energy and creativity for reform flow upward from the educators within the buildings. School restructuring only works when it taps the expertise of those who work in the classrooms, those who work with the kids.”

    But tell that to the folks at my neighborhood school. They didn’t listen to me. So maybe they’ll listen to you?

    Of course, the changes that you call for are nearly impossible to effect from within the current structure of PPS schools, given the fact that they are so completely driven by test scores, esp. low-income schools.

    If the charters did not exist, we would be homeschooling my daughter right now.

  35. Comment from Terry:

    I should have been more explicit, Peter, in excluding you and many others from my overly broad characterization of the motives of people who opt for charters.

    I apologize.

    It cannot be denied, however, that choice, including charters, appeals to lots of people who abhor diversity, especially in low income schools.

    And yes, the current structure of the district stymies genuine school reform. That’s why I’ve been so critical of both PPS administration and the school board.

    As have you, Peter. I greatly respect and appreciate you for that.

  36. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Terry – agreed that choice and charters appeal to folks who are engaged in white flight, etc. But they also appeal to folks who are interested in the kinds of pedagogy that you and I support.

    Steve R. notes that he has “pleaded with the school board to listen to the salient points that keep coming up over and over in charter applications (as well as in existing charters): teaching to the whole child, project-based learning, etc., etc.” But as long as public schools are captive to the exigencies of NCLB and the requirements of making adequate yearly progress (AYP), the schools will continue to be obsessed with one-size-fits-all approaches to learning, which involve an expectation that all kids need to be at the same level at the same time. This approach is antithetical to what we know about good teaching, and what we know about normal human development (i.e., it’s variable and exists on a continuum.)

    So, in the end, all our efforts have to go back to changing federal education policy. If we give more power to schools and teachers to serve the needs and interests of their students, then we can begin to respond to the needs that charters and new charter school applications are filling.

  37. Comment from Dorsai:


    (Full disclosure: I’m a parent of a new Trillium student who is so far slightly disappointed by the lack of consistent teaching styles)

    I’m curious about your comment “choice, including charters, appeals to lots of people who abhor diversity, especially in low income schools.”

    In theory, I think I understand that. If one were racist, then a charter which had less minorities than a typical public school would be an appealing choice.

    But I think this is a rather bleak straw man that seems to indite some who chose charters as bigots.

    Can you give us some concrete examples of PPS charter schools which have a significant number of parents/board members who’ve given voice to this attitude? You don’t have to give the examples by school name – I expect that would inflame discussions here rather horribly. But I’m curious if you have concrete evidence of some specific charters in mind, or if this is a straw man based on a possibility of racism.

    The overwhelming impression I’ve gotten from talking to charter parents, reading discussions of charter schools on-line, and attending charter parent/school meetings is that most charter schools are desperate to find ways to bring minority students in the door. Unfortunately, I suspect that the lack of diversity is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In addition to the economic disincentives for parents to choose charters (meeting attendance requirements, transit time), few minority parents want to select a school for their child where they will be the only minority face, so fewer minorities apply to charters.

    On a side note, I’m blown away by how civil this discussion is here. Bravo to everyone for airing their concerns without personal attacks.

  38. Comment from Rose:

    I don’t think allowing greater discretion in the lottery process would do anything to truly increase diversity.

    The lottery system itself automatically excludes large populations: poor families without fixed addresses who don’t know where they might rent or find public housing next year, foster kids, homeless families, parents who are ELL or illiterate, and of course all those who are too busy, overwhelmed, or not sophisticated enough to stay aware of mandatory meetings, deadlines, and application processes.

    Even if you sent helpers into the homes of many families to offer assistance in the application process, you would still have the huge issues of transportation and after school care.

    A substantial number of poor families in the Portland area are migratory. The entire lottery “choice” system is designed to benefit the middle and upper class.

    Also, the question came up of charters being unappealing to minorities. I can say as a parent of minority children I find many aspects of these schools discouraging: the lack of African American teachers, for instance.

    I don’t doubt some of these schools are dedicated to preaching tolerance, but in the absence of minority staff and minority children, a culture develops which is almost exclusive.

  39. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    NCLB holds the noble goal of reducing gaps in achievement between poor children, minority children, children with disabilities, children learning English and other children.

    NCLB does not dictate to the states what curriculum they should use or how they should go about teaching it. Nothing in NCLB expects that all children will be at the same level at the same time. Similarly, nothing in NCLB requires that schools narrow their teaching to what is covered on reading and math tests.

    NCLB directs additional funds to schools that serve large numbers of poor children. In addition, NCLB requires states to intervene in schools where many children have not made the progress expected for all children and it provides resources for doing so. NCLB ranks, in my opinion, with our most important civil rights laws.

    We’ve seen evidence on this list that teachers blame NCLB for things it does not do and perhaps don’t understand what it does. Public education often throws up roadblocks against innovations such as charter schools. The idea that “giving more power to schools and teachers” will solve problems in public education makes as much sense as saying that giving more power to bankers and mortgage brokers will fix the problems in the housing market.

    There are plenty of schools that make the most of the opportunities that NCLB offers and parents should be pressing public education to meet its responsibilities under NCLB instead of trying to dodge around them.

  40. Comment from Ken:

    There are a number of interesting trends in the above conversations.

    Firstly, NCLB CAN mandate curriculum, how it is taught, can determine who teaches it (firing either parts of staff or entire staffs – although some states have been reluctant to use this method while others, like Chicago, have embraced this provision), and determine if a school remains open. This is particularly important because it creates much of the mess parents want to escape some public schools (and very rightfully so – the basal readers, leveled reading programs, and scripted curricula are anti-child, anti-creative, and completely non-engaging). NCLB “scientifically-based” reading programs approved by Reading First, a remarkably corrupt program even for Bush’s reign, forced many high-poverty schools to develop the kind of pedagogical approach to reading that Peter dislikes (and rightfully so). That being said, there are schools on the West side that use the Scott Foresman scripted programs like their own teaching bible. These parents are less inclined to complain because the school experience is great for their kids, test scores are high, and everything seems okay (add in their traditionally positive view of schooling – rightfully absent from Portland’s poor and minority populations). But I think Peter would be almost as appalled by the pedagogy/teaching methods in these schools (I’m speaking particularly about an affluent school nestled in Portland’s west hills). I find this point particularly important to highlight given PPS_Parent’s assertion that NCLB does not mandate curriculum – it certainly can, and does. NCLB also requires students to reach benchmark at 3rd grade, which puts incredible pressure on the younger grades (like Kindergarden) to teach reading at a time when it may not be developmentally appropriate (and axes much of the unstructured/creative play time Peter desires – rightfully so – for his child). While classifying NCLB as aiming for a “nobel goal” is a bit of a stretch for me, the coercive aspects of the law (school restructuring, open enrollment, mandated curriculum, and school closings) effectively narrows the school day to teaching math and reading at the expense of many other subjects – and often taught in the test-taking format.

    NCLB is the larger system in which PPS operates. While PPS administrators could do things differently, they also face some restrictions regarding the law. Additionally, I’m highly suspect of anyone with ties to the Gates foundation – my research on Gates largely suggests this organization not only embraces NCLB but would prefer even more testing, furthers the idea that childrens’ learning parallels the programming of computers, and suggests the future will be some tech-obsessed world – and PPS currently maintains their ties to Gates in various ways. So the combination of NCLB and various administrators/policymakers/political hacks willing to follow the Gates/Broad/Walton version of education (all schools as charters or an outright voucher system) creates a mess of a public system in which charters become opportunities for parents and children to flee the system.

    As others have pointed out, the charter school idea was supposed to create labs of innovation, which simply hasn’t happened. They’ve created chains of schools (Aspire, Alliance, Green Dot, KIPP, YES, etc) that are questionable for various reasons (KIPP being the most severe and concerning to this author). Innovation has not transferred to traditional public schools due to a variety of reasons, primarily high-stakes testing. Yet Portland has a number of non-chain charters started by educators as opposed to the corporate chains of schools mentioned above. I find this very key – it is much different to have educators come together with community members to start a school than to have a top-down organization come in, set up camp, and attract students. Personally, I believe the charter movement began as somewhat of a good idea and quickly became hijacked by outside forces (the libertarians looking to abolish public education and the conservatives following the same agenda).

    One thing not mentioned above is the social capital that flows when parents take their children to charter schools. Considering the lack of transportation to charter schools, parents must either live within walking distance, drive their own children, or find a carpool. This is simply impossible for many families: single mothers, some working families, families without access to individual transportation methods (cars), etc. Expanding charter schools would almost necessarily leave these children behind (unless the district is willing to pony up more money for buses – which is unlikely, and part of the appeal of charter schools is their lowered cost). I fear the expansion of charter schools would create schools with absurdly disproportionate numbers of ELL/IEP kids with increasingly stressed adults while charter schools – with the kind of flexibility not permitted in public schools – attract parents looking for a different kind of education and capable of navigating the maze of getting their kid into charter school.

    Back to the social capital piece: administrators almost always have to listen to parents. They may not agree, they may push back, they may run when they see you in the hallways. But enough pressure from the public – parents, activists, children – can force changes at the local level. Obama and Duncan’s backing of charter schools (shocking to me even though I followed the campaign rhetoric quite carefully) will not go away and will likely increase (the promise of raising test scores with the teach-to-the-test pedagogy favored by the corporate chains of charters and discounted price of brainwashing a child by breaking teachers’ unions is too alluring is these economic times – and in Duncan’s repeated statement that we are facing an education crisis). As Steve has said, much of this relates to policy matters, not individual choice. Choice sounds quite alluring, but the reality is that full choice would create an even more unequal system and encourages every parent to consider only their child. We all lose when hyper-individualism trumps collective actions – but the most disenfranchised and disadvantaged children would lost the most. Our strength will always lie in numbers and through communication with other education advocates – at the national, local, state levels, and teaming with post-secondary institutions and anyone else concerned with education policy matters or public pedagogy. Charters detract from this collectivism if parents are able to get their kid into a new school and then sit silently while public policy matters unfold. Peter deserves tremendous credit for continuing to be involved in local and national issues even though his child attends a charter school (l cannot criticize parent’s individual choices because the school system compels individual actors to take such actions – and Peter has very sound reasons for his decisions). But I fear most charter school parents, dissatisfied with the public school system, shift their children to charter schools and no longer care about district-wide policy issues (or national policy issues). I’m resistant to the idea of new charter specifically because I believe they’ll further fracture any collective opposition to NCLB and weaken collective attempts at improvement (this website, as an example). As far as I’m concerned, every policy matter must take into account the issue of equality – and this author believes charter schools are not a viable alternative to simultaneously improving the quality of education and the equality of access to education. In fact, I believe, it drives us further away from this goal.
    -Ken Libby

  41. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    There is so much misinformation in this post that I do not know where to begin in correcting it.

    NCLB does not mandate curriculum, nor does it require that students meet benchmark at 3rd grade. NCLB does not give states powers they did not already possess for making rules for their schools.

    If charter schools are increasingly popular and successful and more parents want to send their children to them, instead of working against charter schools it makes more sense to work to improve all schools. What NCLB does not do is take public education by the hand and walk it through that.

    Jay Mathews, the Washington Post education writer, says that KIPP schools are the best schools in America because they go the furthest in trying new things for poor children and minority children when those children are not learning. How is that a reason to be against charter schools, and KIPP schools in particular?

  42. Comment from marcia:
    I suggest you do some reading, PPS Parent…Good place to start is at the link above.

  43. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    PPS_Parent, you have us at a disadvantage. Perhaps if you would enlighten us to your identity, we could have a better understanding of where you’re coming from. Clearly your positions are informed by more than just being a PPS parent.

    It’s against the policy of this blog to reveal the identity of participants who wish to protect their identity, but you would be taken more seriously if you posted under your real name. At least then readers could easily correlate your comments here with your participation in other forums. Or you can continue to lurk behind the quasi-anonymity of the Internet, throwing out contrarian arguments in defense of NCLB and KIPP schools.

    For what it’s worth, I think the latter makes you look like an Internet troll, not a serious participant in the discussion. Just sayin’.

  44. Comment from Rose:

    Ken, I think your fears about charters already are happening:

    Contrast the racial and economic demographics of Village with Ockley, for instance, and you have a ready answer.

    One aspect that is not often discussed is the recruitment by charters to pull families away from neighborhood schools. When Ivy was proposed they had a website asking for presumably negative stories about the local neighborhood schools (they couldn’t even get the spelling of Ockley right, and called it “Oakley”).

    Many charters do pose themselves as superior choices to the local schools. This can and does create a divisive climate in neighborhoods.

    Dorsai, I am sure most parents who use charters are not racists. However, I find it interesting that all the white kids on my street attend charters, while all the black kids go to Ockley. When I have spoken to the white parents they have told me they had “heard” Ockley was a bad school. None had actually visited; they relied on the word-of-mouth of other families who also never visited, as well as the “information” they gathered at charter meetings.

    I think in Portland the negative perceptions are greatly fostered by a media that uses racial coding for any minority school such as “at risk” or “inner city” while never using the same labels for poorer white schools. I’d like to know exactly what my kids are “at risk” of more at Ockley than at a school in deep SE, but the Oregonian won’t tell me!

    Also, on other blogs I have seen white parents express the sentiment they don’t want their child to be the only one, and the fear that white children will be subject to reverse racism. I’d rather this fears be openly addressed than ignored.

  45. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Steve …I am a parent with children in PPS and I know a lot about public education and about federal education law. What I say about NCLB is informed by 30 years of watching developments in ESEA, of which NCLB is the latest incarnation. How does that put you at a disadvantage?

    I have no idea what you mean by correlating comments here with participation in other forums and I can’t imagine what could be gained from such an exercise. Nor do I understand what you are getting at when you characterize what I say about NCLB as “contrarian.” What is contrary about identifying what the law does and does not do?

    As to, Susan has equated people who violate copyright on reading and math tests with Martin Luther King, so it is safe to say I am not looking to her for wisdom about pubic education.

  46. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    It’s a figure of speech. It means you know who we are, but we don’t know who you are.

    (It’s okay; I know who you are.)

    If you’re here to argue or engage in any kind of ad hominem, you’ll soon find yourself on the short end of my comment policy. Consider that your only warning.

  47. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    This has been a fantastic conversation. Thank you all for being so passionate, so critical, and so civil. I always benefit from being in dialog with the folks that frequent this blog.

    So let me pose this question: should we push to get rid of charters in PPS or push to make them work better than they currently do? Rose and Ken are clear that charters can’t work. Yet folks like me and some other parents who have posted here would have been stuck without them. Making them more diverse would require changing the state law about the lottery. But, as Rose and Ken point out, this would not overcome the obstacle of requiring parents to drive their kids potentially long distances to and from school. We can change PPS policy, as Ken and Terry suggest, and make the schools more like what we’d lke them to be, but we all know how difficult that is to do. And, as I pointed out, we’d have to contend with NCLB and the test-centric focus it has created in its wake.

  48. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Peter, I agree… I’m continually humbled by the level of discourse here.

    To add a middle view, I would reiterate my desire for charters to serve as labs for innovation that can be transfered back to the district at large. I believe that’s the only way they can work, and the main purpose they should serve. I would love it if they were more teacher-centric (as opposed to parent- and administrator-centric), and if the teachers were part of the district’s collective bargaining agreement, too.

    We’ve found our children’s regular old neighborhood school (though not our neighborhood school) to be pretty good. Fantastic in many ways. But certainly not ideal. (We’ve also butted heads there about some things, and been less than thrilled about the amount of testing.)

    Frankly, as an atheist, vegetarian, socialist, pacifist hockey nut, I’m not likely to find a school that teaches to my values. And if I found it, I wouldn’t send my kids there. ;)

  49. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    My vote is to invest in making all public schools better, whether charter schools or not. It strikes me that everybody wins that way.

    I’m puzzled by the claim that Portland’s charter schools lack diversity. October enrollment statistics show that PPS is 55$ White and PPS charters are 57% White. That’s not a huge difference. It is true though that minority students are distributed across charters differently than across the district as a whole (eg charter schools enroll a larger percentage of African-American students than the district). I also noticed that 35% of charter kids are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, versus 45% across PPD (2007 figures). Still, there are a number of traditional schools in PPS that are less ethnically and economically diverse than the charters.

    By the way, if a charter school is funded with federal dollars, it has to follow federal guidelines for the lottery. For these schools, Oregon law can not trump federal requirements for the lottery.

  50. Comment from marcia:

    Funny thing that I’ve noticed about myself lately. I’ll be in the store and see a cute little curly headed blonde 3 year old in her hipster cute outfit and think sadly, as the family climbs into the volvo..darn..there’s a family I probably won’t have in my kindergarten class..they’re heading for the charter school…Sad but true.

  51. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Portland Village School – 76.6% white, 17.7% free and reduced

    Emerson – 81.4% white, 16.3% free and reduced

    Opal – 77.3% white, 20% free and reduced

    Trillium – 62.6% white, 26.1% free and reduced

    The aggregate data are messed up because Self Enhancement Academy has such a high percentage of black kids (94.4%) and low-income kids (87.3% free and reduced). So it makes the charters as a whole look more diverse than they really are.

    You know what they say about lies, damned lies, and statistics.

  52. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Marcia… thank you. You totally nailed it.

    “PPS_Parent”, not counting the nearly 100% black SEI charter, charter schools in PPS are significantly whiter and wealthier than the district as a whole, and dramatically moreso than neighborhood schools in N/NE Portland. They also serve a lower percentage of IEP and ELL students.

    It’s disingenuous to claim that PPS charters “enroll a larger percentage of African-American students” when most of those students are concentrated in one almost entirely black charter school.

  53. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Peter, you beat me to the punch! (I was even thinking the “damned lies” bit when I wrote it.)

  54. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Steve …

    But the point is precisely that we can not have it both ways. We can not give parents the choice of where to enroll their children and then complain that they are not making the choices we think they should make. If, for example, parents want to send their kids to SEI and if it is doing a great job, that is a good thing, no? Why should we want to tamper with that?

    The audit says that PPS charters enroll a percentage of special education students similar to the rest of PPS.

  55. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Steve R. – RE: your point, “I would reiterate my desire for charters to serve as labs for innovation that can be transfered back to the district at large. I believe that’s the only way they can work, and the main purpose they should serve.”

    I’d like for this to be the role they serve, too. But I don’t see this happening without explicit guidelines from the district. I also don’t see many schools being open to what the charters have to offer because most mainstream schools are so focused on AYP and benchmarks. The 4 mostly white charters don’t have to worry about AYP because they are not Title 1 schools and so don’t suffer federal sanctions for not making it. And, since their populations are mostly affluent whites, the kids are more likely to make AYP, given the socioeconomic factors that affect achievement. So you can understand why most schools would disregard what they have to offer as far as teaching and learning practices are concerned.

  56. Comment from Rose:

    Peter, I will offer my opinion that what can so very important when your first child is entering school can, after several years and perhaps a few more kids, be put in another perspective.

    I remember when my kids were at Chief Jo and had Ms. D. They came home lustily singing patriotic and religious songs. Oh how my ACLU heart flamed! I was outraged. I was ready to complain.

    Then I simmered down a bit. So what, I had teachers that did worse, plenty worse. And Ms. D turned out to be one of their favorite all-time teachers. Today they don’t remember those songs, but they remember how she let them hold teddy bears during story time.

    I suppose what I am saying is there are times when as parents we may not like everything about our kid’s school. Over time we realize that it benefits our children more to be exposed to different methods. Two of my kids, for instance, relish testing and thrive on it.

    I echo Steve that even I found a school that mirrored my peculiar, strange values, I would not want my children to attend it, because they get enough of me at home!

    I have never gotten exactly HOW charters are supposed to be these labs, or just how info would go back to the schools. The entire concept to me seems mushy.

  57. Comment from Dorsai:

    I hope I’m not overstating what I’m reading so far, but it seems like the idea of charter supporters as racists still lurks as a strawman, but, other than some individual anecdotes of white parents choosing a charter without visiting their local (more-diverse) school, there isn’t any solid evidence of a racist agenda behind charters racial/economic make-up.

    So, with that being said, it seems like the tension between the pro-charter folks and the pro-public school folks seems to boil down to the “draining the cream” argument mentioned at the very beginning of this spirited discussion.

    It seems to me that one way to partially address this issue would be to ensure that some additional funds be directed at those schools which have the greatest “charter/magnet/other flight” that drains that cream. Is that an oversimplification of the issue?

    I am aware that my child has distinct advantages due to socioeconomic status, and I’d like to find a way to ensure that those advantages are balanced for non-charter/magnet students. But I don’t want to do it by requiring attendance at a school which has a teaching methodology that I abhor (and yes, that included a visit to our neighborhood school, and discussions with teachers and neighborhood parents to come to that conclusion).

    Is there a middle ground that ensures some improvement of the local schools while still allowing the flexibility of alternative teaching methods? Or can this divide not be bridged?

  58. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    There is a big difference between being affluent and not being eligible for free and reduced price lunch.

    Charter schools are subject to the same review and reporting of AYP as other public schools. However, while it is true that federal sanctions do not apply to schools that do not receive federal funds under Title I, these schools are still subject to whatever sanctions the state imposes on all its schools.

    Oregon requires charter schools that have not made AYP to submit a plan of corrective action just as it does for other public schools, whether Title I or not.

  59. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Rose – I hear ya. And am very sympathetic to what you’re saying. I’m often told by others that “kids are so resilient.” Except when they aren’t. I want to increase the likelihood that all kids will enjoy school and enjoy childhood, and then, as they mature, enjoy themselves as learning becomes a form of self-expression. But we have a serious drop-out problem, here in PPS and elsewhere. And I don’t think the approach we’re taking in our schools is doing anything to address that. In fact, I argue it’s making the problem worse.

    Dorsai – I think you pose a legitimate question RE: racism. The flexibility of alternative teaching methods was supposed to have been handled by MLC and the focus options. But clearly demand exceeds supply. The assumption is that folks who choose these options are racist, when it may be that they (like you and me) want schools to take a different approach to teaching and learning and are frustrated (and alarmed) when they don’t. As Steve R. was saying, he’s been pushing the Board to respond to what many parents are asking for RE: schools that are less test-centric, more recess for little kids, project-based, etc. But, as I have been saying, they are not in much of a position to do this because they are subject to a federal law (NCLB) that — although not explicitly told to do so — creates schools that are test-centric and dumbed down. This is esp. true of low-income schools. So if your local neighborhood school is a low-income school, chances are that it will have a disproportionate emphasis on teaching discrete academic skills in isolation at the exclusion of non-tested subjects (art, music, etc.) This is abhorrent to me, too. And lots of parents and teachers I know.

    PPS_Parent – would you please provide a link to the OR charter regulations you’re referring to? I’d like to read the portion of the statute that deals with corrective action for non Title 1 schools. If it’s true that charters have to provide a plan for corrective action if they fail to make AYP, then perhaps they could share strategies with others. Yet, given what we all know about the socioeconomic factors related to test scores and the demographic composition of the majority of PPS charters, the likelihood of their failing to make AYP is pretty small.

  60. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    ORS 329.105

  61. Comment from Nancy R.:

    From Dorsai: “…there isn’t any solid evidence of a racist agenda behind charters racial/economic make-up.”

    I have heard parents in my neighborhood say, “It’s only black kids there” and “I don’t want her to be the only white face in the classroom” and “The kids there are so… rough” about Jeff and Ockley, Woodlawn and Humboldt, King and other neighborhood schools.

    This is anecdotal. This is not proof. Is it an issue for me? It is.

    What about a mom who moves into the Boise-Eliot neighborhood and gloats because she got her house for such a cheap price, now they can go private and sidestep the whole pesky issue of her neighborhood school? (That was from a WW story.)

    I’ve also heard neighbors insist that they’re not racist, yet they never invite people who are non-white into their homes, don’t introduce themselves, don’t take part in community events unless it’s people who look just like them, assume that someone is a single mom just because her kids are bi-racial.

    It’s like Jamila Williams, the principal at Humboldt, said a couple of years ago: “As long as you have the haves and the have-nots, why would you want your child at a have-not

  62. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Peter, again I have to make the distinction between public policy and personal choice.

    You are correct that charters as labs for innovation won’t happen “without explicit guidelines from the district.”

    That’s the public policy aspect that I think we should advocate for.

    Meanwhile, we’ve all got to make the choices within the existing system that work best for our families.

    Somehow PPS_Parent has me confused for somebody who fetishizes school choice. First time that’s happened; usually I’m mistaken for somebody who wants to eliminate choice and trap poor kids in crappy schools.

    The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle and a matter of public record. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to discern my position on school choice from my writings on the topic and quotes in the media.

  63. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Wacky – well said.

    Steve R. – I know you and I been around and around on your distinction between public policy and personal choice. I completely get it and agree with it. But here’s what I still don’t get: if public policy changes and limits what parents can choose to do (e.g., transfer to a different neighborhood school or send their kids to charters), then the choices available within the existing system would either be limited or eliminated. So how, then, would we be able to make choices within the existing system that work best for our families when those choices no longer exist or are limited?

  64. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Dorsai … You said …

    “It seems to me that one way to partially address this issue would be to ensure that some additional funds be directed at those schools which have the greatest “charter/magnet/other flight” that drains that cream.”

    Characterizing some children as more valuable (nutritious?)than others is dangerous to the max.

    Rewarding a school whose students leave it for programs that better meet their needs reduces the school’s incentive to meet students’ needs and, worse, creates a perverse incentive to jettison kids. What school would not want to get more money for teaching fewer kids?

    If we’re still voting, count me as a strong “No” on this one.

  65. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    My vision is a balanced system of neighborhood schools that suit the vast majority of families, with centralized focus options for families that want or need something different.

    This works pretty well in Beaverton, from what I can tell.

    The small number of families that want more specialized or boutique schools will continue to have charters and private options, just as they have today.

  66. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Steve R. says it very well. All public schools should be good schools. In Portland the politics has pretty much ensured this is not the case and NCLB has worked in many ways to help make this even more so the standard.

    While we can’t settle national issues here in Portland, we can work to make sure the education in every neighborhood is a good one. We haven’t done this and, in fact, have often done the exact opposite, making sure the education of only certain groups of children is a good one.

    I really think this whole charter school argument is somewhat removed from the argument about teaching methods. Sure, you might not like the teaching methods at an upper income school, but the school itself may be a decent one. This is the time you should have to make a choice, not because your neighborhood school is replete of music, art, P.E. etc. etc., is bonkers about testing, and the behavior of the kids is intolerable. These factors should not exist in public schools. Fix these problems and many of the others will take care of themselves. Let people like Peter go to a charter because he has strong feelings about educational mathods, not because the neighborhood school environment is just not tolerable.

    Wacky Mommy is so right about anecdotal information. It has a tremendous value. But once you get inside the schools there never has appeared to me to be much institutional racism going on, and when people reference it, it seldom seems helpful, but instead often causes the real problems to go unaddressed. Different story, as W.M. suggests out in the neighborhood.

  67. Comment from Terry:

    One more thing:

    All this talk about charters as “labs for innovation” is, in my humble opinion, nonsense.

    There’s such a huge body of research extant on “effective”schools that dabbling with charters is completely redundant. We know how to make schools better, less teacher and test-centric, more in tune to the needs of the students they serve, and even smaller and more flexible within the constraints of limited school funding.

    We know all about the value of theme and project-based integrated curricula. What we lack is the political will to implement these genuine reforms.

    It would help immensely to first rid the nation of No Child Left Behind. I’ve called for the school board to take a stand on Bush’s misguided and punitive “reform” legislation. So has Peter Campbell. Yet the board remains silent except for some tepid lobbying efforts to tweak NCLB.

    I don’t see how charter schools can teach us what we already know. Or at least what some of us already know.

    (I will give credit to the board for taking a hard line on charters. For that it deserves credit.)

  68. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    I think it is naive to think that the racism that permeates our legal system, banking and loans, home ownership, employment and retail exchanges would somehow miss education. We know from studies that when everything else is equal blacks/latinos are less likely to be hired, get a fair shake in our legal system or home loans. That doesn’t mean that anyone is EVIL, it means that we can’t continue to sidestep that elephant in the middle of the room.

    Do I think that white charter school parents are sitting in a room plotting against families of color? Absolutely not. Do I think that classism/racism influence what schools parents think are “acceptable”? Absolutely. Do I beleive that parents and teachers see children through a lens informed by the societal belief that some of us are less “equal” than others? Absolutely.

    There is no post-racial America. I’m not sure why it is so hard for some of us to accept that isms heavily influence a topic as volatile as “school choice”. You can’t come up for solutions for a problem that “doesn’t exist”.


    I think it is telling that many poor families have chosen to skimp on necessities to send their children to Holy Redeemer and DeLaSalle North Catholic. The majority of the students at both of these schools are of color and non-Catholic. What I have hear is that the education isn’t necessarily better but that parents feel that their children are more supported and expected to do well. Why aren’t these families being drawn to Trillium or Opal or Emerson? Why are families doubling up in housing to facilitate tuition costs? Why does neither PPS traditional, focus option nor charters adequately serve this population?

  69. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    PPSExpatriate – these are great questions. Do you have any ideas about why these families are not being drawn to Trillium or Opal or Emerson? Do you have any data on enrollment at Holy Redeemer and DeLaSalle that shows the socioeconomic composition of these schools? As I said earlier, Opal, Emerson, Trillium, and Portland Village tend to attract whites. Why? I understand that many families of color are unwilling to have their kid be the only person of color at the school (or one of the few). But are there other reasons that you hear people talk about when they discuss the charters?

  70. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Terry – great point.

  71. Comment from Marian:

    Holy Redeemer has been around a long time. It has a strong connection (including service) to the community that has spanned decades. It has had a diverse population long before these charters arrived. Seems to me that trust might a big issue for minorities, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Perhaps HR has earned it?

    Since there hasn’t been a Catholic high school in North Portland for a very long time, DeLaSalle might be a perfect next step for families who like a Catholic education and want keep their children close to home, rather than sending them across town to Central or Jesuit. As I recall, DLS has a different approach to education than other private and public schools.

    Keep in mind that many Catholic schools have a culture of service that one might not find in a public school. I can’t speak for either of these schools in particular, but I can only imagine that is part of the equation when a family decides to send their child to one of these schools.

  72. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    Doggone it! I just recycled my last fundraising letter for Holy Redeemer which had that stat in it. I know the reduced/free lunch rate hovers around 33% at HRCS. HR bills itself as the most ethnically diverse Catholic school in Portland. I will have the DeLaSalle stats tomorrow.

    I think people “reach out” to people they know and are comfortable with when looking at school alternatives. If you don’t have a diverse group of mama or papa friends, it seems unlikely that when you’re talking about where to send your kids that you would send them somewhere that’s unfamiliar. If someone asked me about Trillium and how it is for children of color, I haven’t heard anything good. But I would try to put them in touch with another parent of color that tried it. When it comes to Holy Redeemer, I knew lots of parents that looked like me and wanted their children to be treated fairly in school in SPITE of their ethnicity who sent their kids there.

    Some parents and families have had very isolating experiences in some charter/focus schools, where they and their children were “otherized”. I have friends who tell me that experience is not unique to people of color in charters. Another friend had a daughter who lost a year of high school math while her charter was working out the kinks of having a non-certified teacher teach it. Stories like that are not going to bring people “outside of the club” to the table.

    It can be difficult for parents to get their concerns heard, and unlike traditional school there isn’t always an official protocol.

  73. Comment from Steve Buel:

    According to the information tonight at the board meeting provided by Emerson they are bound to a lottery system and have 130 or so applicants for 14 positions for next year. Once you start out pretty well white there is a tendency to stay there evidently. Also the sibling requirement helps keep the stats down they said.

    Interesting meeting by the way. Quite a contrast between Emerson and Village and LEP.

    The board talked about the importance of having opportunities in charters which were separate from PPS opportunities, then reminded the three charters of their responsibilities to be held accountable for achievement (testing and AYP). Guess, they didn’t pick up on the obvious contrasting directions. More reason yet for the board to implement my idea of really defining what they think constitutes a decent education and using it to define achievement instead of testing.

  74. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Steve Buel, I’m curious about your statements regarding the behavior of poor children and your belief that institutional racism doesn’t really exist in public education. Years ago when I was involved with the education crisis team and ran for the school board, you made similar statements to me. Please explain how the behavior of poor children is different from non-poor children and why you don’t believe that racism is an issue in education.

  75. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    When more children apply for a place in a charter school than there are open places, the school must use a lottery to determine admission. Siblings of children already enrolled can be given preference as well as a few other exceptions such as children of the school’s founders and children of employees. As I said before, the lottery can be weighted in favor of children exercising their choice option under NCLB.

  76. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Carrie, I never said that institutional racism doesn’t exist in schools (and I define this as racism by the adults); I said it is not the crux of the problem for children of color within the school system and when it becomes the focus it often means the more serious problems don’t get addressed. That’s a lot different than saying it doesn’t exist. I have based that on 40+ years of being in schools, including 10 in Portland in a very poor neighborhood, 5 in Woodburn, and the last 9 or so in probably the poorest school in Vancouver. You, of course, know I have a pretty good sense of what racism is and am not afraid to condemn it when I see it. It is just an observation.

    The issue of poor behavior in lower income schools is very pervasive and is maybe the most important issue in PPS. It really manifests itself in the middle grades and is extremely influential in affecting the drop-out rate. What I am saying is that on the average in classrooms in lower income neighborhoods there is much more misbehavior. This creates a worse learning environment and makes it much more difficult for students to learn and teachers to teach. More kids in these schools are less engaged in school, have sporadic attendance problems, worse school skills, and misbehave in class more. All these factors can affect behavior.

    I really don’t think this is very arguable. The argument comes when we decide what to do about it. I believe we need to directly address it, not push it under the rug or fail to recognize it for the serious problem it is. That, by the way, was a lot of what the orginal work that Ronnie Herndon, Herb Cawthorne, John Jackson and I did in the early 80′s. The effort was to create schools that were predominately African American that were just as good or better than schools in upper income neighborhoods. One of the components of this was to give children a solid learning environment. Disrupted schools are not good schools.

  77. Comment from Mike:

    In “class” terms I suspect Trillium is a lower income school than my neighborhood PPS.

    If you looked at the college aspirations of parents for their kids, I suspect that the Trillium parents are less aggressive in that direction.

    We go to Trillium anyway, in spite of the extra carbon burden associated with the commute because the thing I really believe in is small schools, mixed age schools and a less regimented environment.

    Above, someone complained that charter schools were too small and thus not realistic…. but that has it backwards. Is there anything less realistic than hundreds and hundreds of kids in one place? While the empirical findings on “small schools” are mixed, I believe that small personalized schools are the only hope for mass education. In any case that’s the only environment I want for my pre-high school age kids. Trillium offered us a small school environment. PPS could not, in our local district.

    When I walked into Laurelhurst elementary and saw 40 identical covered wagon “art projects” from 40 children I instantly understood that I would not put my kids in a regular PPS where, it seemed to me (and still does) my kids would receive a highly regimented education.

    There are many many problems and concerns at Trillium, but nothing I’ve seen at my local PPS option makes me want my kids to be a part of it.

    I’m a leftist… a socialist… and a believer in the power of government to create a more just society. But I’m an Oregonian, and that means my leftist politics are tinged with libertarianism …. and I’m a “small is beautiful” leftist. I want choice, and government institutions must be challenged and forced to remain flexible.

    I don’t know all the politics of charter schools, but it seems important that they are there to offer an alternative.

  78. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    Unless you have been the parent of a child of color in public school and had the opportunity to juxtapose the labeling that goes on there with richer, whiter schools for the same behavior, I dare say that your statement, Mr. Buel is not more credible to me regarding racism than my own experience. Not so much a fan of poor children are poorly behaved school. I have seen the same kids behave completely differently for different teachers. Teacher “Anne” had her classroom with minimal disruptions. Truth be told, even I was a little intimidated by her. When these same kids moved on to 3rd grade they had a teacher who couldn’t decide from week to week what her teaching style was. Her class was a zoo. My weekly classroom volunteering became very stressful. I begged to transfer my kid out, the principal refused. I have talked other parents who have had this same teacher in recent years and even parents with limited English proficiency will express concern about her class being out of control. So I heartily disagree that poorer children are pre-disposed to poor behavior. Stephanie gave an awesome example about how a kid’s behavior is labeled depending on WHO he is not WHAT he does.

    I have a friend who is a paraplegic. ANd she gently and not-so-gently informed me that no matter how sympathetic I think I am and how progressive I think I am, I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to disablity issues as I benefit from ablist societal privilege.

    I also was a service provider in a high school that was considered “struggling”. And I saw the classism and racism up close and personal when staffing student cases. I was a dewy-eyed idealist with a 3 year old. Very demoralizing.

    All this to say, it ain’t always the kids. . . . and please don’t dismiss my experience because Im on the “wrong” side of the desk.

    My brother teaches math and science in an upper class California suburban high school. He formerly taught at one of the toughest high schools in California. It is extremely difficult to manage the behavior of rich kids, too, though for different reasons.

  79. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Steve B. – putting aside the issue of whether low-income schools have more discipline problems or not, can you say more about what you believe is the solution to discipline problems in low-income schools?

    A couple famous charter school chains have devised methods that find extremely disturbing. I visited an Edison-run charter school in inner-city St. Louis a few years ago and was appalled by the heavy-handed discipline tactics. Also, the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter schools are notorious for their extremely punitive measures. Recently, at KIPP Fresno in California, the principal resigned after allegations emerged that he used severe physical and emotional punishments to achieve discipline.
    Can you contrast your views and approach with the approaches taken by these charter chains?

  80. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Mike – what would you do with your kid if the charters did not exist as an option?

  81. Comment from Mike:

    In response to your question about what we’d do if there were no charter schools…

    We had home schooling ambitions… but weren’t up to that…. so I couldn’t go back there.

    Rather than saving for college, maybe we would tough it out through 8th grade in the PPS and consider a high quality alternative private high school like Pacific Crest paid for with “college savings” and maybe scholarships if possible, and then let my two darling children fend for themselves for college.

    That’s a hard thing to say, but I doubt we’d have the money for both private high school and college… hell, I doubt we’ll have the money for college for two kids either.

    It’s really hard to say, and we are actively trying to figure out how we feel about Trillium (mixed) and how we feel about our neighborhood PPS (less positive) and private options (unsure, except that they seem beyond our budget).

    I appreciate the fact that PPS system is as good as it is. I see the charter option as part of why the PPS system is a relatively good system, but I see charter schools as part of that system of free public education. I’m not sure if other people see charters as NOT a part of the public schooling environment in Portland, or as part of the problem, or what. From a parent’s point of view it’s nice to have another zero tuition choice, where administrators and teachers are trying to implement a non-mainstream curriculum that they have chosen by giving the matter some active and independent choice… that involvement of human consciousness and local “agency” (people, teachers, administrators making choices, even choices that are no better than others) is profoundly significant for the quality of education. Bureaucracies, particularly educational bureaucracies, are death.

    To me Portland is still a city where good (not great) public education exists. Charter schools are part of that relatively positive (in a national context) public education reality. Getting rid of them would just speed us down the road of most major cities toward an eviscerated regimented one size fits all lowest common denominator (enough adjectives yet?) system.

    Yet if charter schools weren’t here, I’d probably have to work with PPS for lack of other opportunities… at least through 8th grade. Mostly, I would work to protect my children from the soul killing ambiance of regimentation and authoritarianism that I sense they’d be subject to.

    My wife and other people of good conscience would urge me to get involved and change the system for the better. In my experience parents, except a few favored board members, are not welcome at any school, and frankly I don’t think that I as a parent could have much of an influence at a PPS or any public school setting. I’m allergic to large organizations and bureaucracies. I don’t want to have to fight for change. I want to choose a small human scale organization that is already making most of the right choices, and to participate as long as it continues to make the right choices. Charters seem closer to that model.

  82. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I know Buel can speak for himself, but I want to give my reading of his comments re. discipline.

    Take a poor kid… growing up poor, he’s statistically more likely to be exposed to domestic violence, food insecurity, housing instability, environmental toxins, etc.

    He’s also statistically more likely to be non-white.

    Over-representation of minorities among the poor is the essence of institutional racism.

    Furthermore, in Portland, this kid is statistically more likely to be assigned to a school that offers less academic and extra-curricular opportunity, less experienced teachers, less parental involvement, and higher rates of disciplinary referrals.

    Still more institutional racism.

    Because of all these institutional factors, he’s statistically more likely to have discipline problems himself.

    But that doesn’t necessarily mean his teachers are racist, or the principal, superintendent or school board are — at least not directly — and it absolutely does not dismiss pervasive and pernicious institutional racism.

    To say that poor schools have higher rates of discipline referrals is an empirical fact, and that fact deserves attention.

  83. Comment from Terry:

    You make some interesting points, Mike, but the implication of your pro-charter bias is that the majority of PPS students will remain trapped in “the soul killing ambiance of regimentation and authoritarianism” of traditional public schools.

    Are you arguing such schools fit the needs of the mass of public school students? If not, how do you justify your argument that a few small charter schools improve the overall system?

    From your self-description, Mike, I assume that you (like me) are concerned with the larger social good. Unless you can come up with a plan to make ALL schools small and non-traditional, your defense of charters makes no sense in terms of true educational equity or social justice.

    For the record, I’ve argued all schools should become charters in the deeper sense of what a charter school provides: innovative approaches to education that meet the needs of the students each school serves. There’s absolutely no good reason why that can’t happen in this district

    The only bureaucracy standing in the way of true school reform is probably found in the district office. Within the the schools themselves, one rarely runs into stifling bureaucratic structures.

  84. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Steve R., you are right on. There are huge factors which influence the disparity in behavior between schools of varying economic levels. And race (or ethnic background) gets intermingled here because more people of color are in the lower economic neighborhoods. This creates a racism that works outside of the attitudes of the people within the school itself. As you full well know I have fought for my entire adult life to help alleviate these types of injustices.

    Now, to other people, at the same time one form of injustice is that children who are low income, from no fault of their own, have to bear the burden of disrupted schools and classrooms. This makes it immeasurably harder to learn perpetuating the disparities in education. Wish I could make society itself equitable, eliminate the vestiges of our imperfect history, and create economic wealth for all people. Unfortunately I can’t. But I can work to create a more just and better school system so more children have a chance to work their way out of poverty –I can seriously try to do that. And one of the major roadblocks for many children is classroom disruptions which detract from their education.

    People may say what they like, that we need to understand these children, we need to make allowances, and whatever — all of which I would pretty much agree with. But in the end, we should not defend a child’s “right” to disrupt and destroy other children’s education. Is this what we want to teach kids? Is this the lesson we want? Not me. I want to teach children that other people have rights too and that the right to a decent education is one of the most sacred we have. And I want to teach that we all have the obligation to respect the educational process — even if it is, as all schools are, flawed. And I hope these lessons carry over into life.

    I just favor the direct approach — it is harder, but in the end much more effective.

    Some other comments on posts:

    I have seen decent and poor BD classrooms. Generally depends on the teacher as does so much else in education.

    There is no question that many people respond differently to children of color or poor children. Makes it a lot tougher on them except in those cases where they respond more positively. But if that becomes the singular issue while the school stinks and the classes are disrupted then more pervasive educational problems don’t get addressed.

    Here’s an interesting fact. In the state of Washington it is a misdemeanor to disrupt a classroom. A teacher can call the police and have a kid arrested for disrupting the class. Haven’t done it myself, but it certainly reinforces the importance of the right to a decent education.

    Peter, your question is too broad for me to explain in a blog. We should get together and talk sometime.
    Basically it includes restructuring the school in order to create less opportunity for disruptions and holding kids more accountable for their behavior while keeping them in a school setting.

  85. Comment from Mike:

    Terry, you say:
    “Unless you can come up with a plan to make ALL schools small and non-traditional, your defense of charters makes no sense in terms of true educational equity or social justice.”

    I don’t think I have an obligation to wait to benefit my children within the existing public education system until every child can have the benefits of a smaller school. That seems like asking an awful lot, and making perfection the enemy of improvement.

    I also don’t see why equity, important as it is, should take precedence over issues like quality…. Should we oppose quality improvements because they do no proceed in lock step at each institution?

    Public charter schools SHOULD put pressure on regular public schools… if they are succeeding in creating new attractive models of education that draw parents to them.

    Maybe some people like the more regimented one size fits all model anyway?

    Regarding small schools, I only think I’m right, I don’t know that I’m right.

    I know what I want for my children in a public education and right now Trillium charter school is the closest I’ve found within my geographic orbit that meets my requirements. I’m glad to have a few choices. What parent wouldn’t want that kind of choice?

    It seems to me that Trillium and others are public education success stories. I really don’t get the objections.

  86. Comment from Mike:

    And Terry, regarding “the implication of your pro-charter bias is that the majority of PPS students will remain trapped in “the soul killing ambiance of regimentation and authoritarianism” of traditional public schools. ”

    I do share your pain at the thought of what is happening in those schools but I disagree with your implication that those children must remain in those environments or that they cannot change.

    The implication of my bias toward small schools, non-centralized curriculum, and diversity in education is that PPS should radically rethink how it educates.

    Until that happens (next year?), let’s compromise, and at least let those parents who do have a different vision not be frozen out or driven away from the system – let’s invent a mixed system with some charter school options, and let’s try to expand the experimentation in various ways, within PPS and in charter schools.

    In short let’s do try to rescue kids from the regimented authoritarian schooling system that is PPS and most mainstream education in the U.S.

    But again, that sounds a little “radical” doesn’t it? So wouldn’t it be better to shunt malcontents like me off into a different kind of public school (charters), so that you don’t have to actually make the kinds of changes that people like me would want?

    I don’t want to make my discontentment into a tool for someone’s five year horizon school reform plan either, by the way. I want to do what is right for my children right now. I have kids to educate right now, this year.

  87. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Mike, I appreciate your perspective of doing the best for your kids, now.

    That’s my first priority, too.

    But I also look at every choice entailing some compromise. My family has decided that being in a mainstream neighborhood school, with all its warts, gives our kids many important lessons they won’t get if we try to find a school that more closely matches our values.

    We’re preparing them for the real world, after all, and the ability to deal with people from all walks of life is a critical life skill.

    Charter schools, almost by definition, are insular worlds where families are likely to share similar backgrounds, social values and demographics.

    On the other hand, neighborhood schools may not be as authoritarian as you think. Children flourish with well-defined routines and boundaries, so a little institutional structure can be a good thing.

    I’m not saying you’ve made the wrong choice. Just that there are many ways to look at these choices. One thing to consider is that middle class children with involved parents are probably going to do just fine pretty much anywhere you put them.

    I am a product of public schools that were far more regimented than Portland’s neighborhood schools, and with larger classes, too. And I took standardized tests with a #2 pencil. I think I turned out all right.

  88. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Steve R. – well said. But I think you could argue the point about whether the data are empirical or not. As PPS_Expatriate reminds us, the discipline referrals are subject to the racist/classist biases that teachers and administrators have. I think the truth lies somewhere between the two, between the (often unconscious) biases of those who report the discipline infractions of the low-income students of color and the fact that low-income students of color are subject to the hell of generations of poverty, making them more likely to act out. As you say, the higher rates of discipline referrals deserves attention. For me, paying attention to this means two things: (1) confronting racist biases to decrease the likelihood that discipline referrals are being meted out unfairly and (2) acknowledging that living in poverty has a tangible effect on kids, i.e. they are more likely to act out. As for #1, there’s a teacher professional development offering in St. Louis that’s called the Dismantling Racism Institute. It’s now called “The Inclusion Institute for Educators.” I never attended it, but my colleagues that did attend said it was life-altering. Why not make this kind of thing a requirement for PPS teachers? This would help mitigate the effects of racial/class bias.

    Steve B. – agreed that this does not mean giving these kids license to run amok. Not at all. This is why I asked about your vision of discipline because I do think there are ways to handle this issue.

    In defense of the heavy discipline I witnessed at the Edison-run charter in St. Louis, the board member who gave me the tour said, “Sure, the structure of the Edison schools is a bit tough. Yes, we make the kids walk in lines wherever they go. But it works. You don’t have to waste 6 minutes at the beginning of class, telling Johnny to sit down and be quiet. And you don’t waste 15 minutes in the middle of every class, trying to get students to be quiet and stay on task. Even the very brightest kids can’t learn in an environment like that. No one can.”

    But being quiet and paying attention to the teacher should not be taken as unquestioned and unqualified virtues in themselves. In a rigid structure such as that imposed by Edison, there is no room for student or teacher creativity or spontaneity. The only room for freedom of expression is either (a) do what the teacher tells you to do or (b) resist what the teacher tells you to do. Given the kind of power and authority structures that already exist in white-dominated society, it’s little wonder that students of color are tempted to act out and lash out. If they don’t act in this manner, then both the implicit and explicit power relationships and inequities are reproduced in the classroom: docile brown bodies controlled by powerful white bodies. This is even more troubling given the fact that no Edison school exists in a white, wealthy, suburban district. Not one.

    Many people have been taken on the same exact tour of the Edison school that I was taken on and emerged gushing about how great the school is. “Look how well-behaved they are!” or “They’re all so quiet!” I’m told are typical reactions.

    But unlike the Hollywood depiction of classrooms, in which “good” classrooms are quiet and arranged in neat rows of desks, effective classrooms tend to be a bit “noisy.”

    As a teacher, I seldom led classes that were quiet. Because my classes almost always used group activities and hands-on, project-based work, they were usually pretty loud. So I never thought of the issue of whether the class was quiet or not. Quite honestly, the issue was irrelevant. What concerned me was whether the students were engaged or not. Engagement, in my experience, comes by allowing students to have a say in the manner of what they learn and how they learn it. “Having a say” means that students use their voices.

    For voices to be heard, they cannot be quiet.

    The literal and metaphorical implications of silenced voices, particularly the silenced voices of historically silenced people, cannot be emphasized enough. Any system that demands that historically oppressed people be silent should be subject to scrutiny and skepticism. But in an educational system that is responsible for educating future citizens, this forced silence and compliance should do more than give us pause. It should make us angry. Unfortunately, Edison-run charters schools have apparently bought into the notion that “noise = chaos,” at least for non-white kids. Thus, for non-white kids, there must be rigid “discipline” as seen in the military and prison.

    Ironically, or perhaps inevitably, students in these academic settings will be forced out of school and will have nowhere to go but the military or to prison. The one comfort may be that if this fate does befall them, they will have been well-prepared.

  89. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I actually tried to point out that higher referral rates are a form of institutional racism. Sorry that wasn’t more clear.

  90. Comment from Mike:

    I think that Trillium is probably more socioeconomically diverse than Laurelhurst/Fernwood… as these things go in Portland, which compared to the Los Angeles public school system that I grew up in, is not saying very much. (I’m willing to be proven wrong by statistics, of course.)

    So in that sense I’m keeping it more real than my middle and upper middle class neighbors here in Grant Park. But I don’t think that this should be a competition about who can be more proletarian and less chichi.

    I came out a high functioning over educated guy from my middle class public school background, but I was not well served by it – unlike you, I did not turn out right because of my schools, but in spite of them. I know this in my bones, and I’m not going to put my kids through the experience that I had.

    In your view plain old schooling did you just fine, and it’ll be good enough for your kids too. It sounds like you are a good match for the public schools. You are lucky.

    I have a very specific idea about what education can be and a very clear memory of what it was not. It saddens me that my children must be in any school at all and that I’m not unschooling or home schooling them, but I’m not able for various reasons to do what I truly believe in so I have to find some educational context that at least slightly expresses my educational beliefs.

    For you regular schools are just something that you accept with their flaws, try to stay involved with, and everything mostly comes out fine. You don’t feel a profound disconnect between who you are and what your local school is and believes. I think that’s true for many parents, but it isn’t true for me.

    This statement of yours in particular, by the way, seems so wrong that I hardly know what to do except point it out and urge you to reconsider. It certainly does not describe Trillium: “Charter schools, almost by definition, are insular worlds where families are likely to share similar backgrounds, social values and demographics.” I feel little or no connection to the Trillium parents…. but I am attracted to what Trillium is trying to do educationally.

  91. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Mike, you said “In your view plain old schooling did you just fine, and it’ll be good enough for your kids too.”

    Actually what I said is every choice has its trade-offs. There are many things I don’t like about my kids’ school. I won’t list them here, out of respect for all the great teachers and staff there doing really great things.

    I also find many things about the district to be gravely unjust, and I’m working pretty hard to try to change them. I could use some help.

    One thing you should consider, as a self-described socialist: none of the teachers or staff at your kids’ school have their rights protected by a union contract.

    They may be even be okay with that. But is that a model for society?

  92. Comment from Jacquelynn:

    Yes, but Steve, does the teacher’s union welcome charter school teachers? The resounding response I’ve gotten from teachers in charters is no.

    The very way charter school funding is set up financially prevents charters from being able to meet scale pay.

  93. Comment from Oh, me:

    Thanks for the great remarks Peter. I think it is time for the district to rethink how they evaluate students learning, instead of teachers teaching. When a teacher is evaluated, there are many areas judged, but none are about how engaged or excited students are about learning and being learners. Classroom management is being judged and graded for sure. There are some great administrators who know what is best for kids who recognize the importance of engagement and learning and encourage that in the classroom, but it is not on the evaluation form. Like we do with children, we feel the pressure to show “what is on the test” :evaluations.
    So what is needed to begin to help public schools meet the needs of more students is a paradigm shift from teaching to learning. I have been beating my head against a wall, so to speak, for the last 8 years about this. Little has been done to change, and from what I can tell most teachers are ok with the status quo. A systemic change like this would be amazing, but I am not holding my breath…but I have hope.

  94. Comment from Mike:

    The issue of non-union status bothers me greatly. But let me ask you – do you always refuse to buy products not produced by union labor? I’ve tried that out, and guess what? It’s almost impossible to even figure out, but safe bet is that that the goods and services in your life have the same percent union made content as the economy as a whole…. at least that’s what I figure for me.

    So, here’s what I do know. My kids teachers are not paid enough, nor are PPS teachers. But hey, my kid’s SCHOOL is only paid 80% per kid of what the union schools are paid too, right? So it seems to me we’re getting it twice… some school funding scam is blocking funds to my public charter school, and for some reason my teachers don’t have union representation.

    Would you have me walk out of there on principle? I think the teachers are glad to have their jobs and the little bit of money that my kid brings the school each day he shows up. I’m with them in wanting more money per kid, and more money for their salaries. Will I be helping Ms. Z if I pull my kid out and boycott? I think I’ll be doing more good if I put my kid there and say, “hey, this is a good school with good teachers who should be paid union rates.”

    This is where my leftism doesn’t sync with unionism. I’m not at all convinced that teachers unions are on the right side when it comes to educational reform. In fact from the little a parent like me can ascertain from the outside it seems that a lot of the edu-establishment is opposing the clearly progressive cause of educational diversity. It feels like old style leftism/unionism versus what I see as a progressive vision (or some might view as a “libertarian progressive” vision).

    I know that some see charter schools as a “right wing” project, but aren’t they really an opening on the left and the right, an opportunity for ideas about the good education to flourish? Rather than underfunding charter schools why not fund them and unionize them, while allowing them to do what we need schools to do… which is figure out new models and approaches to educating kids?

  95. Comment from Rose:

    I think we should cut to the chase:

    There has always been an option for parents unhappy with public schools. These are called private schools.

    It has only been recently that the concept that alternative education should be tax funded has gained root, and now we have charters, which are essentially private (you gotta apply, you might get rejected) schools funded by tax dollars.

    How quickly we become acclimated. Now a certain percentage of parents in Portland expect to have other parent’s tax dollars pay for their children’s education. In other words, MY tax dollars pay for schools my own children can’t attend.

    On the racism issue: it doesn’t matter whether racism is covert or overt. It doesn’t matter whether it is created by systems or people. What matters is the outcome.

    I know at Ockley there are kids with parents in prison, others in foster care, others being raised by grandparents. Of course these kids are not always perfectly behaved. But neither are they monsters, and the teachers have a good handle on them. Maybe a lot of it is principal and behavioral support.

    Many of these situations are the result of Portland’s racism towards minority citizens, including our disparate treatment of black men in jails. Of course black kids show the result of this racism. How would they not, when white criminals get slaps on the wrist for cocaine and black men get 25 years plus for the same drug?

    So…where does this leave us? The answer can’t be creating more privatized public education, aka, charters. The answer has to be in ending preferential treatment towards certain classes.

    In other words, lets take our schools back to the days when I was growing up, and Ockley had rich kids from Overlook, poor kids from Alberta, and everything in between. There were white kids and black kids and somehow it all worked. My black brother and sister had friends from all backgrounds. There were kids from Ockley who went on to Brown, to other colleges, good jobs in law enforcement, you name it.

    In short, Mike and all, if your kids and my kids all attended the same schools, I think we would all benefit. At least I think my kids would benefit!

  96. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    Amen, sister, amen.

  97. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    I was telling some people about my elementary school in Illinois this evening, King School. The children in the International student housing from the U of I all went to my school. I loved elementary school. My best friend was from Transylvania, I mentored kids from Haiti, I got into a heated argument with a kid from Jordan because I made a blue star on my art project, we would learn all of the languages represented in our school and how to write our name. We had an international fair every year and the american student that worked really hard all 6 years got to carry the US flag in the parade. I remember being in Kindergarten and wanting so bad to be that 6th grader. Sadly, I transferred due to a move across town in 4th grade but my elementary education those 4 years have so much to do with who I am today.

  98. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    For the record: charter regulations vary by state. Some states allow charter teachers to form unions if they so choose. I believe — and please correct me if I’m wrong — that OR allows charter teachers to form unions.

  99. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Charter schools are 100 percent public schools. They receive public money, are accountable to elected officials, and are bound by the same state and federal laws as other public schools. They do operate somewhat differently.

    Admission to charter schools is by lottery. Note that this is in some ways more democratic than admission to other public schools – DaVinci, for example, at one time, selected students on the basis of accomplishment and recommendation (I don’t know if it still does so). And there are public schools where admission is determined by test scores to one degree or another.

  100. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Rose – amen! But here’s where I think things go slightly awry. You wrote, “There were white kids and black kids and somehow it all worked.” I understand your sentiment here, but the fact is that for a lot of kids it did not work. It didn’t work for Mike, and it certainly didn’t work for me, either. Like Mike, I learned despite my school, not because of it. And it also didn’t work for lots of lower-income kids and minority kids who got the same kind of treatment they get today and worse. I’m also reminded of the experience of seeing ostensibly integrated schools at lunchtime where the whites sit with the whites, the blacks with the blacks, the Hispanics with the Hispanics, and the Asians with the Asians.

    For all its flaws, at least NCLB raised the specter of the achievement gap and declared that is was wrong. I despise most of what NCLB does, but it does this part right.

    So we can’t really go back to how things used to be because the way things used to be was pretty awful, your positive memory notwithstanding.

    What can be done? I’m pretty psyched about the NCCJ – the National Conference for Community and Justice. They sponsor a program called Anytown. I strongly recommend that everyone check it out. Anyone interested in trying to bring something like this to PPS? Let me know. (souprabbit AT gmail DOT com)

    An argument needs to be made that promotes diversity and which does not shy away from tackling the elephant in the room in these conversations: racism. The goal of achieving diverse campuses needs to be a stated principle of the new high school design. Portland has an opportunity to commit to diversity and promote and sustain healthy, diverse communities and underscore these as part our key values. A program at all of the high schools needs to be established that deals explicitly with the issues of racism, poverty, and multiculturalism. Picking up on the idea of student academies included in the Model A design, these cohort groups could be designed to contain a wide array of racial and socioeconomic diversity in their members. Part of their work together would involve periodic guided conversations with a teacher/facilitator in which the students would discuss racism and poverty and inter-cultural communication. An example of this sort of program is Anytown.

    In identifying the elephant in the room, the design acknowledges the barriers to achieving and sustaining diverse communities in the city and does not pretend they don’t exist. The design acknowledges the challenge of nurturing and sustaining a diverse learning community and takes the challenge head on. In this way, the high schools will lead the way in promoting larger community conversations about how we can nurture and sustain diversity in the larger Portland community. Our high school students would become community role models.

  101. Comment from Mike:

    Rose, regarding

    “In short, Mike and all, if your kids and my kids all attended the same schools, I think we would all benefit. At least I think my kids would benefit!”

    I guess I think we do attend the same schools… tax payer funded public schools.

    If everyone’s kids in a neighborhood have to attend the same school… but some parents disagree with the educational approach and are unhappy about it… then how does that neighborhood school benefit from those dissatisfied parents ?

    The idea that private school is an option for most parents is frankly absurd for obvious money reasons. I do NOT have a private school option nor do most parents.

    I understand the problem that allowing people to move away from the neighborhood district potentially creates for socioeconomic diversity – the geographic solution to that challenge is disrupted. But new solutions are created as Charter schools can and should recruit based on socioeconomic diversity too. (I don’t know if they do, but it is perfectly reasonable that they should do so.)

    Why are your kids not able to go to a charter school? We got into Trillium because we were there on day one, and endured a number of really bad years. Now things are better, but we’ve paid some dues getting through. Apparently there is a waiting list. The solution might be to create more charter schools for parents who (like you?) who want them.

  102. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    I am always amazed at how folks adjust their standards for what they want.

    Mike says his family has endured some really bad years at Trillium, but was unwilling to work with his neighborhood school because of their teaching style. The fact that their teachers do not have union protection, might be an issue for his politics but well are unions that great anyway? There may not be as much diversity as the neighboring schools, oh well, who knows what efforts have been made to address that. Well, I’m increasingmy family’s carbon footprint, (shoulder shrug).

    And Mike, you represent many parents who make the same decision that you have made for your family, so while I’m taking examples from your posts, I’m representing a philosophy not you as an individual.

    Rose has stated very clearly why Trillium is not an option for her family.

    A wise mommy once pointed out how some charter parents talk about how wonderful it is that Happy Sunshine charter doesn’t “teach to the test” will use testing stats to disqualify their neighborhood school as “underperforming”.

    I really wish that I could turn a blind eye to the inequity inherent in the charter/school choice system. But hey, your blues ain’t like mine so why should you care?

    One more thing, as the parent of an older kid, I have realized that her education is hers and just because I wish I’d gone to the FAME school doesn’t mean that daVinci would be best for her.

  103. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Pretty much anybody in Oregon can form a union. No charter school teachers in Portland have, as far as I’m aware.

    My experience with labor organizing is that most workers are pretty comfortable without a union… until their rights are violated, they’re passed over for a promotion that goes to somebody less deserving, or they face unjust disciplinary action or termination.

    While union workers do enjoy higher average wages and benefits, the crux of the matter is collective bargaining, representation, and workplace democracy.

    I’d feel a lot better about charter schools in Portland if the teachers were a) held to the same certification standards and b) under the same contract as the rest of the teachers in the district. This would probably require a change to the state law that only passes 80% of funding through to the charter school, and it would probably make the smallness many charter proponents value more difficult to afford. (Yet another charter school trade-off… lower-paid, less experienced, less-qualified teachers for smaller student cohorts.)

    Mike, I’m not telling you to walk away, and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or defensive. Just pointing out that there is no ideal, and every choice requires some compromise in values.

  104. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    PPSexpatriate, hear, hear.

  105. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    I’d like to get back to Mike’s point: “If everyone’s kids in a neighborhood have to attend the same school… but some parents disagree with the educational approach and are unhappy about it… then how does that neighborhood school benefit from those dissatisfied parents?”

    This was precisely my dilemma at our neighborhood school. So how about this: can mainstream PPS neighborhood schools offer different forms of pedagogy? If there are 3 2nd grade classes at the school, can one be more constructivist/project-based and the other 2 be more old-school? This would solve the problem that folks like Mike and me are faced with.

    PPS_Expatriate – I appreciate your point that you may have wanted to go to the FAME school but realize that DaVinci may not be right for your kid. But what I’m talking about here (and perhaps Mike is, too?) is a fundamental belief that mainstream educational methods are wrong. So while I completely agree with my friend Steve R. about wanting to expose my kids to the real world and not surround them with a homogeneous group of others, I’m not willing to do this at the expense of their learning. Ideally, I’d like to do both: be in an environment that was ethnically, economically, and culturally diverse AND which gave kids more of a say in what they learned and how they learned it. I hate having to choose one or the other. So why can’t we bring more pedagogical diversity to mainstream PPS?

    If none of this makes sense, then I suggest you all read a book by Alfie Kohn called The Schools Our Children Deserve. It may help you understand why this issue of teaching and learning is so crucial to folks like me (and perhaps Mike, too).

    I want to believe that it IS possible to bring pedagogical diversity to our mainstream schools, but — as I said before — NCLB and the need to make adequate yearly progress almost guarantees an approach that is very test-centric and skill-based. I am sick to my stomach that kids have to have their school experience be watered down so much.
    And, for what it’s worth, I would never look at the test scores of any school to determine if it was a “good” school or a “bad” school. I look at how kids are treated and how the pedagogical approach of the school either lights kids up or snuffs their candles out. My daughter, in her free time, has never once asked me to curl up with her and do a worksheet with her. I think there’s something to this.

  106. Comment from Mike:

    Hey, I expect to be made uncomfortable on a site with this site’s goals and objectives. No worry.

    Carbon footprint is a problem… but we started with Trillium some 7 years ago, before, frankly, most people had the same consciousness about that issue that they do now. So sue me. NOW I worry about it… I didn’t then, and neither did most folks to the same degree. I’m not shrugging my shoulder at the carbon issue at all, I’m being honest about the good and the bad. (We own one car used primarily for shopping and a 5 mile round trip school journey, supplemented with carpools… I often take the Max to work… on balance we still use a tiny fraction of the carbon output of most Americans or Portlanders).

    As for the equality challenge, it’s real, but as you say, your blues ain’t my blues. To the best of my ability to perceive these things I’ve run to a more diverse school from a less diverse higher income PPS school. At Trillium, I see a serious investment in inclusiveness and conflict resolution that says to me far more about walking the walk on equality and working out cultural differences than some abstract measure of statistical diversity across a district.

    Equality is only one part of Quality. For you my problem with PPS education is a little matter of “teaching style” – for me it is a matter of deeply held educational beliefs, which I have not gone into here, but would be happy to discuss and debate over coffee any day. I suppose the fact that you understand our difference with PPS standard schools as a mere “style preference” is why it is easy for you to dismiss the significance of what a place like Trillium means. Don’t you think it is possible that there is a genuine range of approaches to education, and that you can’t do all of them at once in one school?

    I can agree with you Rose about the problem of access to charter schools for lower income and more mobile families… it’s an issue to solve, not a reason to oppose educational and pedagogical diversity.

    Steve, You say:
    “I’d feel a lot better about charter schools in Portland if the teachers were a) held to the same certification standards and b) under the same contract as the rest of the teachers in the district. This would probably require a change to the state law that only passes 80% of funding through to the charter school, and it would probably make the smallness many charter proponents value more difficult to afford. (Yet another charter school trade-off… lower-paid, less experienced, less-qualified teachers for smaller student cohorts.)”

    The economic trade-offs sound like what is happening – teachers are being made to pay the cost of providing a critical component of quality education, smaller classes. It’s wrong… and ultimately it hurts the kids too… but that doesn’t mean that a small class isn’t a pre-eminent educational value, and because it is, I choose that first, and THEN would like to address how we can pay teachers what they richly deserve. The alternative would be cut off my nose to spite my face – have solidarity with teachers’ very legitimate needs and thus deny my children the small classroom that is available for them right now. Tough choice, but I won’t apologize for making it, even though I don’t like what it means for teachers, and will do what I can to improve their situation too.

    I’m going to guess that the 80% payment rate is a power issue to, designed to strangle charter schools or prevent them from being too successful – happy to be proved wrong!

    Whether more certification is the same thing as more “qualified” in the deep meaning of that word is an interesting question, but not one that admits of only one answer – I’ve been increasingly impressed by the quality of Trillium teachers, and frankly have no idea what their certifications are. In the early years I think there were problems. Lately I have not experienced them.

    It sounds to me as if opponents of charter schools here have lots of good arguments, but are missing the larger picture. How do we improve quality and create genuine diversity and choice in educational approaches? In some ways the problems we are discussing may be related to the fact that we do not have enough school choice… not that we have too much of it. Maybe it is PPS and teachers that should be rethinking, in the context of a new national education policy, how to foster diversity of educational approaches, smaller classes, less conformity, less testing, etc. etc. (But even with Obama that doesn’t seem to be the direction we are going in!) Until that happens, it seems really quite insensitive to attack the few schools that represent movement in the direction of choice and diversity. One can’t help but suspect that bureaucratic and economic power issues are being acted out under the guise of righteous politics.

    Charter schools were designed to shake things up, no? So do we shut them down when they prove attractive? Or do we recognize that given that they continue to attract parents, maybe they are offering something that parents want and that PPS should be working to provide more of?

  107. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Peter, if we’re interested in preserving Horace Mann’s common schools vision, we need to decide as a society, not individuals, how to teach our children — all of them. I’m all for some degree of teacher autonomy and even school choice, but all students need a basic level of curriculum and opportunity guaranteed. PPS has had a boutique mentality for years, and it’s dramatically shifted funding and opportunity out our our poorest neighborhoods. And all that “choice” hasn’t really done much to improve teaching an learning.

    Fact: Most families in PPS do not have access to charters or private schools. Increasing access to them guarantees a further balkanized system with the poorest, least white students left behind picking up crumbs.

    I think we agree on the basic outlines to repair our common schools and make them attractive to all but a small percentage of families: scrap NCLB, make the classroom more child-centric, empower teachers to innovate, project-based learning, full-funding for smaller classes, etc., etc.

    Charter schools may offer some of these things for some students, but how can they ever bring this to all students?

    In other words, I understand them as a personal choice, but dismiss them as a tool for public school reform. Actually, I more than dismiss them in that regard… I think they’re quite dangerous to the common schools ideal.

  108. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Steve – you wrote, “we need to decide as a society, not individuals, how to teach our children — all of them. I’m all for some degree of teacher autonomy and even school choice, but all students need a basic level of curriculum and opportunity guaranteed.”

    I think this is where we all get fundamentally tripped up. As the discussion deepens here, we can see disagreements arise about pedagogical approach. Disagreements also arise whenever people discuss what the common, core curriculum should be. I think it would be impossible to decide on a single pedagogical approach that would satisfy everyone. Same thing for a single, common curriculum.

    Yes, we have focus options to satisfy some of the parents who want something outside the mainstream schools approach. Yes, we have charters. But getting into the focus options and charters is a crap shoot.

    So, while it’s true that most families in PPS do not have access to charters or private schools, it’s also true they don’t have access to teaching and learning approaches that are largely affected by test scores and AYP.

    This latter point is crucial. In the years I’ve been engaged as an activist, I’ve discovered that most parents simply don’t know there are lots of different ways to teach kids. Most of them experienced a pretty traditional, old-school education (as I did) and can’t imagine anything else. So they expect the same thing for their kids. But I think it’s safe to say that this traditional, old-school education is not working. Want proof? Look at the drop-out rate, esp. among blacks and Hispanics. Kids are voting with their feet in huge numbers. 1 out of every 2 black and Hispanic kids is saying, “F*#@ this.” I don’t blame them.

    According to the the 2006 Gates Foundation report, “The Silent Epidemic,” nearly half (47 percent) of the kids surveyed who dropped out said a major reason for dropping out was that classes were not interesting. These young people reported being bored and disengaged from high school. Forty-five percent said they started high school poorly prepared by their earlier schooling. Many of these students likely fell behind in elementary and middle school and could not make up the necessary ground. They reported that additional supports in high school that would have made a difference (such as tutoring or after school help) were not there.

    The most academically challenged students were the most likely to report that their schools were not doing enough to help students when they had trouble learning and to express doubt about whether they would have worked harder if more had been expected of them.

    So pedagogical innovation is not some fringe interest on the part of folks attending boutique schools. It’s what will save public education from completely falling apart.

  109. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Like I said, Peter, I think we agree on the fundamentals. No argument there.

    And like I also said, some charters might get some students access to the kind of pedagogy you passionately seek.

    I just don’t see how they advance the cause for all students.

  110. Comment from ohme:

    I agree with you Steve. The point here is to get good teaching and learning for all students in every public school.

  111. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    ohme – can you tell me how you think we can get good teaching and learning for all students in every public school? Is it a matter of better, more consistent professional development? Or are teachers tied to the dictates of test scores and AYP? It seems that non Title 1 schools have a greater likelihood of having better teaching and learning because these schools attract better teachers and they are less likely to teach to the test, given the fact that (1) non Title 1 schools do not face federal sanctions for failing to make AYP and (2) they are more likely to make AYP without any kind of test prep or test-driven curriculum given the demographic composition of their schools.

    Your take?

  112. Comment from Mike:

    I find myself in accord with Peter Cambell: “So pedagogical innovation is not some fringe interest on the part of folks attending boutique schools. It’s what will save public education from completely falling apart.”

    The question ohme is, what constitutes ” good teaching and learning ” and it seems that expecting to define only one version of that and make it available everywhere is the “basic error” of the public schooling model that we’ve known for a long time.

    In an earlier era just getting some public education to everyone was a tremendous achievement. We know more now, and parents have higher standards than just “some kind of free public education.” I believe that one of the things that we know now is that in many areas we don’t know what will be best for a particular child and family, and that as a result pedagogical diversity is essential to quality.

    The old idea of “quality” as “deviation control” in the factory production sense is of limited utility when we are dealing with human life trajectories. Most of the standards discourse at the national level is still oriented around that kind of nonsense (I do believe it to be deeply nonsensical), and many of us parents don’t want our kids to even participate in the testing and deviance control system, particularly at the elementary level, because we believe it is inconsistent with quality.

    So the way that charters can help is by demonstrating that public education does not have to follow standard pedagogical models and standard deviance control approaches, and by showing that there is a demand for schools that follow that path. And the way, it seems to me, that school systems can learn from the charter schools is by not only looking at WHAT they do, but in looking at ways to enable schools to invent, on a school by school basis, unfettered by central school board dictates or national educational fads, THEIR OWN educational experiences that reflect the school leadership’s deeply held beliefs about what constitutes good pedagogy, and by successfully marketing that to the people of their communities.

    So of course charter schools, under siege and widely disliked by the establishment, cannot bring quality to everyone themselves, but they do suggest a path for school systems to do that, and in that sense, they show HOW to bring quality education to everyone. But perhaps that will only make sense if one is willing to surrender the idea that quality is associated with standardization and deviance control, among students and among schools.

    If school systems find such ideas too threatening… well surely they can at least allow charters to serve those who see the world this way in peace.

    (And no, I’m not an anarchist nor urging anarchy on anyone else. There are places for controls and laws and rules, but order and “good education” is also an emergent property of complex well-functioning social systems, and not exclusively something that is imposed from above…. )

  113. Comment from Rose:

    Peter, you are right to call me out on romanticizing the past.

    I’m not trying to say in the past a school like Ockley was perfect. But I will say this: in general, PPS used to be better for poor and minority kids.

    Why? Because before we had school “choice” most kids attended their neighborhood schools. In North that meant Ockley. As a result, there were more opportunities. We had a famous marching band, great basketball, college prep classes, the dreamers….all are gone now, the result of budget cuts and school choice.

    As Steve has so well demonstrated, school choice has stripped many schools of their wealthier students. Now Ockley is a largely poor minority school floating in a gentrifying neighborhood where most white parents send their kids Somewhere Else.

    We don’t need to discuss how much this hurts a school and hurts the students left behind.

    What frustrates me in charter debates is how often the discussion turns to the white students who are leaving (how important their education is and why we need to maintain this preferential system) and not on the students left behind.

    I am someone who benefited intensely from Portland public schools. I experienced profound neglect as a child, and it was public school teachers who gave me clothes, treated my lice and ringworm, and took me to their homes for showers. My mom’s boyfriend was a pimp and armed robber (I’m not kidding).

    It was a public school teacher who encouraged me to write short stories, and she entered one in a contest. I’ll never forget the magical moment when I was eleven and she told me I had won. The prize was a typewriter! It never would have occurred to me that someone from my background could become a writer.

    When I hear people say they became educated despite their education, I understand it, but I think it also speaks of a certain impossible standard. Is it even possible to invent an education that is perfect for every child? If people become educated, isn’t that the goal?

    I think part of the problem here is what PPS Expat is talking about, a selective complaint culture.

    Mike, I respect what you are saying, but I don’t think a separatist attitude serves education, especially the education of our entire community, and not just those with the ability to attend charters. What might seem to work at Trillium (what is the evidence? The long-term studies? The follow-up?) will not work at Ockley because we are dealing with a much different population, stresses, and needs.

  114. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Rose, peace. And how cool to win a typewriter. How cool is that?

    To the newcomers… I am an alum of Harvey Scott (which was then, as it is now, K-8), class of ’78, and Madison High, class of ’82. Here is the best way I’ve found to explain the difference between what we had then and what we’re denying our children now: We didn’t know how poor we were.

    No, I’m not romanticizing, but we had what are now being called “extras” — for grade school this meant shop, home ec, extra-curricular work if we were above grade level, music, talent shows, all that. I got to do a program called CATCH (funded by the Comprehensive Employment & Training Act) and learned to build bridges and trails in the woods once a week, throughout the school year.

    We went to Larch Mountain every Wednesday. In the fall and spring we gave tours to grade school kids who were on field trips. It saved me, that program. Seriously “caught” me.

    For high school we were offered theater, music, band, choir, Latin, French, German, Spanish, AP and honors courses, on and on — plus FOCUS, the alternative program. I don’t know how big my freshman class was, but there were nearly 400 of us who graduated, so they were doing something right.

    There was also a group called the Mad Dads. They raised money and did a bunch of projects. Maybe y’all ought to form something similar? :)

  115. Comment from Dorsai:

    PPSexpatriate, Nancy R, Rose – I agree that racism, in our society, is an issue, and I’m sure that it informs the choices that many people make regarding what schools they choose to send their children to. I have voiced my skepticism with the strawman that racism is a significant driver for people to choose charter schools. I’m sure there is a subconscious bias towards a school that has skin colors that looks like ones’ own children, but this is distincitly different from an overt racial agenda to avoid minorities by entering ones’ children into a charter school.

    As I’ve said previously, every charter or magnet school presentation I’ve been to has talked about what they’re trying to do to bring in minorities (often without effect, as we’ve discussed), and every parent I’ve talked to who has children in charters has spoken positively about the idea of getting more minorities into the charters. Admittedly, this is anecdotal, but I’d like to point out that the experiences described by Nancy R and Rose are equally anecdotal.

    Until there is more solid evidence that racism is a driver behind charters, I’d be grateful if we could avoid using this as a strawman.

    It seems to me that the issue is still “draining the cream” – NOT racism. I don’t deny that racism is a problem, but charters do not deserve to be punished because they intentionally further a racist agenda.

    I know two parents who have children of color at Trillium, and both have spoken about how positive Trillium has been for their children. If there’s been a problem, I haven’t seen it or heard about it. Though again, this is anecdotal. Knowing that two minority children have had positive experiences at a charter isn’t conclusive – but I’m trying to counterbalance the anecdotes that people keep raising about the weaknesses of charters for minorities.

    Rose, I am hearing that you feel passionately that the overall racist IMPACT of charters is what’s most important, regardless of charter parents’ racism (or lack thereof). I also hear your frustration that the use of your tax dollars to support a separate-but-equal (irony intended) system of charters is unjust.

    What I hope you can hear in my voice (and the voice of some other charter parents here) is that we have chosen charters because of the alternative teaching models, not because we want our children to be in a school with fewer minorities.

    Unfortunately, this is a zero-sum game. Charter parents’ interest in alternative teaching methodologies competes with minorities’ interest in having schools which include a more diverse, representative local school which includes students across the socio-economic spectrum.

    Err, I hate to say this, but can’t we just get along? Isn’t there a middle ground which supports greater diversity in schools and some respect for alternative teaching modalities? Zero-sum game doesn’t mean either/or.

    If there were a way that minority (or below-poverty-line) students had a better/different/more flexible way to attend charters, would that make charters more acceptable? If regular public schools had a way to introduce and support alternative teaching regimes, would charters be as desired by those kooky people (myself included) who are leary of rigid teaching regimes?

    Peter, I really appreciate your interest in seeking out a middle ground which supports those who dislike charters’ drain on the rest of the public schools, those who are appalled by the racism of the system, and those who want an alternative teaching structure for their children. I’d be interested in seeing what would happen if all of the folks on this board sat down in a room and brainstormed some alternative schooling structures.

    Terry, I have friends who are PPS teachers in the union and are appalled with what the union does to protect inadequate teachers, and others who love the way the union has given them a predictable structure that they can leverage to protect their careers and income. There are pluses and minuses to unions. And I say that as someone who grew up in the rust belt and believe that, in general, unions are a force for good. But I also believe that having all teachers in a single union doesn’t give us the flexibility we need in our educational system. I’m also not confident that the charters, with their reduced funding levels, could afford to unionize, so am willing to postpone that fight until later.

    Terry, Steve and ohme, it sounds like you feel strongly that the overall good of all students is the most important goal, and that having boutique charter/focus schools will always detract from that goal. Is there an alternative structure that you can imagine that would give my child some form of alternative teaching modality (constructivist et al.,) while still meeting your goal of overall improvement?

  116. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    From the Constitution (Madison’s student paper):

    “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.“
    -Howard Thurman

  117. Comment from Rose:


    I appreciate your courage in identifying this issue. You put in words what I have been thinking: that the drive for school choice is in direct competition with the needs of minority and poor kids.

    Is there a middle ground? I doubt it. Portland politics seem driven by trends and money. We pay lip service to diversity in this city but in the end, minorities get the short end of the stick.

    Again, I don’t think parents go to Trillium thinking, “Aha! I found the white hippie Aryan Nation. Go me!” Of course not. But does the teaching philosophy of Trillium reflect the desires of a largely white liberal select culture? It does. Does the school use application systems that rule out many poor kids? It does.

    And the bigger issue, as you have identified, is Trillium is operating inside a larger system based on faulty premises. Like choice.

    As we’ve discussed here, I don’t see any way around the barriers imposed by school choice and charters. Someone will always be left out, and that someone will probably be brown, black or poor.

    So the short answer is, we need to bite the bullet. We need to get rid of school choice.

    After all the outrage and crying, I think we would find that a) parental threats to leave the state and move to Alaska just because they hate, hate, hate their neighborhood school are unfounded b) parental threats that they will move because they hate, hate, hate their neighborhood school are equally unfounded.

    Most parents would send their kids to local schools, like they used to, and the offerings and support would dramatically increase, like wacky mom says.

    The end result would be a lot more equity. And I think that should be our goal.

  118. Comment from mneloa:

    No kidding, this has gone wild. I’ve got to put off
    reading or my dishes won’t get washed.

  119. Comment from Dorsai:


    Thanks for the positive feedback. I’d like to think that a group of us (and it seems like there is a large group here capable of discussing something that is a very charged subject in a very friendly manner) could come up with a middle ground.

    But, it sounds like you feel that the only way out is the abolition of school choice.

    OK, with that as the starting point, what are the ways that you think the neighborhood schools could address the needs of those of us who are frustrated with the teaching modalities of the current school system.

    I’m not sure I can come up with a good recommendation to make it work, precisely because I’m so frustrated with the current general PPS teaching structures that I have a hard time recognizing those structures that do work effectively.

    What are the elements of the current school system that could be best adapted for those of us who believe in a constructivist (or other non-traditional) teaching opportunity for our children?

    Mind you, I haven’t given up my belief that we could find a middle ground that doesn’t involve the abolition of choice – but I’m open to being convinced – particularly if you can help me see a structure that meets my (and others’) needs within the current (or a future) school system.

    Thanks for listening.

  120. Comment from Dorsai:

    I’d also like to take back a previous paragraph I wrote. I think it unfairly makes this a “minority versus alterna-school” division.

    Where I said “Charter parents’ interest in alternative teaching methodologies competes with minorities’ interest in having schools which include a more diverse, representative local school which includes students across the socio-economic spectrum.”

    I should have said: “Charter parents’ interest in alternative teaching methodologies competes with everyone’s interest in having schools which include a more diverse, representative local school containing students across the socio-economic spectrum.”

  121. Comment from Stephanie:

    I know this has been brought up already several times in this thread but feel the need to inject it back in.
    What about the students who care about their education but have no one looking out for them?
    What about the students who don’t care and have parents that don’t care?
    These kids are the rule not the exception in PPS.
    At the school board meeting a Roosevelt student briefly started crying when she talked about a trip they were able to go on to learn about segregation and diversity in Alabama. Her emotion was triggered by her school’s reputation. Her passionate plea to the board was to look beyond test scores and look at the people and their accomplishments. I can’t remember her exact words but she said that the students that are not passing the tests are still good students working hard and she wished people would respect her school.
    The charter option is simply not an option for the profiles I listed above. How is that motivated student going to drag their parent in to attend all of the mandatory meetings and then actually get them to fill out the paperwork AND then if accepted drive them to school too? Even the parents that care but work full-time still can’t make those meetings. Single parents, grandparents raising their grandkids, parents with mental illness, homeless kids. What about pride? I would not go to a school weighted to accept my kid because of her disability because then you have to deal with the haters who say they are not racist but then murmur about protected classes. I am not casting judgement on people who have chosen charters and I certainly think the reasons why you chose it are valid. The fact of the matter is that with sibling preference, no transportation, mandatory meetings, limited slots, and savvy parents with flexible schedules being a rarity the charters will not meet their diversity requirements. All schools need to be choice schools and perhaps the charters can chug along as is doing their best to decrease barriers to participation and engage more diverse families but we just move on and work on the public schools. My disclaimer though is that I have not formed a solid opinion yet about charters really but am happy to read the dialogue and let the information simmer. I visited PVS for an open house and applied for my daughter just to see what would happen but decided I would reject it if she got in (she didn’t). This was based on a teacher telling me they were limiting IEP’s when I asked about her experience and the conversations of the parents around me disgusted me. They were desperate, angry, and oppositional. I left there feeling that a school in my neighborhood (to be fair I transferred away from Chief Jo to Ockley based on vibes and Chief Jo having a bad rep in disability circles) would be better for my family because my energy and drive to facillitate parent involvement would be better served where it was needed and appreciated. My experience with IEP’s colored my decision as well because I knew I would need to augment my daughter’s education at home anyway and be actively engaged with the teacher. I must say it was a pleasure to show up that first day and see a classroom that looked exactly like I envisioned for my daughter with a variety of cultures, colors, and backgrounds.

  122. Comment from Stephanie:

    Rose – looks like I was formulating my post while yours went through, thanks for being my partner in crime :)

  123. Comment from Rose:

    Hi Dorsai,

    Thank you for the response. I agree with your correction, too.

    I’m imagining what would happen if we abolished school choice tomorrow, ka-BLAM.

    So parents like you, Mike and Peter ended up in your neighborhood school. For some schools this would mean literally hundreds of new students.

    The first year, yeah it would be rocky. No denying it. The schools would suddenly benefit from thousands of dollars for each student, not to mention all the new teachers necessary. After years of scaling down suddenly buildings would explode back to their original use.

    You asked how this would incorporate your philosophy. I think most teachers are sick and tired of all the testing and would welcome a vocal group of parents opposed to it, and in my experience, classrooms are much more malleable than anyone wants to admit. In short, it is not hard to create the systems we want inside public education.

    You don’t like the tests? Don’t do them. Years ago I exempted my daughter from the tests. I didn’t ask. I just did.

    You want something different? Just ask. My daughter, in 8th grade, helps out in the K room, because I asked. I think it is good for her and good for the K students.

    Another year I took my daughter out half day to go to a tutoring class. Again I didn’t ask, I just did it.

    From what I have heard about Trillium, from parents with kids there, much of the same is happening in regular schools. Only we don’t call it non-traditional learning, we call just what happened that day :)

  124. Comment from Dorsai:


    I agree wholeheartedly that the current charter application process is balanced against foster parents, minorities, single parents, and other groups. I’m not saying (and I don’t think anyone here has said) that we like the way the charter application process works.

    What do you propose as an alternate solution that would make it easier for those groups with significant time/distance/other challenges to apply for charters?

    I’m very sorry to hear about your negative experience regarding students with IEP’s at charters. My neighbor whose son goes to Creative Science (with an IEP) is overjoyed with how well they’ve accepted him, how well he’s doing in school, and how supportive the staff were of his IEP during the application process. I wish that you’d had a chance to experience what she did.


    I suspect that we may be seeing things a little bit differently regarding teaching styles. Constructivist or project-based teaching philosophy (for example) doesn’t just mean the flexibility to have our child teach another class, skip a test, or attend an outside tutor. To us it means a much more fundamental change in how children are taught.

    The rigorous drilling and regimented curriculum that lives in most PPS schools is a world apart from what lives in a well-developed constructivist school like Creative Science – and parent involvement isn’t enough to make it happen. There has to be a significant shift in the teachers’ way of thinking, teaching, and supporting students.

    The ka-BLAM transition you describe would be an enormous boon for public schools shrunk by school choice, but I don’t quite understand how it will give Mike, Peter, and I a decent chance of ensuring that our children manage to avoid a “traditional” teacher and end up in a constructivist (or other alternative) classroom.

    Please keep in mind, I grew up in a traditional classroom, hated/was bored by the vast majority of it, and ended up doing quite well (I think). But from my perspective then and now, those were 12 largely wasted years. I have seen that there are better ways to teach and learn, and I’d like my children to have a shot of experiencing that.

    I guess the question I have is – what’s the best way for us to ensure that we could fold an alternative curriculum into a neighborhood school after the ka-BLAM?

    If there’s no way to answer that question effectively, then parents like Mike, Peter, and myself, and our children will be left out of the solution.

    I understand that many people here feel fairly strongly that our children would do fine in the traditional classroom environment, if properly supported, but we feel equally strongly that this is not the case.

    How do you assuage our fears? If we can come up with a solution together which addresses our fears and meets our desires for our children, then we have a potential solution.


  125. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    I don’t understand the claim that the charter application process is “biased against foster parents, minorities, single parents, and other groups.” I could understand that if there were evidence that parents, guardians, and children were denied admission to charters based on those characteristics. And if that were happening, I would speak against it. But how does a lottery introduce such bias?

    Even if admission to all public schools were completely open, not all parents/guardians would be able to get their children to all schools.

    The way we allocate resources to schools now is deeply flawed because it sends more resources to more advantaged areas (even the Title I funding stream does this because it allocates funds according to how much money the state/district send and poor schools have less money to start with). There are solutions to this (eg send the money to schools with children who need it the most)that are more direct than trying to remake society. It seems like public education should be the first agency pressing for these reforms, but it isn’t.

  126. Comment from Mike:

    Rose, You say:

    “Mike, I respect what you are saying, but I don’t think a separatist attitude serves education, especially the education of our entire community, and not just those with the ability to attend charters. What might seem to work at Trillium (what is the evidence? The long-term studies? The follow-up?) will not work at Ockley because we are dealing with a much different population, stresses, and needs.”

    I’m sorry you think my attitude is separatist. It’s a strong accusation, just sort of “racism”. I don’t think it is justified by the school my kids attend or by anything I’ve said.

    I don’t know what “abilities” you think are required to attend charters, but in our case the only ability we had was to read that a new charter was opening and sign up for it. My understanding is that admission to my particular charter school is by lottery, which sounds to be about as blind and neutral a process as I can imagine.

    The question is not whether Trillium style would be right for the students at Ockley, but what Ockley and each school should become to be right for its community and to implement the educational ideas and practices that it believes will make a difference. Instead of telling me that Trillium is not what you want (it sounds like you don’t think its methods meet your requirements for scientifically validated teaching methods, which is a reasonable position), why not tell me what kind of pedagogy you do want at Ockley?

    Rather than in engaging in a discussion of education and teaching, you seem to operate from the assumption that demographics are destiny. I want and have a socioeconomically mixed school, but that doesn’t begin to deal with the question of what kind of education you and I want for our children. Socioeconomics (including race) are just one part of the mix of what makes a good school. To elevate it to the top, and to discuss only that issue, seems to miss the boat.

    You seem to be describing charters as a way to get you and damage your community, and those who are involved in them as some how on board with this agenda. It’s a strong point in emotional terms, sure to get people angry, but I don’t see that it connects to what charters are really doing or to the choices that parents like myself are consciously making.

    As far as I’m concerned our family’s approach to education and school are “leadership” choices. I’m stepping up to the plate not only for my children, but for all children and communities, by supporting a better kind of education at an innovative kind of school. It’s not about charters, it’s about education. I want for you, and for all communities, what I have for myself. Furthermore, I’m taking risks with a new school.

    I’m advocating for the kind of direction represented by my school, and I’m proud of what I’m doing. I’m not separating, I’m not running away, I’m not turning my back. I’m trying to lead by example. I don’t know exactly how the educational experiment I’m involved in will filter out to other schools, but I’m proud to be involved in supporting it and hope that it will be helpful to you and to all students.

  127. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Kudos to everyone for going toe-to-toe without getting nasty. Let’s hear it for engaged civil discourse! Woot-woot! :-)

    I’d like to clarify a couple things just so we can more clearly identify the problems with charters. There are LOTS of problems, but some of the problems mentioned are not 100% accurate. So allow me to clarify:

    1) Rose wrote, “But does the teaching philosophy of Trillium reflect the desires of a largely white liberal select culture? It does.”

    I think this is an incredibly complicated issue, but I don’t agree with this as a general statement. For example, Obama sent his kids to a very progressive school in Chicago called The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (referred to as “the Lab School.”) John Dewey, arguably the godfather of progressive education, founded the school. Langston Hughes, the famous black playwrite, taught there, as did Vivian Paley. Paley is one of my heroes and is as progressive and constructivst and play-centered as the day is long. I think the issue here is class as opposed to race, i.e., the pedagogical approach taken by the charters appeals disproportionately to middle and upper income people, regardless of race.

    That said, do you know who Deborah Meier is? Deb is also a fairly well-known progressive educator. In 1974, Meier became the founder and director of the alternative Central Park East school, which embraced progressive ideals in the tradition of Dewey in an effort to provide better education for low-income children of color in East Harlem, within the New York City public school system. The success of these schools has been documented in David Bensman’s book Central Park East and its Graduates: Learning by Heart (2000), and in Frederick Wiseman’s documentary film, “High School II” (1994). In 1987 Meier received a MacArthur Fellowship for her efforts.

    Here’s my gut feeling: if more low-income folks and more low-income minorities knew about Dewey, Meier, et al, they would be interested in the approach taken. But, as I said, most people — regardless of race or class – don’t know about the tenets behind progressive education. Part of what I do as an activist is promote these ideas so that more people can know about them.

    2) Rose also said, “Does the school use application systems that rule out many poor kids? It does.”

    I went through the application process for 4 charters. I had to attend a mandatory meeting for 3 of them. The 4th — Opal — held a mandatory meeting after the lottery was held. I found this extremely weird — how was I supposed to ask questions about the school? But I didn’t mind going to the other 3 because I wanted to learn more about the schools. I suspect that any parent who wanted to send their kid to a charter would want to find out more about it. So I think the accusation that the mandatory meetings are a barrier to entry is slightly misleading.

    As for the application process, I had to fill out my name and address. That was it. So, again, a stretch to say that the application process is a barrier to entry.

    All this said, having to drive your kid across the district to attend IS definitely a barrier to entry for low-income families. Being one of a handful of low-income kids is also a barrier to entry. Charters, if they are to remain in PPS, have to figure out transportation and have to be more welcoming.

    How can they do this? Thoughts?

  128. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Yes, thanks for everyone keeping it civil.

    Peter, I want to get back to some basics. Instead of “how can we make charters more welcoming,” I still want to know how charters can contribute to educational equity for all students in PPS.

    I’ve said (and Mike seems to agree in part) that the only way they can contribute is by serving as labs for innovation. Terry took the piss out of that argument, and I think he has a point… we already know what works; we just have to implement it.

    So: If we are talking about the greater common good (which is the mission of this Web site), what’s the role of charters? Do we charterize the entire district, like they’re doing in New Orleans?

    Our experiments with site-based autonomy and free market “school choice” have been disastrous for poor and minority neighborhoods in Portland, and the even more extreme, mostly charter experiment is not going so well for the poor folks left in the Big Easy from what I’ve read, either.

    I have no doubt that some charters model superior pedagogy, so I don’t really want to debate that. The question is: How do we get that pedagogy to all PPS students? (Hint: I don’t think charters are the answer. ;) )

  129. Comment from Rose:

    Peter, you asked how charter applications are barriers to poorer families.

    You have to think of this in terms of a parent without your resources. You clearly have a car, don’t work nights, have childcare, and speak English, and other abilities which make going to 4 mandatory meetings almost an entire year before your child might attend a given school a viable option.

    Think about this process for a parent without those resources. There are many parents without cars, without computers, and with limited English.

    There are foster parents who don’t know next week who might land on their doorstep, their age or what grade they would be applying for. You can’t very well apply in advance for “Mystery foster child X, who might be ages 6 thru 12.”

    The process you found easy might be very difficult for some parents, and impossible for others. (Pretend you work at Walmart and your boss won’t let you have the night off for the meeting, for instance).

    I have a Trillium application and I’ll disagree it only requires a name and address. It also requires identifying if your child has an IEP and what services they need. I’m not sure why the school would want this info in advance if they are using a blind lottery.

    I agree with Steve that the goal is to bring equity to PPS.

    School choice brings more choice to some parents, and at the expense of poor and minority children. I think the evidence that Steve and others have gathered makes this pretty clear.

  130. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Rose – thanks for the clarification on the application. I don’t know how that information is used. I’ll find out. And I agree that the scenarios you sketch out do, indeed, present greater obstacles to low-income working families.

    Steve R. – agreed that charters are not the answer. And agreed with Terry that we already know what works, so why pretend that charters will teach us anything we don’t already know?

    But I’d like to go back to what Dorsai was saying. He (she?) wrote, “what’s the best way for us to ensure that we could fold an alternative curriculum into a neighborhood school after the ka-BLAM? If there’s no way to answer that question effectively, then parents like Mike, Peter, and myself, and our children will be left out of the solution. I understand that many people here feel fairly strongly that our children would do fine in the traditional classroom environment, if properly supported, but we feel equally strongly that this is not the case. How do you assuage our fears?”

    As I was saying, what if at the elementary level we designated at least one of the sections of a grade per school as constructivist, etc.? For example, if there are 3 sections of 2nd grade, one of the sections takes a constructivist-oriented approach.

    Dorsai and Mike – might this be a solution? I’d love, love, love to be part of my neighborhood school. If it could offer more recess, more art and music, not worry about norm-based benchmarks, emphasize a broad-based curriculum instead of focusing on reading and math skills, approach learning through thematic units, tie disciplines together instead of teaching them in discrete silos, allow kids to have a say in what they learn and how they learn it, is focused on going deep into areas that kids are excited about as opposed to racing through the material in an attempt to cover everything, and uses multiple forms of holistic assessment to determine what kids know and can do, then I’d be there in a heartbeat. Is this too much to ask?
    Yes, it is. It’s too much to ask because schools are subject to the federal law — NCLB. The unintended consequences of the federal law have been clearly documented: low-income schools focus on reading and math skills, art and music have been cut, recess has been nearly eliminated, assessment is focused on deficits and not strengths and only focuses on things that can be measured through standardized tests, and kids are allowed little or no say in what they learn and how they learn it. Since my neighborhood school is a low-income school, it can’t change to fit my needs because the federal law won’t let it.

    But I don’t think these are simply my needs. I think the kind of curriculum and pedagogy I’m talking about is what ALL kids need and deserve.

    Of course, the alternative is to push the district as a whole to tell the Feds to go f$#@ themselves and let our schools focus on teaching and learning, not test prep.

    Anyone interested in this?

  131. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Rose, just getting caught up and I want to comment on your #113 post. The worse education in lower income neighborhoods is not, in my belief, only about budget cuts. It is also about who has been running the school district and controlling the school board for the last several years. Back in the old days every kids’ education was pretty much equally important within the district. And this created a form of equity, if not perfect, still way, way superior to what we have now.

    Everything is different now, Stand for Children and the School Foundation have for the last several years made sure that the upper income and middle income neighborhood schools have a superior education to the rest of the city. They have done it by making sure people with attitudes that favor Grant, Wilson, Lincoln, and Cleveland are in the leadership positions in the district, both on the board and in the administration — one follows the other. I only bring this up because it is a correctible problem. Thanks for your good comments!

  132. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Peter, test prep. I am advocating putting limits on it. This doesn’t solve the problem, but it does offer a politically possible solution. Seems to me it is important often to focus on what could be done.

  133. Comment from ohme:

    Yes, the changes in Portland Public Schools needs to be at he pedagogical level. It requires schools, curriculum, teachers, standards, to move from teaching to learning. Not just what a child is supposed to learn, but HOW they learn. We are seeing a shift in HOW our children are learning, but no shift in teaching. I think the reason why charters and focus options are attractive: they see the whole child, not just the standards and the scores. At the district and state level, leadership is caught up in federal budgets and budgets are based off of standards and scores with our current educational legislation. These larger forces do not see the child, but they do impact the child.
    It is small wonder that parents may want to escape the results of these political decisions through small autonomous schools. However, in the past these were private schools. There has been a shift in thinking to offer the benefits of private school with public money. So public money leaves public schools. Public schools suffer. Please do not get angry at this statement. I have seen what schools look like when students from involved families are no longer there. We are concentrating poverty and race in this city-that is a fact. Focus options, charters, and open enrollment are contributing to this reality.
    How to change? I do not have the answer, as the intelligent, well-spoken folks on this blog do not have the answer. But we need to start looking at a way to make public, neighborhood schools places where all children can learn in their best way. I do it in my classroom. It can be done in many more.

  134. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    I don’t think that we are in a place in this discussion where myself, Rose and others have to explain to right-minded folks about racism, ableism and schools only to have our experiences dismissed as “strawman” argument by people who clearly have not had a kid harmed by it in this very school system. It is insulting and hurtful.

    I am also incredulous at how some charter parents talk of being left out in the KABLAM scenario, without much action or “active concern” on behalf of all of the kids that are left out now. Every very personal anecdote shared is met with “I know …BUT . .. “

    I don’t understand why it is hard to figure out how the application and school processes are difficult for some parents and a barrier to full access. It seems the more time we have to explain that and other barriers, the less time we have to actually make a plan to address the very real inequities.

    I know someone very vested in alternative education who had an abysmal experience at Trillium and yes she used the big “R” word to describe her experience. She had a kid who attended MLC and she expected the school community to be equally welcoming and inclusive. I had cautioned her against Trillium, she felt that it matched her educational philosophy and that she was experienced in being a parent of color at alternative school. She made efforts to “be the change” but eventually gave up. The day she called to tell me how right I was, was a day I wished I’d been wrong.

    I’m sure even this anecdote will be met with suspicion, and then summarily dismissed. This was in the early years of Trillium, I hope that things have gotten better since then.

    I am reminded of folks who live in ethnically diverse neighborhoods yet never share a meal with someone of another ethnicity and then do a bunch of hand-wringing about how “white” or “homogenous” this or that event is. I had a friend who lived in newly gentrifying neighborhood. She did this revolutionary thing: she talked to her colorful mosaic of neighbors. Then she had a barbecue and invited everyone over, made accommodations for folks who ate differently than she and her family. Guess what? The neighbors came, felt welcome and stayed awhile.

    Empathy shouldn’t be this hard. Seeing how one benefits at another’s expense shouldn’t be this hard.

    No one is saying that anyone who chooses Trillium is bad (we clarified that a few times). We’re just saying own your piece of the status quo and work with us for children who are “left behind”.

  135. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Questions of what charter schools are and who they benefit are clearly appropriate.

    Charter schools provide people who have reasonable ideas on how to run schools and deliver curriculum with the chance to do so; at the same time charter schools provide parents who like the way the charter is run and the curriculum it delivers the opportunity to apply on behalf of their children.

    It seems to me that reasonable people can disagree about whether and how much the “greater common good” is served by the existence of charter schools. But “greater common good” can be a slippery construct. How much, for example, do basketball, football, and baseball programs serve the greater common good and how are we supposed to weigh their costs and benefits against the costs and benefits of charter schools, or against the costs and benefits of using funds allocated for sports for other purposes that would benefit more students?

    My children have never attended a charter school. I support the idea of charter schools, first, because I like new things and second, because I think charter schools have demonstrated their worth. There are problems with charter schools just as there are with other public schools. But I do not see how charter schools that are established and operated under the authority of public officials who are exercising due diligence compromise equity at all.

  136. Comment from Rose:

    Thank you for all the insightful comments, everyone.

    Steve Buel: Good point, you are right.

    Dorsai: I’m not sure of the answer. Perhaps it lies in Peters idea?

    Mike: I apologize for using the term separatist. I didn’t mean it in that context but I certainly see how it could be taken that way, and so I am sincerely sorry.

    Peter: I think your idea of offering a section in constructivist education is wonderful. That way families would be exposed to different methods while schools had time to adapt and see their benefits.

    PPSExpat: I agree, lets turn the discussion to helping the kids left behind.

    PPS Parent: You say you don’t see how charters are compromising equity. I think this has been addressed exhaustively, especially in the “creaming” aspect, so perhaps it would be better to ask you this: how do you personally define equity? Do you think the differences between Ockley and, say, Village, are equitable?

  137. Comment from Dorsai:


    I’m very sorry that my frequently voiced frustration with strawmen stung. I should have been more clear.

    The primary strawman which frustrated me was the assertion that parents chose charters because of the lack of minorities there, implying that charter parents are racists. I’m glad that you agree that people who chose Trillium aren’t bad because of it.

    I did not mean to dismiss your other concerns as a strawman. I believe that racism, classism, sexism, and ablism are very real in PPS, and that the negative impact of charters is falls heaviest on those local schools that are in primarily minority neighborhoods. I agree with that statement.

    I have not had your experiences, and I’m doing my best to stay empathetic in order to learn from what you, Rose, ohme, and others have shared and experienced (regardless whether 3rd party or personal anecdotes).

    Where I draw the line is when anecdotes are used to generalize the situation for all children, all people, or all schools. Your experiences (and the negative experiences of 3rd parties you’ve shared) were very real for you, and deserve to be taken seriously, and not dismissed. But I ask you not to dismiss the anecdotes that I raised to illustrate that your anecdotes aren’t necessarily universal experiences. Generalizing from anecdotal experience is something I’d really like to avoid, if possible

    I do also ask that you not dismiss my interest in my child’s well being as equivalent to not being actively involved in local schools success, or otherwise “leaving people behind.”

    I volunteer for a local non-profit that provides some supplemental school education, have done volunteer teaching at regional local schools, and don’t believe that it’s OK for me to smugly sit on my laurels while my child attends a charter school. I don’t want a solution that leaves some students behind. That’s why I’m engaged in this discussion, and why I’m even considering accepting a solution that removes charters altogether. I want this to work for all of us.

    I have a debt that I will owe to all people who’ve struggled with a biased system. That debt can never be repayed, nor can I ever truly understand how it’s impacted minorities, differently-abled-people, people of different class – because I’m not one of them.

    All of this doesn’t erase the fact that I’m very interested in hearing from you, Rose, and ohme how we can structure a public school that meets my child’s needs (and Peter’s, and Mike’s) and addresses our concerns about public education, while at the same time also meeting all of our goals for better equity for all PPS students.

    Peter, I like your idea of integrating constructivist education into local schools, but we would need to structure it in a way that will avoid ending up with racial/socio-economic divisions within the school, replicating the problem all over again on a smaller scale. I know that the charters that shared school space with other schools had a hard time avoiding an “us versus them” feeling. I’m sure there’s a way to structure it appropriately, we just need to be careful.

    Steve, I hear again your assertion that charters aren’t the answer, and I want to point out that our goal isn’t to replace PPS pegagogy with charter pedagogy. It’s to give those parents who chose, or need, alternative instructional models, the ability to access them. If you don’t meet that need, then I still believe you’ll fail to meet your goal to achieve equity across all schools.

  138. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Rose … I have never been to Village and it has been many years since I have been in Ockley, so I can not comment on how those schools are different, let alone on what inequities the differences may or may not reflect. There are parts of PPS that I know much better than others, both from the time that I worked in PPS and from my experience with the schools attended by my children – those schools include three different elementary schools, two different middle schools, and four different high schools.

    I don’t agree with the “creaming”argument at all, for lots of reasons, but mostly because I simply do not believe that some children are more valuable to schools than other children. As a result, I don’t worry that schools lose when some children move to other schools.

    I can’t offer you a personal definition of educational equity, but I can tell you what I think are the most important ways that public education can be made more equitable. First, we need to fix the ways we fund schools so more resources go to schools that need them the most. Second, we need to fix teaching so that poor children and minority children get taught the same things at the same level as well-off children.

    Notice that I didn’t mention charters as essential to either. For me, charters that work well are just one more good choice available to parents.

  139. Comment from Mike:

    Rose: Thank you.

    Final (?) thoughts. A comment in Slate put this discussion in context for me. Parents are debating the ethics of putting their kids in private schools ( ), and here I am being criticized for keeping my kid in a public school, because it is the wrong kind of public school. It’s a head shaking moment, and one that makes me wonder what we are doing in a public school at all. Maybe I should be trying to figure out how to scrape together money for private school. Maybe the message is “we don’t want your kind of family, your kind of ideas, do it like everyone else, or get out of town.” That’s certainly the lesson that many families have drawn from the kinds of attitudes we see expressed here. We bought a house in Portland because we held some hope about this place and its school system and the possibility of finding a place within it. It’s interesting to learn from this discussion and this blog that we who are participating in public education are part of the problem, while I suppose the parents who just moved out of town, out of district, or put their kids in private schools… well I guess they’ve gone completely to the dark side so we can ignore them. But people who can’t afford private school, and people who want to be part of the urban Portland world, and are actively concerned about progressive pedagogy… well they just have to decide “which side are you on boys, which side are you on.”

    The side I’m on is the side of my children, and the question isn’t just whether my ethics measure up to someone else’s schooling standards, but whether someone else’s schools measure up to my standards. I’d like to improve things jointly with other people in Portland, but if the system isn’t moving in a direction that works for my children, and if the best efforts to do that are condemned as anti-social and wrong headed, maybe I should find another way to give them the education I want for them. Why fight? Maybe that means moving, or home schooling or private school if possible (hard to see how) and then we’ll just disappear, and people can lump our family in the “white flight” category (imagining that it is about racism when in our case it has nothing to do with that.) On reflection, I find this whole discussion rather discouraging.

  140. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Mike, sorry you’ve taken this so personally. I’ve tried to keep things focused on public policy, not personal choices. That’s the reason I started this blog, to advocate for the greater common good, not to chastise people into choosing the “politically correct” options.

    I’m friends with Peter, who’s child attends Trillium, and who is an important contributor here. So obviously, we’re not trying to shame (or shut up) charter families.

    Mostly, I’m seeing respectful discussion about the proper place of charters, but I apologize if you feel I or anybody here has attacked you personally.

  141. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Mike – I find your perspective to be very valuable. Please hang in there and keep offering your angle on things. It’s extremely rare for people on both sides of this debate to engage each other without ripping each other apart. As the discussion here deepens, I think we might found more common ground. What do you think of my idea of integrating a constructivist-style section into a mainstream school?

    Dorsai and Rose – I’m glad you like this idea, and Dorsai — I appreciate your concerns about reproducing the status quo if we did such a thing, a feeling of “us vs. them” within the same school (I’m thinking of the ACCESS program within Sabin).

    But how do we overcome the (understandable) reluctance of PPS administration to do such a thing? I’d be esp. interested in hearing from ohme and Marcia on this, since they both offer perspectives from teachers. (Marcia – are you reading this??)

    To everyone – what do you think of my contention that all kids and families would benefit from a school that did the things I described? More recess for early elementary kids, more art and music, not worry about norm-based benchmarks and acknowledge that all kids learn differently and at their own pace, emphasize a broad-based curriculum instead of focusing on reading and math skills, approach learning through thematic units, tie disciplines together instead of teaching them in discrete silos, allow kids to have a say in what they learn and how they learn it, is focused on going deep into areas that kids are excited about as opposed to racing through the material in an attempt to cover everything, and uses multiple forms of holistic assessment to determine what kids know and can do.

  142. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Would also love to hear from Terry on the feasibility of integrating a constructivist-style pedagogy into a mainstream school. As Dorsai mentioned, Creative Science does this. Why can’t all schools do this?

    PPS_Expatriate, Rose, and Stephanie – what do you think? If all schools took the same approach as Creative Science, would this be offensive to you? Would it be attractive to you? Why or why not?

  143. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Some of the discussion between parents here reminds me of the interactions in Spike Lee’s great movie, “Crash,” where good people of different races and ethnicities crash together because of their preconceptions and habits as well as circumstances. The reason I bring this up is that whatever the merits of Campbell’s suggestions it is extremely difficult getting people moving in the same direction about educational choices. The discussion of charter schools points this up where some parents are saying that a charter school offered their child something better than he or she was getting before and other parents see that as somehow taking something away from their child or other children. The same dynamics would come into play to greater or lesser degree around each of Campbell’s suggestions.

    In any event, constructivist philosophy does not guarantee quality teaching. For example, constructivist approaches to teaching math so frustrated two of my PPS high schoolers that they pleaded to take math through the community college. The result: a 16 year old earned college credit in calculus.

  144. Comment from Mike:

    Nothing personal, and I don’t mean to overly personalize a policy issue.

  145. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Some comments from the inside.

    The emphasis on testing is the main thing killing creativity in the public schools. I have no doubts about that. The educational establishment has bought into the idea that there is actually a science of teaching based on educational “research”. There are certain principles that need to be followed. The most practical aspect of this approach is that it protects administrators because when the measuring stick of testing is brought to bear if you don’t measure up then you offer up a new program also backed, like the last one, by research. We are doing this now to correct the so-called problem of the never satisfactory testing gap. Fix that problem and maybe the public schools will open up again.

    When I first started teaching there was plenty of innovation going on in the public schools. Sure, there was a lot of the old pound it into their heads approach, but lots of creative things happening too. And what is the problem if different teachers use different approaches — don’t you have lots of different people you work for over your lifetime who use entirely different approaches? There is a reason the U.S. led the world in innovation to the huge degree it did. And a major part of it was the creativity public schools fostered.

  146. Comment from ohme:

    Peter, your paragraph on what all students could benefit from is perfect. I do wonder why it cannot be done…except the huge pressure of tests and NCLB. Although I have found from personal experience that when children get those things in the classroom, their scores actually improve, behavior improves, and school is a fun, learning filled place! Your idea of schools does not have to be a utopia; all children deserve a respectful, creative learning environment. Where do we begin?

  147. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    I guess what I don’t like is the belief that traditional schools are equivalent to baby prison. They certainly can be, but we have had some wonderfully creative teachers who have done amazing things in a traditional setting.

    Our first teacher in kindergarten was the most amazing teacher we ever had. She exposed the kids to so many complex concepts in such a simple way. I worked in that school district so I did hand pick her. And think that is the other issue, that parents have very little choice sometimes in any school.

    The thing that I have found different about Catholic Schools is that as a parent, teachers and administrators are more responsive and actually care about our children and families in a way that isn’t always a given elsewhere. The teaching staff at Ockley were wonderful, I cried when my kid was promoted. Wept actually. It was such a gift to have educators that knew our kids, and how to reach them.

    I guess I was really offended by the perception that Ockley is automatically deficient, when even Trillium parents concede that no school is without some difficulties.

    I would love more recess, especially when looking ar issues of inactivity for kids who may not have the resources to access organized sports.

    Paul Haggis did “Crash”, which was somewhat evocative of Spike Lee’s 1989 movie “Do the right thing”. The original resonates with me a little more than the knock-off.

  148. Comment from ohme:

    Going back to your remarks Peter, I think it IS possible to have different teaching philosophies within a grade level to give parents choice within a school. However, then the board needs to stop trying to standardize instruction like they did with this Scott Foresman nonsense. As an educator, I know where the students should be along the educational spectrum. What drives me crazy is being told HOW to get them there. It is the difference between curriculum and methodology, and I have a hard time explaining to other teachers that there is a BIG difference. Go ahead and give me the curriculum (materials), just don’t tell me how to present it (methodology).

    In the past, Portland teacher felt more freedom to make instructional choices and most schools were pretty well balanced. Parents could seek out a teacher that would match their students’ needs and learning and request them. Some of us still do what kids need even if it goes against current educational dogma, but I know I sometimes feel like I am “disobeying”. It can be quite repressive. So change will need to begin with district leadership understanding what parents and teachers need to help ALL student meet their full potential in the public schools.
    And what we need is NOT more canned curriculum and testing.

  149. Comment from Rita:

    Ok, I’m getting in on this late in the game, and I have admit to being a little intimidated by the 148 (!) previous comments.

    It’s all been very interesting and enlightening. But I’d like to highlight something that Wacky Mommy said way back in comment #114 where she outlined the range of “enrichment” activities (they weren’t called that then, of course) that were available in garden variety, plain old schools when she was a student. What struck me was that I suspect there isn’t a single school in the District — charter or otherwise — that can offer the kinds of experiences that were considered normal a generation ago. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think even the enviable schools with the “enriched” curricula really offer that range of stuff.

    So what happened?

    Is this all about declining money? How was it that we could do it then, but we can’t do it now? Are we seeing the impact of Measure 5? Or is it an artifact of some more fundamental revisioning of public education? When was it decided — and by whom — that kids don’t need or deserve some variety and fun?

    Maybe I’m betraying my ignorance here, but it just seems to me that most of the above comments are essentially lamenting the death of a liberal education and now we’re all just scrambling over the crumbs.

    I think it’s important to try to tease out when and why “the music died” so that we can at least attempt to reverse it.

    If it’s just a question of $$, then we can deal with that relatively easily. (everything is relative, mind you.) But I suspect that all the money in the world wouldn’t fix what’s wrong with public education these days because a liberal education is no longer considered the goal.

    Can somebody give me a ballpark chronology on when things started to change around here? Is it all about Measure 5 or was that more a symptom than a cause? What did dropout rates look like a generation ago?

  150. Comment from Terry:

    Peter, you ask what I think about your proposal for one “constructivist” section at each school, or at each grade level of every school.

    I’m not at all sure that doesn’t already happen, at least in some schools, as we speak.

    But I like to view ed reform in a much broader context, much as you put it in your comment 141, the one where you advocated “…learning through thematic units, tie [ing] disciplines together instead of teaching them in discrete silos… .”

    That’s the heart of real school reform. When integrated instruction is combined with structural changes like teaming and organizing students into small communities of learning, “mainstream” schools rapidly become the kinds of places for teacher-inspired innovation that we all look for in successful charter schools.

    That’s what I mean when I say that all schools should be granted ‘charters’ for innovation.

  151. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    ohme and Terry – I hearby appoint you Official Curriculum Reformists In Chief!

    ohme – given your vantage point from within a PPS school, what can be done to effect the kind of change I sketched out and which you supported? Does the push happen from the central office, from the board, from teachers, from parents, or a mass of citizen activists?

    Terry – same question, aimed at someone who was inside and now enjoys more freedom to be critical.

    I’d like to harvest all of these observations and wisdom and begin to put together an action plan. I’m sick of waiting.

    Be the change. I know . . .

  152. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Rita, measure 5 and NCLB (actually slightly before that in the “reform” brought about by Norma Paulus and Vera Katz). I know I have said this before, but if you go to my school in Evergreen we have more liberal education extras than PPS has ever had. We are loaded.

  153. Comment from Rose:

    Peter, I don’t have a problem with this approach. However, I have a few concerns.

    One is what I may be misunderstanding as a focus on the self-directed child. It is true that all children learn at their own paces, and do well to pursue their own passions.

    But others require direction and what might be called a big “tool basket” on the part of teachers, who can reach down into their training and see that one child is fine being self-directed while another needs specialized methods. For instance, one of my children could not learn math until she had a wonderful teacher trained in Touchpoint.

    So I would add we need to have teachers who are experienced in diverse needs and have the autonomy and support to help their students.

    My experience with principals is limited. But it does seem that if they can be assured methods raise test scores, that is all that counts.

    At one time one of my kids was going to a very expensive Lindamood program. I was chatting with the director and she told me had a sponsor willing to pay for the program to be placed in a low-income school. This was the same as literally thousands a month: three specialists working full time to help dyslexic kids.

    I put her in touch with the school my kids attended. The principal there seemed more than happy to get a free program. The specialists are still there, I believe. My point is I think principals are more than happy to have anything that will improve the draw of their school. This is especially true of low income schools.

    I think the main thing is to approach schools in a non-adversial way. Teachers have it hard enough, and in truth probably most would love to get away from all the testing.

  154. Comment from Mike:

    OK, here’s the problem with “Curriculum Reformists In Chief”. We can create committees and reports and reforms that change content, but real change is ultimately about power relationships, not just ideas.

    A charter based system is a “regulated competition” model… within a regulatory framework and funding levels, different schools come up with their own ideas about what constitutes good education. Their ability to persuade parents in a “marketplace of ideas” influences their ability to draw down funds for their school and their approach. No one is in charge of figuring out the right curriculum because there is no right curriculum to figure out, no final right answer to create the good school, and no one test against which all students and schools should be measured.

    The real struggle is between monopolies dominated by one school board and power center, versus distributed power centers loosely governed by regulatory principles and broad professional norms that recognize many good ways to educate kids, and many parental preferences for educating kids. In that diversity and the competition and cooperation between diverse perspectives is where a good total community approach to education lies (in my view, of course.)

    So I don’t care so much about whether my constructivist ideas about education are right or wrong in an absolute sense, and I’m not even convinced that that is a good or useful or answerable question.

    What I do care about is that the incentives are in place for schools to struggle to get pedagogy right and that I have sufficient choice to have a good chance of finding something that does work for my kids and for me.

    So, I don’t think just introducing a “constructivist” option into an existing school system really solves anything. That, like any educational idea, will just be eaten up and digested in the monopoly bureaucracy, another checkbox to be checked, another flavor of the month to bowed down to.

    The issue is why on the purchase of this most valuable of commodities/goods/services called education do we want most of the public to have only one supplier providing only one basic version of the product.

    Are we big enough as a nation/society to license more than one version of the educational product for “sale” in the marketplace. Or because we the taxpayers are paying for it, do we think that we have the right to define what the thing is “education, central school board version, and now with options A and B for discerning parents”, or can the regulatory hand be relaxed and the expenditure of public dollars for education take place in a way that allows many more flowers to bloom?

    It isn’t the commitment to DO something in pedagogy that I’d like to see in a structural sense, but the commitment to stop doing all sorts of things centrally, and to genuinely enable them to be decided and done locally. And as soon as you devolve that choice out to local schools you have to enable people to choose among more than one school lest their most local school not be compatible with their approach.

    So as much as I care about pegagogy as a parent, the issues for systemic reform and educational improvement involve backing off from pedagogy and every other kind of over arching theory of what must be at each school, and allowing innovation and creativity to bloom (within broad professional and regulatory guidelines… of course… as charter schools now face.)

    What PPS should do is look at making every school a charter school…. but I’m gonna guess that what I’m proposing would represent a threat to the central bureaucracy, and to a general mindset of command and control.

    The wise teacher lets her students free to discover… so would the wise school district let its schools free to invent.

    Of course this runs against deeply held authoritarian beliefs in our society, at the national level where some funding decisions are made, and against a whole perspective in social science that is dedicated to finding the one best way to educate…. and all of that in service of the idea that the purpose of our schools is to enable our children “to compete” in the world economy where everyone is working so much harder than us, etc. blah blah blah. There are so many problems with those attitudes that I’d better just stop here…. :-)

  155. Comment from Rose:


    My problem with the marketplace concept has been stated before:

    Some parents have less “dollars” to spend.

    As a parent, I might have lots of preferences for my children’s education.

    But if I am hampered by poverty, mobility, special needs, foster parenting, lack of English, and so forth, my preferences really don’t matter. What matters is the doors I see slamming in my face. Or worse, the doors I am never aware even exist.

    I had a funny conversation about charters the other night with another parent at Ockley. She is a grammy raising six (or is it seven?) of her grandkids. She is a real trooper. I asked her about the charters. You know what? She had never heard of them. Didn’t know what I was talking about! This is a woman who is feeding a brood on foodstamps and her social security. She doesn’t have time to “shop” for education.

    I think the entire marketplace concept, with the idea of different “suppliers,” as you state, is actually a more capitalistic system (with the richer benefiting more than the poor) than an equalized system designed to deliver the same to everyone.

    Or maybe I am a crazy socialist!

  156. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Mike, you talk about selling education in a marketplace, and rail against the state monopoly on schools.

    Those are libertarian/anarcho-capitalist concepts, which, arguably, have done a great deal of harm in recent years to the common schools model that was born of the Enlightenment.

    The state-run public school isn’t part of “the deeply held authoritarian beliefs in our society,” it is a critical, foundational democratic institution, an attempt to level the playing field.

    I’m amazed that people continue to have faith in the “invisible hand of the market” even as we witness the devastation it’s caused in global economy. We should have learned by now that market forces are very adept at transferring wealth upwards, and not much else.

    I’ve documented how free market enrollment policies and site-based autonomy in PPS have essentially eliminated comprehensive secondary education in our poorest neighborhoods, while preserving it in our wealthiest, whitest neighborhoods.

    At a certain point, as we learned during the civil rights era, a little central control is needed to make sure the least well off among us are taken care of. I’m not willing to trust that to the marketplace.

  157. Comment from Mike:


    My argument is clearly opposed to the invisible hand of the market – not sure how I could be clearer about that. But a well regulated market (unlike American banking, but rather like European banking) is the difference between schlerotic visions of socialism and contemporary models for social democracy. Don’t paint me or my views as some kind of Gingrichian republofascism – are there really any political theorists or practitioners outside of public education who believe that a single state controlled monopoly can produce a highly complex and personalized service adequately?

    Personalization is about leveling the playing field. Diversity is about leveling the playing field. In contrast handing everyone the same (metaphorical) textbook and saying “this is education, fit yourself to it” is about creating a playing field that only some can win on, and others will die on.

    We have a great deal more than just a “little” central control at the moment… from Washington and from downtown… administered in the name of national competitiveness and social justice… but serving what agenda really? Institutional self-preservation?

    Is it really intellectually honest to treat a call for a regulated educational market as a call for “anarcho-capitalism”? Do you think you might be over-reacting just a bit here? We’ve all been in agony was the Bush fascists have rampaged through our lives for 8 years, but that’s no reason to over-react and disparage a regulated approach to encouraging diversity and opportunity.

    I consider myself a socialist dedicated to getting socialism right. I appreciate what you are saying about people’s different abilities to be aware of and take advantage of opportunities that exist. It’s a real problem and I have personal professional experience with it.

    I think that there are fairly straightforward solutions to supporting the exercise of choice – direct education about options being the most obvious one. Another is by limiting choice to a range that most people can utilize. For example, wouldn’t it be a net plus if you could choose among the four nearest elementary schools? If you really didn’t know you had a choice, you would be assigned randomly, or to the nearest. The school could work with parents to help them understand that they had other neighborhood options with different approaches, if the parent came to care about such issues. Satisfying the needs of some for real choices doesn’t seem to me to have to come on the back of those who don’t have that need, or even that awareness.

    I would strongly object to he idea if some parents can’t exercise choice then others shouldn’t have it – help those who are having difficulty to exercise their choice, but don’t deny it to others.

    Between radical capitalism (Wall Street 2008) and radical state control of an entire domain of activity (public education, or defense) there is a vast middle ground of sensible regulation of economic and other activities to enable creativity and new approaches, and to mitigate problems of inequity that creep in.

    We’ve got such severe inequity problems now that people want to clamp down even harder on the state control direction… which will further drive away the middle class, ensuring that schools are perfectly equal and largely abandoned by the middle class. Loosening the grip, increasing the variation, and developing policies that enable lower income families to cope with the resulting complexity seems to be a far more hopeful scenario.

  158. Comment from Terry:

    The idea that public education is a “single state controlled monopoly” is not only a libertarian idea, it’s fundamentally wrong.

    Before the passage of Measure 5, which effectively transferred school funding to the state, all the school districts in Oregon were funded locally, with locally elected school boards determining school policy. So instead of one state entity, public education should be viewed as a multitude of local entities, some small, some large, each with a slightly different approach to the education of its children.

    Sure, the state set standards, but autonomy rather than conformity was the norm. And that’s still true of most school districts in the country.

    Now, of course, the state and the feds have intruded with demands for accountability. That’s a decidedly conservative and market-based trend.

  159. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Hawaii runs one statewide system of public education and states vary in the degree of responsibility they delegate to their districts.

    For the most part funds as well as regulations for public education involve local, state, and federal governments in what is sometimes a very confusing dance.

    There’s been a recent trend for states to assume more of the responsibility for funding schools. This arose largely out of desire to equalize somewhat inequities between wealthy areas and poor areas. Nationally, states provide around 48 percent of the funds for public education, localities around 44, and the feds kick in around 8 percent.

    Most people have no idea of how much public education costs and how funding for education has increased. For FY 2007, Funding was up 29 percent since 1995 and up about 56 percent since 1985. We currently spend around 600 billion on public education, and remember, that’s tax dollars – there are additional out-of-pocket expenses borne by families.

    Nothing is simple in educational policy and governance. Some of the strongest advocates for increasing state (and to some degree, federal) regulation of schools are liberals and progressives and civil rights organizations.

  160. Comment from Mike:

    Terry, The norm for public education is that in each district students have access to one school, and schools in that district follow a common curriculum. That sounds like a monopoly to me.

    Lots of variation doesn’t mean anything if you have to move your place of residence to exercise any choice. To suggest that it does is completely insensitive to low and middle income people who lack residential mobility options. Today, only those who can afford to move can exercise school choice in most settings… and that is the side you seem to be on. But your model is the model that leads to “white flight”, with the wealthier people adjusting their residential situations to meet their school needs.

    Simply calling charters libertarian (a political philosophy I will take issue with at every turn) does not make it so.

    In today’s Washington Post it is noted that the opposition to Charters is to a significant degree about power:

    ” School boards and superintendents see charter schools as a drain on students and funds and even as a challenge to their academic prestige, they say. Anytime you see a school board that is afraid of competition, they will invent any grounds that are needed to deny a charter application,” said Nelson Smith, president of the D.C.-based National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. ”

    Nothing is simple in education, but we should avoid facile labels.

  161. Comment from Ken:

    For the record, the Washington Post is owned by the Washington Post Company, which also owns Kaplan, one of the biggest testing/education for-profit groups out there. Kaplan is by far the company’s biggest source of revenue – far, far more than the newspaper. WaPo is hardly a rational voice in school reform. Melinda Gates also holds a seat on the WaPo’s board of directors and Bill recently paraded his version of school reform to the newspaper during an extensive visit. You cannot rail against testing while supporting the agenda consistently pushed by WaPo. The education your child receives is the absolute opposite of what WaPo and Gates promotes.

    Local school agencies and local communities oppose charter school reform for very good reasons. Claiming local agencies invent reasons to oppose charters indicates a kind of neointellectualism that divorces itself from ideology when ideology is absolutely always a factor. As you said above, you’re advocating market-based reforms – after all, market-based reforms worked for your family. They will not work for everyone. Public services cannot be commodified while ensuring a high degree of equality.

    Market-based reforms will push education equality in the wrong direction. I had difficulty convincing peers of this trajectory prior to the stock market crash (which was not just another Bush blunder – Clinton and Reagan had a lot to do with it along with a whole host of other characters). Market-based reform becomes a whole lot scarier under NCLB and high-stakes testing (another bipartisan law – Andrew J. Rotherham of Democrats For Education Reform, Edsector, the Progressive Policy Institute, and an Obama advisor even wrote an article called, “How Bush Stole Education,” in which the author noted the similarity to the New Democratic plan, vouchers excluded).

    NCLB embraced the market ideology with the open enrollment provisions for “failing” public schools, a policy that decimated the poorest schools (as documented on this site and elsewhere). In fact, I think Mike’s POV represents a different problem altogether: we’ve discussed pedagogy in our schools, yet no one has mentioned our public pedagogy, particularly relating to how we learn about school policy. Americans are quick to apply market-based solutions to any problem. We applied the logic of a regulated market to the healthcare industry and ended up with a mess of a situation. We’re trying to solve global climate change with market mechanisms. We broke the “monopoly” of the military and subcontracted out to private enterprises like Blackwater (now XE, and with a new $22 million contract in Iraq). It is one thing to apply the logic of the market to American Idol, another thing altogether to apply market mechanisms to public services. The erosion of truly public spaces for public good has been happening during the past 30 years.

    Open new schools, shut down old schools, expand charters, and do absolutely nothing about NCLB. I can tell you which schools this would affect: the schools located in the poorest neighborhoods of the country. Lincoln, West/East Sylvan, Bridlemile, Ainsworth, Forest Park, Chapman, Grant – those schools wouldn’t be touched. Some schools in NE and N Portland would be closed, others opened and then closed, reopened again…it’s the logic of the market. Opening a new school is a huge undertaking – building a school’s culture takes a long time. Consistent discipline, routines, expectations, culture, norms – these are not established overnight (unless you’d like KIPP, YES!, Edison, or the other charter chaingangs to move into Portland – and these are examples of the top-down hierarchies that we ALL agree are bad for local education). Shifting children around will not improve education.

    Mike and others interested in the market-based reform debate: search this site for an article called “PPS Student Teacher on Duncan in Counterpunch.” Not to toot my own horn, but I explored this idea much more thoroughly by looking at the Chicago schools (where Duncan worked before moving on to DC). We’re likely to hear a lot more about market-based reforms given the current administration’s feelings towards education. Fortunately, a solid group of proactive citizens can push back on the reform efforts driven by market forces. This site gives Portland the chance to communicate about education and increase awareness about education – a truly public service.

  162. Comment from Mike:

    Ken, You’ve really distorted what I’ve said. To tar me with the politics of the Washington Post is really below the belt. Do you doubt that Nelson Smith, president of the D.C.-based National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said what the Post says he said? I’m not relying on right wing Washington Post’s authority here… I’m pointing out what is at stake from the charter school perspective.

    I am clearly NOT advocating for market based reforms (such as vouchers). Please don’t attack straw men. I’m advocating for a “market place” of ideas in a regulated context, in which every student has equal “buying power” if we must use the economic analogy.

    We already HAVE an education market right now, and I and most people can’t afford to participate in it. It’s called “all the private schools that most people can’t begin to consider.”

    I’m advocating for public schools to provide the diversity that a market provides without the economic barriers that the current system erects to shut out me, and to shut out low income students.

    I think that if you give it any thought you’ll see that the nature of the “good” produced by defense spending and education spending are completely different. A monopoly on the means of violence is essential for a civilized society. A monopoly on the means of education is a quasi-totalitarian disaster…. and a society in which much of the society has access to diverse educational opportunities in expensive private schools, while the other sector is constrained to the services of an underfunded under-diverse under-innovating monopoly provider is even worse.

    You can try to paint my position as a “market forces” argument all day long, as a debate strategy, but if you want to talk about charter schools I think you’ll have to take a different approach.

    You’ve said nothing to refute the contention that this is all really about power, not pedagogy or children.

    I’d like to see public schooling recapture market share from private schools. Do you seriously think that that is just a matter of more money? If the product itself isn’t innovated and if the bureaucratic one-size mindset isn’t challenged, it won’t happen with twice the dollars.

  163. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    “Anarcho-capitalist” was an over-reaction, I’ll grant you. But I’ve never met a self-described socialist who wanted to apply market ideology to public education.

  164. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    NCLB requires districts and states to devote additional resources to schools that receive Title I funds and in which large numbers of children have fallen behind. There is nothing particularly market-oriented about that, if anything it’s bedrock liberal and progressive and common-sense, and it has been a cornerstone of federal education policy since ESEA was first enacted in 1965.

    All this nonsense about market-based operations in NCLB comes from the fact that NCLB offers choice to children in schools were large numbers of children have fallen behind and from the fact that one of the ultimate options for intervening in schools is turning over management of the school to outside agencies. This is where the hysteria about “privatization” comes from as well.

    The truth is that states have not been exactly racing to make changes to their schools for lots of reasons – they don’t know what to do, they don’t want to spend more money, they don’t want to take on responsibility for troubled schools, and they don’t want hassles from school employees who resist change.

    The Oregonian had an article a while back on the dodges that districts and schools are using to escape NCLB’s accountability requirements, for example, changing their grade configurations to declare themselves a new schools and restart the accountability clock. Some are even turning down Title I money, as unbelievable as that sounds.

    Last summer a bill was introduced in Congress that would have weakened NCLB’s accountability requirements. The reaction from America’s civil rights community was immediate, united, and direct in opposition.

  165. Comment from Mike:

    I don’t know if I measure up to the ideology of some socialist or social democratic party somewhere… but I refuse to equate socialism with stupidity – I think it has to do with equality on many levels, including the access of ALL to quality goods and services that today are the province of the rich and privileged private school families only.

    But socialism is just another label – don’t get hung up on it – engage with the ideas.

  166. Comment from Terry:

    A couple of more points, since many of the voices on this post seem completely divorced from school reality.

    Within a single school, even here in Portland, walking from classroom to classroom reveals an immense variation in pedagogical approaches. Despite the top-down mandates of district administrators, classroom teachers are notorious for their autonomy. Each brings a unique flavor and perspective to classroom interaction with students regardless of the texts used (or ignored) or the subject taught.

    So all the blather, if you’ll excuse the term, about regimentation, authoritarianism, one-size-fits-all rings false to this former classroom teacher. Only schools which adopt scripted curricula –like the infamous Arthur Academy “charter” schools– bear any resemblance to those characterizations.

    As a long time school reformer, I know the trick is to break down teacher autonomy –or classroom isolation– without stifling teacher creativity.

    And lastly (for now, anyway), what’s with all this unfounded and, to me, unfathomable praise of private schools as superior to their public counterparts? There is no evidence to support the notion that private is better than public either in terms of academics or the breadth of human experience each affords.

    Parochial schools are just that –parochial. Upper crust private schools may attract better students, but they hardly expose them to the “real” world they’ll likely encounter once they’ve finished school.

    In my opinion, there are probably only two or three private schools in the Portland area that are in any way academically superior to a well-funded traditional public school. What sort of option is that?

    I acknowledge that much work needs to be done to make public schools truly engaging places for learning. But in a democracy, what other choice to we have?

  167. Comment from Ken:

    You say:

    “You’ve said nothing to refute the contention that this is all really about power, not pedagogy or children.”

    To the contrary. This is specifically about power and about how the power dictates pedagogy and the way we treat our children. I pointed out the Washington Post as an example of power using the media to further an agenda. Why should we listen to Bill Gates about education? He did a nice job blowing Portland schools with a $25 million check. The DC-based group listed in the article, the National Association for Public Charter Schools, boasts a board of directors consisting of a number of the most high-profile education idiots ( When the same voices calling for more charter schools, testing, accountability, and the obliteration of the teachers union, I think there is reason to ask about the consequences for the overall system. Educators and teachers do need to think differently – but to blame teachers while ignoring the most pressing issues (while selected communities gain or profit) is not a way to improve equal access, equal quality, and equal opportunity in education. The kind of teacher autonomy that Terry remembers is exactly the kind of autonomy that the charter/privatization movement AS A WHOLE aims to minimize (it encourages that kind of autonomy and sharing of ideas in small pockets – but rarely supports autonomy in urban settings for the already “at-risk” kids). I question the values of an education system when we think of our children as “goods” and evaluate the quality of their education on test scores. I apologize if my insistence on questioning the oligarchy in matters of education policy rubs some the wrong way – the vast majority of funding for the various education policy matters comes from a small group of powerful, wealthy, and influential groups. The idea of improving education through more charter schools, more testing, market-based reforms, and more accountability while crafting a more equal system (in Portland and the greater country) is a serious fallacy and something we should reconsider.

  168. Comment from Mike:

    We have different ideas about who is the insurgent and who is the establishment here.

    I oppose the testing mafia. You may be right that standardized testing is linked to charter schools ideologically or politically – to my mind the two are diametrically opposed, or should be.

    I’m not wealthy or powerful and I have a pretty clear idea about who is and what they’ve got that I don’t have.

    You talk about the charter/privatization movement. In Portland I am aware only of a charter movement… a public school charter movement.

    Since this is so obviously an effort to improve public education, yet you (and perhaps your allies above) insist that it is about “market economy” and privatization, I am puzzled and led to the conclusion that this is not a struggle about what would self-evidently be better for human beings, choices, options, hope, and may really be about keeping and holding power against the interests of parents like me. I suppose it is about the fears of Portland schools that they are losing dollars and mind share.

    I would care more about that concern if I thought that the PPS cared in turn more about my concerns. But if your arguments reflect its perspective, then this is a very clarifying discussion indeed.

    I and lots of parents are sitting here trying to eek out a middle class existence… not facing the challenges of those with less income than ourselves, but not exactly having an easy time of it either. Schools, charter schools, are introduced that seem to give us a fighting chance at having what the rich of this town and this country have, and not only us, but even lower income kids, and you tell me that I’m Bill Gate’s best pal.

    I’ve been called a lot of things in this conversation…

    I’m less convinced than ever that you are on my side as a parent. It sounds like you are willing to throw people in my position over the edge to maintain a bureaucracy that is failing. Many of those failures are entirely not of its own doing, from budgets to national NCLB policies. Public education is under attack, and we all know it.

    So you’ve made it pretty clear how much PPS (to the extent that you speak for its perspectives) values the things that I value. It’s illuminating and does much to confirm my sense that my children have no place there, but it is also sad that you’d rather have this kind of ideological or conceptual purity than the messiness of experimentation and diversity.

  169. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    I have to jump in and agree with Terry re private schools. I went to private school growing up (in another state) and there are only two private schools in the Metro area I would send my kids two and both of those are a 20 minute plus drive from where I live in NE Portland. It is almost impossible to get your kids into either of those schools and the commute for an east-sider is brutal. I have heard good things about Holly Redeemer, however as a militant agnostic I don’t think “I” would be comfortable there :)

  170. Comment from Ken:

    In no way does my viewpoint reflect the viewpoint of PPS. I hope PPS policy changes. I’ve been very critical of the district and the district policy, particularly of recent leadership.

    I apologize for the confusion of charters and privatization. Privatization represents the more libertarian/neoconservative viewpoint that education can be provided on a much more limited budget through vouchers. Charters, at least since the charter movement met the ownership society and hyper-consumerism, has emerged as a halfway point towards vouchers. PPS_Parent disagrees, but I can provide a wealth of evidence that the neoconservative/libertarian camps view charters in this way.

    Freedom to choose is a powerful draw for the charter movement. However, there is zero evidence that expanding charter schools and school choice will improve the quality of education. In fact, data and anecdotal evidence from Portland suggests expanded choice does not help the most struggling schools in N and NE Portland. We can, hypothetically, choose all kinds of healthcare providers. It didn’t give us a more equitable system. Pro-charter advocates often pull the “defending the status quo” line in discussions with those of us questioning an expanded charter movement (Secretary of Education Arne Duncan uses it frequently, for example). However, most charter opponents like myself are deeply critical of the current education establishment but feel the charter movement is change in the wrong direction.

    That being said, I’ve never criticized anyone for putting their child in a charter school. Ultimately, we’re actors operating within a larger system – a system that works for some but certainly not all. I’ll stand by my view that more charter schools are not a viable solution for a more equitable, high quality system.

    There are options outside of opening more charter schools. We clearly disagree. But, Mike, I hope you also see that we both do want changes! As much as we disagree, we have an entirely bigger opponent in those who suggest we dissolve public education entirely or that equality is not a worthy goal. I really appreciate your willingness to voice your opinion even when there are clear points of contention.

  171. Comment from marcia:

    Well..I do criticize people for putting their kids in charter schools…It is totally against everything I believe in regarding public school..if you do are weakening the stucture of our public school system and you should be ashamed for buying into the agenda set by the people who are trying to destroy the public schools. so shame shame shame on you all. there. I said it….oops can’t take it back…well…you should be ashamed…and quit acting all high and mighty.

  172. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Now, now, Marcia . . . play nicely!


  173. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    While I appreciate the complexities of the arguments being debated here, I’d like to return to more practical matter of PPS policy.

    1) The charters here are either going to stay or go.

    2) If they stay, their numbers will either increase, decrease, or stay the same.

    If we wish them to go, what steps do we take? How do we fill the void they will leave RE: pedagogical diversity?

    If we wish them to stay, how can their deficiencies be improved?

    For those proposing their annihilation, I’d like to hear from you and let us know what steps you think should be taken.

    For those interested in keeping them, what do you propose to improve them?

  174. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Terry – I consider norm-based benchmarks and the notion of children being “at grade level” as determined through standardized tests to be symptomatic of a one-size-fits all approach. Being at grade level is the new holy grail. Forget where kids actually are. This leads to standardized approaches with standardized goals that often demonize/pathologize kids as they are left behind in a cloud of data.

    As I’ve written about many times, my daughter fell into this not being at grade level crap and would have been tracked/pathologized had she remained at our neighborhood school. The charter she attends now did not do this to her, and she is flourishing as a result.

    If there had been another school in PPS that was within reasonable distance of our home that would have taken the same approach that the neighborhood school took, then we would have likely sent her there. But no such school exists. Trillium is the closest option.

    Ockley is not our neighborhood school, despite the fact that it’s actually closer to our house. It may or may not have taken the same approach that our neighborhood school took. I like Ockley, but it still has a single recess period for Kindergartners and, to my knowledge, does not do the things I described a while back as indicative of a great pedagogical approach (not worry about norm-based benchmarks, emphasize a broad-based curriculum instead of focusing on reading and math skills, approach learning through thematic units, tie disciplines together instead of teaching them in discrete silos, allow kids to have a say in what they learn and how they learn it, focus on going deep into areas that kids are excited about as opposed to racing through the material in an attempt to cover everything, use multiple forms of holistic assessment to determine what kids know and can do).

    Trillium does all of these things.

  175. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    woops – meant to say, “If there had been another school in PPS that was within reasonable distance of our home that DID NOT TAKE the same approach that the neighborhood school took, then we would have likely sent her there.”

  176. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Terry – one more thing RE: your recent post. You wrote, “Within a single school, even here in Portland, walking from classroom to classroom reveals an immense variation in pedagogical approaches. Despite the top-down mandates of district administrators, classroom teachers are notorious for their autonomy. Each brings a unique flavor and perspective to classroom interaction with students regardless of the texts used (or ignored) or the subject taught.”

    Based on the teachers I have talked to and the reading and research I’ve done, this issue of classroom autonomy and teacher creativity is at risk. Of course, there are no empirical data here, so there’s only what we hear reported anecdotally. But what we do know is that in programs that require strict adherence (e.g., Open Court, Success for All, etc.) teacher autonomy and creativity is not only discouraged, it’s not allowed.

    Based on what I know about PPS, there is less of this going on. But the recent implementation of the Scott Foresman program in pre-K through 8 has many of these anti-creativity, anti-autonomy features. Just ask ohme (as she indicated in her post).

    Alarmingly, based on evidence that was gathered a year or so ago in an informal survey I was involved in creating, the teachers that liked the Scott Foresman stuff were more likely to be inexperienced teachers or teachers who were not confident in their ability to teach reading.

    I don’t know if these data are reliable or not. But mainstream teachers that I talk to here in PPS, as ohme’s comment illustrates, have reported the need to stay under the radar when it comes to maintaining their autonomy and creativity. Based on information I have received from some teachers I know, there is a clear disconnect between what teachers are being told to do by the central office and what they are actually doing in the classroom.

    Charters, are on the other hand, expect teachers to take a creative, autonomous approach. They don’t have to hide the fact that they are doing this. This freedom is one of the reasons many teachers want to teach at charters and are willing to take a cut in pay.

  177. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    The discussion of charter schools has become what seems to me surreal – admitting that charters offer teachers and parents significant advantages and at the same time asking how we can get rid of them.

    Charter schools are not the only area of education policy where this kind of thing happens, it happens equally or more around testing.

    Testing can be an important tool for advancing equity and in fact that is the primary purpose of testing under current federal education policy. No Child Left Behind requires states to set the same high academic standards for all children, develop high-quality tests to determine whether children are achieving the standards, and use test results to direct improvement in schools where many children are achieving at lower levels than other children.

    Is this a perfect system? Far from it. Does it grant parents and children important rights? Clearly. Should more people in public education be working for it instead of trying to sabotage it? Absolutely. For all these reasons the nation’s civil rights community is backing NCLB’s accountability requirements while at the same time calling for better testing and testing procedures.

  178. Comment from Ken:

    I hope everyone carefully read Peter’s norm-based benchmark critique. In many ways, the absurd idea that every first grader can do X is the root of the problem (and Portland’s charter parents have found an outlet to avoid most of the norm-based standards in public schools – once again, I do not criticize that choice. But I still do not feel more charters provides an answer).

    I’ll almost never advocate for closing a school. It is difficult for many children to change schools once they are settled. Annihilation is a pretty strong word – my anti-charter expansion viewpoint doesn’t suggest we get rid of currently existing charters. Charter schools attract a small percentage of Portland students. Matters of equality can be addressed through rethinking the district’s transfer policy (which also is impacted by NCLB’s sanctions; feel free to disagree, PPS_Parent. Evidence is severely lacking for counterclaims).

    I still think pedagogical diversity exists within schools – and Terry suggested this in an above post. It may not be the incredible system that Peter described in the last paragraph of post #174. As much as I agree with Peter’s approach, I still think it isn’t embraced by the majority of our population for various reasons. Primarily, I think the general public is unaware of education issues: they “know” public education is “bad”, but relying on the “experts” instead of becoming more involved at the school level seems to be the preferred path. And, of course, many parents are unable to get involved in advocacy at the school level for a variety of reasons (parents do not feel welcome at the school or simply do not have time). So the calls for more testing (once again, supported by the Gates/Broad/Walton triad of tremendous financial means capable of purchasing policy papers from various think tanks). The public is against NCLB, most teachers are against the testing blitz, and children would absolutely love a different pedagogy (if they realized education could be different).

    But we’d move further away from education equality by just opening more charter schools. We need parents (like Peter and Mike) who are very vocal about wanting pedagogical changes. I’m glad to see both of you advocating for changes (Mike – although we disagree on some issues, we still agree on the need for pedagogical changes/options. I’m tremendously glad you are willing to voice displeasure).

    Peter makes the point about Scott Foresman, Portland’s “reading” curriculum. I think he’s right that young teachers are drawn to this kind of teaching style (canned curriculum) because it doesn’t involve too much planning; thinking on the part of teachers; or responsibility. Just open the book, read the script to the kids, and if they don’t learn it then the curriculum is at fault. I know a number of teachers that use Scott Foresman regularly and a number that use his book as bookshelf decorations – and a number somewhere in the middle. Charter schools do encourage creativity; and the same teacher autonomy/creativity encouraged in charter schools is going to become even more restricted in public schools through national standards, continued high-stakes testing, merit pay (tied to test scores in one way or another), and anti-union policies. Some educators will be able to escape the blitzkrieg being prepared at the federal level by teaching at charter schools; anyone left in public schools will find a more regimented structure that fits along with the Scott Foresman pedagogical approach. While this deviates slightly from the local issues, it will nevertheless have implications for Portland schools. There is tremendous hypocrisy in allowing innovations at charter schools while crushing innovation in public schools (this is the reason why I do not criticize parents choosing charter schools even though I could not make that decision myself – as a parent or teacher).

    Yet the despair and defeatist attitude towards positive school change is somewhat understandable given our culture and the changes we’ve seen in Portland. However, I’d wager that the prospect of improving education is an ever-evolving process that cannot afford pessimism or despair (even if I myself sometimes fall prey to these forces). The inclusion of ever-new voices on this site is testament to the consensus that improvement is needed – even if we disagree on the definition of improvement and the avenues for pursuing a better system.

    I’ve not quite addressed Peter’s questions about the future of charters. There are still more factors: federal and state policy; funding; and certainly the question if expanding charters increases equality (I do not believe it does).

    PPS_Parent: the only good to come from the testing movement is illuminating the inequalities. Unfortunately, the testing data has also been used to further the inequalities in education (and Portland is a prime example). The allure of more choice is a powerful draw, particularly in America’s hyper-individualistic culture where self-serving actions replace any notion of social consciousness and collective well-being.

  179. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Like I said, testing can be a powerful tool for promoting equity, when, for example, it is used as intended in federal education policy – to direct improvements to schools where children are achieving less than other children. As I also said, states and districts have not exactly been racing all out to make changes to their schools. Blame them, not testing.

    Similarly, if charter schools are attracting students and parents because they are innovating and other public schools are not, work to get schools moving instead of blaming Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Fordham Foundation, the Business Roundtable, test publishers, or whoever happens to be the focus of the conspiracy-theory-of-the-day.

  180. Comment from Jacquelynn:

    “you should be ashamed…and quit acting all high and mighty.”

    Wow. Marcia, I’m not sure if your a teacher at the neighborhood school we’re attending this fall…but after that, I really hope not.

  181. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Barack Obama supports charter schools and at least one teachers’ union runs a charter school. In Portland, SEI runs a charter school. So whatever the merits of individual charter schools or whatever the merits of charter schools as public policy, claiming that charter schools are part of an agenda for destroying public education seem far-fetched.

  182. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Three comments:

    1) I have no problem with testing — we have had testing for 100+ years. The high stakes attitude is a problem because it overshadows everything else we do in education. This would be o.k. maybe except that the material tested is only a part of what kids should be taught, or allowed to learn, whatever way you like to look at it. So this swath of the educational spectrum becomes all important and pushes everything else to the backburner. And it is just not the arts, P.E., and a lot of activities which are so developmentally important. It also pushes out a lot of things necessary to getting along in the world and participating as a citizen, let alone those school subjects and activities which bring about self-fulfillment and enjoyment. Things we often overlook (most particularly in schools we are worried about testing well) to a huge degree include history, civics, geography, technology, finance, world events, languages, health, economics, understanding and dealing with the consumer society, raising children, sociology, philosophy, physiology, science (all types), and thinking – just to name a few. Part of the problem is that people who are unfamiliar with how the system works actually think the tests measure the most important parts of the curriculum and, in fact, actually measure real achievement. They do measure a lot of important educational aspects, but not nearly what they are perceived to measure.
    Also, a lot of people on the outside don’t understand that a lot of test gains are made by teaching directly to the tests, not truly educating kids.

    2) While I agree with all the ideas Peter has put forth about why people might choose charters for pedagogical reasons and that we need to increase this type of teaching in the public schools. One thing that gets overlooked again and again is that children need a context in order to really learn material well. For instance, they need an understanding of the timeline of world and U.S. history, an understanding of where things are in the world (countries, cities, states, physical features), an understanding of how government is structured, an understanding of the structure (i.e. grammar, roots etc)of the English language, an overview of different scientific fields, and how society is structured. It is one thing to learn only about the Civil War, but quite another to be able to put it in its historical context which is what allows you to truly understand its causes and ramifications. We don’t stress this idea of the necessity of context enough. So I think that it should be within this context :) that the more creative aspects should be unleashed.

    3) If we are going to use whether students are at grade level as the criteria for our testing then what incentive is there for a teacher to take children as far as they can in their learning. Heck, keep pounding away on what is on the test, over and over. This is the way for your class and school to score well. Of course, in the old testing we let kids test as far as they were able to do. When my mother got my 4th grade test back in 1954 I wasn’t at benchmark (meaning I could do the 4th grade work, heck my mom already knew that), but I was at the 9th grade level. So she knew where I actually was — at least as measured by that test.

  183. Comment from Stephanie:

    Peter- Ockley has two recesses in K daily and sometimes three. Twice a week or more they have what is called choosing time where the kids get to roam free in the room and explore different stations. Ockley is not perfect but did want to stick up for it on the recess and time to do hands on learning. They also have daily specials most of the morning in dance, art, music, technology, and PE.

  184. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    It’s true that there are problems with the way we’re testing now. For example, nationally only around half of the things that states identify as standards are covered on their tests. It’s also true that state reading and math tests figure in the accountability and improvement system mandated by NCLB.

    But it’s also true that people have a right to expect better from public education than teachers and principals doing ridiculous things like hiding kids on test day, narrowing the curriculum beyond all sense, and ignoring some children to concentrate on others they consider better bets to pass the tests.

    There are plenty of schools that don’t indulge in these dysfunctional practices and it’s both a misinterpretation of accountability mandates and an insult to parents and children to claim that they are entirely forced by testing.

  185. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Stephanie – thanks for this bit of info. I’m a bit confused, though. I met with the principal of Ockely a couple months ago, and he told me that K’s only get one recess.

    All the more reason that PPS needs to report these facts about what goes on in each school in a clear manner. I’ve consistently called for this information.

    I liked all the “specials” at Ockely and was indeed impressed not only with the offerings, but the “vibe” in the classrooms I visited was extremely encouraging. In the upper grades, I saw students who were thoroughly engaged in what they were doing and not being watched and controlled by teachers. In the lower grades, the teachers seemed very at ease, as were the students.

    Two concerns: (1) what happens when the soft grant money at Ockley runs out? Can they continue to offer the breadth of specials? (2) Who will the new principal be, and will he/she try to change everything there?

  186. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    PPS_Parent – the schools that don’t indulge in dysfunctional practices are disproportionately white and affluent. The schools that do are disproportionately high minority and low-income.

  187. Comment from Steve Buel:

    PPS_parent, you are right on! The high stakes part of the tests has a lot to do with the narrowing of the curriculum. It also has a lot to do with the rediculous way school districts, including teachers and adminitrators have responded to create a worse education for children. The truly scary part of this whole testing thing is that it is nation wide. So everyone is suffering for education’s errors. My solution for PPS is pretty simple. Deemphasize the tests. Emphasize the learning.

  188. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Steve – what do you say to admininistrators who claim the following:

    1) poor kids and minority kids are often too far behind

    2) the only way to get them caught up is to focus on the basics

    3) the way you measure how well you’re doing is with periodic tests

    In other words, they claim that the tests and the learning are inextricably linked. Your response?

    Since you’re running for the school board, I thought it would be a good idea for you to explain how you’d make this argument. I wonder if Rita might also jump in on this question.

    One other facet to this: how can you convince the district to deemphasize the testing when the stakes are so high for failing to make AYP?

    The number of schools labeled as “failures” is only going to increase over the next several years.

    Check out this timeline from the OR DOE (see p. 13).

    The 2007-08 academic targets for OR were ten points higher than the previous year, and look at the huge increase in the number of “failing” schools. There’s another huge bump of ten points in 2010-11, when 70% of all kids have to be proficient in reading and math. Then, the very next year, it goes up to 80%. Then, the next year (2012) to 90%. So from now to 2010, with the threat of even more schools being labeled as “failing,” the district will have no option but to focus on raising test scores. And raising test scores means test prep, in whatever form the district spins it. The curricula — esp. at the elementary level — are driven by skills that are tested on the state tests. Skills mastery over the year is measured in regular skills-based assessments. These assessments inform instruction. Ergo, curriculum = test prep.

  189. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    woops – forgot the link to the state AYP data.

  190. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    There are many schools serving large numbers of poor children or minority children that have not taken short cuts but instead both cover the basics and provide their students more rounded educational experiences.

    If schools that engage in dysfunctional practices and games-playing instead of doing the real work of improving their program largely serve poor children and minority children, that is all the more reason to stop blaming testing and adopt urgency in making the changes that need to be made in the schools.

    When schools fail to make AYP, the district and state are supposed to investigate the reasons and take steps to improve curriculum, provide training to teachers and administrators, and provide other forms of support. If schools continue to fail to demonstrate AYP year after year, their districts and states are supposed to intervene more intensively, up to and including changing teaching and administrative staff, reconstituting them as a charter school, or other forms of bringing in new management. Unless you believe that these changes are inevitably for the worse, there is no reason to treat the AYP process with animosity and every reason to treat it as an opportunity for making needed improvements in schools.

  191. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    I am still learning how Ockley works on an administrative level and I am not familiar with what grants the school is currently accessing. I asked my daughter’s friend who is over today and she confirmed it was 2 every day.

    I like the interim principal a lot and am now kicking myself for not signing up for the interview panel to hire a new principal but the time commitment was full days and was a non-negotiable (makes it hard for parents who work full-time to have a voice) and I travel alot for work. The faculty at Ockley is wonderful from what I can see/hear they are really intent on Ockley geting the right principal that will maintain the vibe we have going. I don’t think the wrong principal would last everyone is so fiercely intent on maintaining the school’s integrity.

  192. Comment from Steve Buel:

    The other forms of support is fine. Mentors sure don’t hurt anything for instance. But the focus on the testing goes the opposite of improving the curriculum. And the training is directed at how to score better on the tests. I just don’t agree with the premise that scoring on the tests is “achievement”. It is just scoring on a test which tests only a part of what kids should be learning. As long as this is the only part of the curriculum that is high stakes tested then it is the part of the curriculum where the focus will be. And most of the focus is on test prep, not curriculum improvement. Heck PPS doesn’t even have a definition of what constitutes a good education in its schools at the various levels.

    What the schools are doing is what increases the scores and this often runs counter productive to what improves the real education for children.
    This is a strong statement with a lot of subtlety and is not meant to imply that schools aren’t trying to improve real education in a lot of instances. In fact, schools are begging in many instances to get more programs which meet the needs of their kids. But it just ain’t happening.

    Also, I don’t think I can agree with your first statement until I see those schools. Certainly this is not the case in PPS anywhere I have seen. Can hardly be since we don’t have any schools in lower income neighborhoods which ofter a well-rounded curriculum similar to what I mentioned in my post above.

  193. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Peter, you don’t have to convince the principals to diversify their curriculum and ease back on the negative impact of the testing. You only have to convince three other people on the school board and then write a policy which directs the supt. to implement your policy. My first step is to limit the test prep. The second step is to push for the so-called “extras”. The third step is to make sure kids who can’t read or write are getting real help. As you are aware, the testing decreases the real help kids who are way behind in their skills get. I really think that if a kid has, for instance, made it to the 7th grade and he/she can’t decode and can barely read then we need to spend serious time helping that student learn to read. In a way this is separate from diverisfying the education of kids who are somewhat behind.

    The main reason I have argued we need a definition of what constitutes a good education is so we can shift emphasis. We need to take a hard look at what the actual result is if we don’t make AYP in a number of schools? Where is this all going? We haven’t had that conversation. One of the things you can do on the school board is to help frame the conversation. When you bring a resolution then it opens up the discussion and increases the chance for improvement. That’s why if you look at my campaign material it lists resolutions I would bring. How successful they will be, well, there is a lot of community support for having an improved education not just improved test scores.

  194. Comment from ohme:

    Another problem I see in PPS is that leadership does not innovate. I am at a low-income school school that had outstanding results for multiple years (5) in a well-rounded, balanced content based program. We had teams from other school districts visiting to see our methods. We won award after award. Yet, there was no attempt by the district to recreate or just “figure out” what we were doing that worked so well for ELL and low SES population.
    I see the same thing in my classroom. I have folks from all over Oregon and Washington visiting to see what I do. My students post impressive results on tests, year after year. I have been published and present at conferences. Yet nobody in my building, or the district, is looking seriously at what I am doing that is working so well.
    This is symptom a larger problem. The district puts its trust in published programs and “research”, not on what is actually working in our district with our kids.

  195. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Ohme, If you put your trust in published programs and “research” then you are covered for the next failure. Though I don’t think most administrators think that specifically about it. Many have just bought into the semi-myth of educational “research”.
    Semi because every now and then a glimmer of truth can be created in a survey disguised as research.

    This is not just PPS. I have a retired friend who coached middle school for 30 years, often several sports a year, a wonderful coach who did things right AND posted an unheard of record of 91% wins over that 30 year period of time (I have never heard of a coach at any level even close to that). We are quite close and I have never heard him talk about someone wanting to know what methods he used to be so successful. You aren’t a prophet in your own country.

    I guess teaching is in the end its own reward — unless of course you can get a paid gig at a conference. Keep up the good work.

  196. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    ohme – I’m curious: what factors are in existence that prevent you from organizing teachers in your building and then presenting your approaches to your principal? This might seem like a dumb question, but why can’t you set up a meeting with Carole Smith and pitch your ideas? Could it be that you’re getting awards and acknowledgments from others and not from PPS because PPS simply doesn’t know what you’re doing and why it’s working? Sorry if this seems naive. I just want to start off with the basic questions to make sure I understand the problem.

    If Smith won’t meet with you and/or is not interested in what you have to offer, then what do you think is the reason? You wrote, “The district puts its trust in published programs and ‘research’, not on what is actually working in our district with our kids.” I’m assuming you’re referring to the curriculum adoption process, esp. the Scott Foresman materials, correct? If so, since this process took place under Phillips, perhaps the new administration might be open to hearing a new way of looking at it?

    Again, this might seem really naive, but I thought I’d put it out there . . .

  197. Comment from PPS_Equity:

    The problem that Ohme describes has less to do with the research enterprise in education and more to do with our backward incentive structure. Ohme has hit upon effective strategies and gets good results, but a teacher who does not use effective strategies and does not get such good results gets the same salary as Ohme, provided he or she is at the same step on the salary scale. Making the incentive structure more rational — to reward the Ohmes who teach better and get better results – would help bring people along.

    That’s part of it. Another part is that there is something wrong in the profession itself if a teacher who isn’t getting good results is down the hall from a teacher who is getting better results, but doesn’t make an effort to learn from that. I mean that there is something wrong with the idea we’re giving teachers about who they should be as professionals. That is not a problem of incentives.

  198. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    *Sheesh*, that was me, PPS_Parent in a dissociative state where I called myself PPS_Equity.

  199. Comment from Rose:

    I’m not sure it is accurate to say Ockley has only one recess a day for kinder kids. Today they had three.

    Lots of time teachers take the kids out for breaks. It may not be called recess but it is the same.

    Also, Peter, I disagree that if your child tested low in pre-K it means she would have been pathologized or tracked.

    In fact it can be so hard to get an IEP I would argue the opposite is true.

    My youngest son initially tested low in pre-K, no doubt because I could give a horse’s ass about teaching him to write his name. The teacher (this was at Chief Jo) said early intervention was available. I declined.

    He picked up writing his name soon enough. Now he is in K at Ockley and tests above average, despite having a mom who still refuses to take kindergarten homework packets seriously.

    As much as I hate the focus on testing, I think it is equally important to not stigmatize intervention. Testing can be one way a child is recognized as suffering fixable delays. Many kids have speech issues, sensory challenges…lots of issues that are very successfully addressed in interventions. I have seen miracles occur in occupational therapy.

    I would be curious in a completely non-testing environment how children are identified as needing interventions. I imagine teachers are left to their judgements, but without a set of standards, how do they approach parents, and what sort of tools do they use to show parents that the child could use some extra help?

  200. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Rose – I completely agree that we should not stigmatize intervention when it’s necessary for kids that would benefit from it and would suffer if it were denied. The problem is determining when it’s necessary. My daughter may not have been issued an IEP here in Portland (still figuring out how IEP’s work here in PPS), but she certainly would have been issued one where I used to live (in suburban St. Louis). Note that she would have been given an IEP unnecessarily at age 3. The recommendation we got from the specialist that did an in-school screening of her was based on a brief conversation with her where she got lunch and dinner confused and did not answer questions in the manner the specialist expected. If we had followed the specialist’s recommendations for further testing, she would have been issued an IEP automatically, showing that diagnostic testing had been done using the DIAL test. When I raised the possibility that my daughter was not “developmentally delayed” and may just be developing at her own pace, the specialist looked at me like I was committing some form of child abuse.

    I knew in my gut that I was right about my daughter, but I had to really dig in and question the diagnostic apparatus and machinery. What if they were right? What if there was something wrong with her?

    Turns out I was right. But how many parents are willing/able to fight off the recommendations of a “trained expert”?

    As you know, a disproportionate percentage of low-income minority kids are flagged as “developmentally delayed.” And while some of these kids certainly do need help, I wonder what percentage are unnecessarily labeled.

    As I said, I don’t know what would have happened if my daughter had stayed in her neighborhood school. She may or may not have been issued an IEP, but she most definitely would have been placed in an “ability group” with other “slow” learners. Kids can figure this stuff out prettu quickly. She would have likely internalized this label of being “slow,” would have internalized this idea that something was wrong with her, and would likely develop negative attitudes about herself and learning — all at the tender age of 5.

    So how do you balance the need to identify kids that need extra help with the need to acknowledge that all kids — all people — develop along a continuum and at their own pace?

  201. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    I wish I had more time to give this track more attention but wanted to chime in a bit since I am really familiar with EI/ECSE. I have a question Peter was this MECP or another EI service in the neighborhood school that I might not be familiar with?

    You do not get an IEP until you transition from EI/ECSE and it is called an IFSP prior to that. EI evaluations are not a diagnosis, only a doc can diagnose a child and the correct term is educational eligibility. A child can have an autism eligibility but not have a medical diagnosis of autism. It simply means the supports and services a child with autism will benefit from will also benefit that child. You would pass a rating scale of course but still may not even meet DSM criteria for autism. As Rose said it is hard to qualify if your disability is not significant.

    Here is where I agree: You are right that we should not be sending messages to our kids or other kids that learning differences matter at all.

    By holding onto the belief that EI represents that something is wrong you are keeping this notion going. ANY child can benefit from EI whether they need it or not. MECP has a peer program where they mix kids with and without disabilities in EI. EI is not a ticket to services or an IEP and it is not a set up for being in “slow” groups. To be fair I only know the MESD service area and how they operate and not other states. I also think we should not cast our upbringing on other kids. We were segregated from students with significant disabilities and those kids who were not identified suffered for it and sometimes at our hands and words. I am sure we all remember the kid that never talked except in whispers to the teacher, the kid that would line up his tools on his desk and spoke with the nasally voice and made sweeping inapropriate generalizations about odd topics, the bully that just found a convenient way to hide the fact that he could not understand the words the teacher was saying and decided failing tests was cool. Those kids are getting the help the need now and our kids get it that they should be treated equally. They learn segregation from US or the school. We SHOULD NOT be segregating them, putting them on short busses (where discrimination starts), or putting them in groups together in the same classroom. The best place for a reader who picks it up slower to learn is from a reader who picks it up faster.

  202. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    Peter – respecting your solution-oriented nature I do have an answer to what we do but no time to share.

  203. Comment from Rita:

    Just a quick response to something that PPS Parent said: “I mean that there is something wrong with the idea we’re giving teachers about who they should be as professionals.”

    I think one of the most disturbing features of the “school reform” juggernaut is precisely the implicit attack on the idea that teachers are professionals.

    In addition to the charters’ dispensation for certified teachers, the darling of the “reformists” is the Teach for America program. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the young people who sign up to do this work, I’m sure they’re sincere and work very hard doing good things. What I object to is the implicit — often explicit — assumption that pretty much any 22 year old college grad with time on his hands is likely to be at least as good as, if not better than, a trained, experienced teacher. I mean, after all, they’re not jaded and are willing to work 60-70 hours a week. What could be wrong with that? Way to make teachers feel like valued professionals!

  204. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Rita … Teach for America recruits top-notch students from outstanding universities and puts them into challenging schools in urban and rural area. TFA screens its applicants carefully and provides considerable training and mentoring. Nothing about the way TFA works denigrates older teachers or implies that anyone who got through college can go into a public school and teach.

    There is evidence that TFA’ers are as effective as more experienced teachers and perhaps even more effective.

    And, yes, what is wrong with being young, accomplished, energetic, devoted, and hard-working? Seems like we should be welcoming such people into public education.

  205. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Young teachers seem to do particularly well in he middle grades where enthusiasm and connections with individual students are much more important. Different ball game in the primary grades where they need a lot more support and experience pays big dividends.

  206. Comment from Ken:

    The “reform” movement has fully embraced the attack on teachers. Of course, most of the “reformers” have little to no teaching experience – unless they were part of Teach For America. TFA is a difficult organization to criticize; Linda Darling-Hammond was effectively cast aside by the pro-TFA groups. Yet TFA probably represents more of a problem than a solution to public education for the reason you mentioned: the 60+ hour work week (common in many of the new corporate charter schools supported by Gates/Broad/Walton). Of course, TFAers spend their two years working those long weeks (the kind of hours expected on Wall Street) and leave the field for other adventures (TFA boasts of connections to many of the globe’s most powerful management and consulting organizations, financial institutions, and graduate schools – connections available for TFA alum to utilize in post-service careers). Most TFA alums leave teaching; but the scariest of the bunch stay in education and ascend to positions of management. TFA alum and DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who recently said we should be developing “lifelong testing confidence,” is a prime example of the corporate mentality applied to education. As most of us on this site agree, standardized testing does not equal quality education. In fact, it probably represents the opposite of education. TFAers also spawned the KIPP schools, New Schools Venture Fund, the New Teacher Project, and New Leaders for New Schools. You’ll never hear any of the aforementioned groups deride testing – in fact, they think we should test children more, utilize more direct instruction, and adopt the management policies/values of corporate America and the military: zero-tolerance environments, teach-to-the-test pedagogy, and reading and math (maybe some science) to the exclusion of other topics. Hardly what we want for children. Children!

    The attack on teachers fits very nicely with current “reformers” agenda. The biggest cost in education is the labor involved in schooling. Teachers, particularly veteran teachers, represent the biggest cost in education. When you pair the current reliance on test scores as a valid measure of education with the emphasis on accountability (through the reinvigorated merit pay push), the possibility of firing older teachers based on student test scores becomes a tempting combination for “reformers” looking to reduce costs while improving test scores (think: corporate efficiency). I’m mostly offended by the comparison of teachers to lawyers or doctors: all we’re supposed to do is issue a decree or prescribe a pill, the kind of immediate cures America repeatedly falls for. In the end, their definition of learning always centers on test scores that can be magically raised with heavy doses of direct instruction hawked by the testing industry and publishing industry. When the metric of learning comes from standardized tests, the explicit or implicit logic is to teach directly to the test. Anyone can increase test scores by working 60+ hours a week, teaching directly to the test, and parading around with an air of youthful superiority. But this doesn’t represent learning and hardly represents a sustainable education system. Yet many reformers think education can be improved by making teaching a 3-7 year profession with a higher starting salary, extra pay for results (student test scores, or improvements in test scores), and increased accountability (read: hired/fired at any time, for any reason, but particularly for low test scores). Teachers do not want to work 60+ hour weeks because they have families; TFAers are young and mobile, looking to launch a career instead of maintain a family.

    The TFA training program is a woefully inadequate 5 or 6 week course masqueraded as a teacher preparation program, hardly an adequate preparation program for teachers in America’s most impoverished schools. TFA’s cheap labor (they’re paid a starting teacher’s salary, get some added funding from TFA, and can get 0% loans from VISA) makes them a huge attraction to underfunded schools and charter schools looking to skim on salary. Consider the following: for the 2009/2010 school year some districts TFA will place TFA corps members in districts that laid off other teachers this year.

    In the end, TFA is really a way for some confused college graduates to spend two years learning to teach, only to leave for something “better” or to improve the system by adopting the education agenda of the Business Roundtable and corporate America. Where is the opposition to No Child Left Behind? Where is the opposition to increased testing? Where is the advocacy for improving the lives of children? Not a word from the TFAers parlaying two years of teaching into something “more” for themselves, often in finance, business, or positions of power in the world of social entrepreneurship. The majority of TFAers leave the teaching profession after their first two years (and somewhere between 10% and 15% leave the program during their first two years), leaving TFA with a teacher attrition rate far higher than other teacher training programs.

    They’re viewed negatively by the education establishment for very valid reasons. Their intention may be selfish or selfless; their impact, I would argue, does not promote sustainable changes in education, particularly for poor and minority children.

  207. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Nationally about a third of new teachers quit teaching in their first three years and half have left in their first five years, so if anything TFA’ers have more staying power at the beginning than other teachers. Some of that is probably due to the fact that TFA selects its candidates carefully, trains them intensively, and gives them continuing professional development.

    Principals who have had TFA’ers in their buildings give them high marks – as high or higher than the marks they give to veteran teachers. A randomized study showed that TFA teachers had their kids a month ahead of control kids in math by the end of one school year and at about the same level in reading.

    If TFA’ers are viewed negatively by the education establishment, that says something about the education establishment. The young TFA’ers go into touch schools and get good results. It’s ungenerous to say the least to call them confused and if other teachers are running down TFA’ers because they work so hard that should set off alarm bells for parents.

  208. Comment from Ken:

    Half of teachers quit in the first five years; between 10-15% of TFAers quit in their first two years. Of the remaining 85-90% completing the two years, over half quit teaching before even entering their third year of teaching. Do the math and you’ll see that TFA has a lower retention rate than traditional track educators.

    As for the IES study on TFA suggesting TFAers outperform traditional route teachers, a closer look reveals the report lacks reliability and validity. See for yourself:

    The intensive training referenced is a 5 – 6 week program, just long enough to teach 19th century classroom management approaches and teach-to-the-test pedagogy.

    TFA could be of service by acting as classroom assistants working one-on-one with struggling students. If anything, our poorest children deserve highly-trained, experienced teachers; inexperienced, untrained teachers are not the solution to improving education in America’s poorest communities.

  209. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Stephanie – my daughter was flagged for developmental delays when she was a 3-year-old in preschool in suburban St. Louis. I spoke to a local district special ed person and was told that her IEP would follow her.

    You wrote, “ANY child can benefit from EI whether they need it or not.” I don’t know what “EI” stands for. Can you shed some light?

  210. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    This thread is starting to wander off topic. We’re talking about special ed, IEP’s, and now TFA.

    Can we come back to charters?

    I’d like to re-state my comment from #173.

    1) The charters here are either going to stay or go.

    2) If they stay, their numbers will either increase, decrease, or stay the same.

    If we wish them to go, what steps do we take? How do we fill the void they will leave RE: pedagogical diversity?

    If we wish them to stay, how can their deficiencies be improved?

    For those proposing their annihilation, I’d like to hear from you and let us know what steps you think should be taken.

    For those interested in keeping them, what do you propose to improve them?

  211. Comment from Stephanie:

    EI/ECSE is early intervention and early childhood special education.

    Something that is done very well in PPS (because of MECP having the contract) and the surrounding districts is early intervention. Many parents find it abrupt and harsh to enter school age services after having the special touch MECP delivers. Just wanting to clear the air on how it works here. Sounds like St. Louis is behind the times there.

    On the charter issue I am being educated by this blog on it. My limited opinion is that the charters that exist should be able to stay but until the issues of sharing the innovations and increasing diversity are explored and solved PPS should not allow any new charters. The focus needs to be on improving options in neighborhoods to be choice school without necessarily turning them into charter models. The charters are struggling like everyone else financially but it would certainly help their image a bit to partner up with close schools on projects, speakers, assemblies etc. (ie. Ockley and Trillium working together on our garden).

  212. Comment from Rose:

    I don’t think charters should be “annihilated,” but I don’t think they should be funded with our tax dollars.

    If they want to go co-op, go private, whatever they please, it isn’t my concern. My concern is we stop pretending there is a way to make the current system of advance application and lotteries equitable.

    I have not heard a single idea here that would make this system equitable.

    I think we are deluding ourselves if we think there is a way to make charters equally accessible to all, including homeless, ELL, disabled, foster and marginalized children. There is simply no way you can make an inherently unjust system just.

    I’m not an expert and I don’t know what sort of plan needs to take place to abolish school choice. But what I do think needs to happen is a return to the community school.

    I see a lot of arguing that first we need to make community schools strong again, then this will “attract” all those who are benefiting from the current inequity.

    I don’t think this is a viable solution. We can’t make the schools strong without the students, their families, and the funds they bring. And this will not happen as long as we have the current system.

    Peter, since you asked:
    EI is Early Intervention
    It is not an IEP. An IEP is a legally binding contract that forces the school district to serve a disabled child.

    Many kids get early intervention at ages 3 or 4 and then are discharged before entering public school. Getting IE does not mean a child will qualify for an IEP. The IEP standards are very strict.

  213. Comment from Stephanie:

    Chiming in on the making charter schools equitable for all….If there are new ideas then one of them simply cannot be weighted lotteries in favor of minorities because this sets up a new inequity. It might have been Rose or someone else that talked about sitting in on a meeting for a certain school and another parent said, “You won’t have any trouble getting him in here.” If the lottery is truly blind then the only “weighing” that would be remotely equitable is to do charter sign up drives in neighborhoods like block parties or canvassing and actively encouraging people to sign up. Other ways would be getting rid of sibling preference, no mandatory meetings, and providing transportation.
    At the school board meeting the Emerson charter cited the sibling preference as a limitation to increasing diversity.

  214. Comment from Dorsai:

    I’ve stayed quiet for a few days to let things sink in a little bit. I looked over the entire list of blog postings again, and there’s one frustrating fact that I can’t seem to get over.

    I feel that myself, Peter, and Mike have reached out to try to explain why we like charters, and why we believe there’s value in them for our children. But I don’t see that there’s been a similar effort from those who feel that choice/charters are robbing our schools of equity.

    I believe that most of the charter supporters have reached out, to different extents, for some compromise. I was willing to countenance a solution which didn’t have charters, if only someone would provide some ideas about how to address my concerns in public schools.

    We all long for a concrete solution which offers equity and flexible, effective education for our children, regardless of ability, race, or other tangible differences.

    We have heard why people are affronted by charters and choice, and I believe several of us (“us” being charter supporters) have spoken up to try to demonstrate that we understand what you dislike about the effect of charters and choice.

    Rose, Stephani, Ohme, Steve – please understand that I want a solution, and am willing to compromise a lot (i.e., a vision with no charters) – but compromise requires a step forward from you, too.

    I’ve asked, and Peter’s asked, for suggestions that address our concerns – beyond vague assurances that removing choice/charters, and restoring full funding to neighborhood schools, will somehow results in schools that satisfy us.

    I ask one last time, and then I’ll be quiet. Could those of you who oppose charters and choice propose some conrete solutions that potentially address the concerns that Mike, Peter, and I have? I’m not hearing that you understand why I wanted my child to have an education at Trillium. Could you help reassure me that you have heard and understood what is my driving concern?

    If you’ve attempted to answer, and I’ve simply been too unaware to hear your response, I apologize – but I would dearly love to see a list of possible solutions (that try to meet some of my needs) from those of you who feel that the abolition of choice and charters is the best route towards greater equity in our schools.

    Thanks all for the long and civil discussion. I’ll be quiet for a while now.

  215. Comment from Stephanie:

    Dorsai you said:
    I believe that most of the charter supporters have reached out, to different extents, for some compromise. I was willing to countenance a solution which didn’t have charters, if only someone would provide some ideas about how to address my concerns in public schools.

    Policy, policy, policy. We show up in mass to each every school board meeting to tell them that we want what is right for all children. We go to every meeting. We go in support of schools our kids don’t attend. Charter parents should partner with neighborhood schools to see what we can offer each other. We write our representatives and senators and tell them we are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. If you care about all public schools then shout about it and get involved even if your kid attends a charter. Get to know the people in your neighborhood who don’t go to charter schools and listen to their stories and maybe you will understand why this is so out of reach for so many people. All I ask is do not have a quota of “those people” for charters to meet diversity because then we create a new inequity of people that feel it is unfair to weigh in favor of minorities. I said that if the charters want to meet their diversity requirement they will have to reconsider sibling preference, mandatory meetings, transportation, and reaching out and putting the applications in the hands of the people that don’t even know it exists.
    You then said:
    Rose, Stephani, Ohme, Steve – please understand that I want a solution, and am willing to compromise a lot (i.e., a vision with no charters) – but compromise requires a step forward from you, too.

    I do quite a bit of the things I said in the above solutions and am working each day to do more and more of it and am in the process of building coalitions with other groups to see this through. I will be at the next school board meeting with a mass of parents speaking on behalf of issues that affect public schools. There is my step forward.

    OK there are some ideas. Your turn.

  216. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    The Mathematica study was not the only study that found an advantage for TFA’ers. The Urban Institutee reported even stronger findings. One way of reading the EPI analysis of the Mathematica study is that TFA could have even stronger advantages than the study showed.

    A study came out of Harvard not too long ago that showed that considerable proportions of TFA’ers stayed in the low-income school where they were initially placed past their two year commitment. It also showed that more than 60 percent stayed in teaching longer than two years and 35 percent stayed longer than four years.

    As to the charter school / neighborhood school issue, there simply is no reason why we can’t have both and have satisfied children and parents in both. Charter schools are 100 percent public schools and neighborhood schools are 100 percent public schools.

  217. Comment from Stephanie:

    PPS_Parent – It would be nice for both systems to be happy but when charter parents make statements such as:

    Could those of you who oppose charters and choice propose some conrete solutions that potentially address the concerns that Mike, Peter, and I have?

    When did it become the responsibility of the minorities to make schools a better place so your child could have the education you think they deserve? As I said before, I am rolling up my sleeves doing the dirty work and I am not just doing it for my child but every child and I am a full time+ working parent parent, barely scraping by, supporting my own parents, that also parents a child with a disability that I need to have additional skills to advocate for in her education so she might actually just be able to choose the high school she wants someday. I have an IEP coming up and I have to study the newest ways the district might screw me and my arguments, write notices that I refuse IQ testing and make sure they don’t do them anyway, review draft plans, update my personal education plan for her, and then still make sure I am not shanghai’ed at the meeting with someone saying her needs are better met somewhere else.

    You are not making education better for my child by making some kind of statement and sending them to a charter. That is not a solution. What is your solution charter parents? I don’t want to hear theories. What is your policy change and how are you going to see it through? How are you going to work for all children? I am working for your child so what are you going to do for mine?

  218. Comment from Dorsai:


    I believe Peter has already contributed a fairly concrete solution which meets your needs, which I’ve stated my support for already (i.e., in brief: figure out how to integrate alternate education methods currently used by charters into existing public schools and then implement this at the same time you phase out/remove charters), but I’ll throw out a few others – keeping in mind that these ideas are less draconian than the idea of out-and-out removing charters:

    - If one assumes that we don’t close any charters, maybe we could move some of them closer to neighborhoods with high-percentages of minorities/lower socio-economic abilities/higher IEP numbers/etc., to make transportation easier.

    - Again assuming we don’t decrease charters, maybe we could create generic “foster/mobile” slots in the lotteries proportional to the number of new/changed students who come into the district each year, in order to give charters, or mobile families, the chance to get into a charter mid-year? This wouldn’t be a quota, precisely, because it would be statistically matched to give mid-year movers the chance to get into a charter.

    - Perhaps each charter could be paired with the nearest neighborhood school with declining enrollment and give those students preference for charter enrollment? That way the preference wouldn’t be racial or socio-economic quota, but would still give folks a chance to participate in charters.

    But these don’t do a great job of addressing inequity. I think. Nothing does that better that moving charter teaching methods into the local schools and removing charters and choice – but I haven’t heard any concrete ideas from you on how that can be done in a way that ensures my needs are met.

    I’m afraid I don’t feel like your suggestions in post 215 and 217 are solutions that address my needs. They’re statements of your dedication to helping your child, and a call for advocacy “go to every meeting” rather than something which really helps me feel confident that you understand the concern that drives me to charters.

    I get the sense that you feel my call for ideas from anti-charter/choice folks is a request for minorities to shoulder the burden (you said “When did it become the responsibility of the minorities to make schools a better place so your child could have the education you think they deserve?”). I’ve never said anything of the sort, nor do I support that idea.

    I’m absolutely comfortable with the idea of pro-charter folks having to roll up their sleeves and make this work. But I’m asking for your suggestions because I am not feeling listened to. I want us to bridge this together, not feel like I’m giving up what is dear to me without some assurance that folks on the other side of the bridge will help me work towards a solution which benefits us both.

    I do apologize, Stephanie, for making you feel left out, though. That’s really not my intent. I want a solution that we both (at least grudgingly) accept. I believe there is room for compromise, somehow.

    (And I guess I’m not keeping my commitment to be quiet – but I got the sense you wanted a response from me with concrete suggestions.)

  219. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Stephanie … I don’t see it as unreasonable that the charter parent asked people who oppose charters for suggestions that would take the place of charters. I took that question as a serious effort at dialogue. Charter schools and school choice generally can be contentious issues and how are people ever to come to common understanding, let alone a concerted course of action, unless they talk things over?

    It’s clear to me that you think that you’re getting shortchanged because other parents send their children to charter schools. But I still don’t see how that takes away from you or your child at all.

    Something like 25 percent of children nationally don’t attend their neighborhood public school – about 15 percent go instead to a different public school and about 10 percent go to a private school. That’s a lot of parents making a lot of choices.
    Interestingly, the proportion of Black children attending a public school different from their neighborhood school is about twice as large as the proportion of White children doing do.

    Getting down to practical politics, it is one thing to advocate for improving all public schools and it is quite another thing to advocate for reducing choices.

  220. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    Honestly, I really think that folks need to take a break and read Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Privilege Knapsack” again SLOWLY, and Beverly Tatum “WHy are all the black kids” and hell, throw some Tim Wise in there for good measure.

    Just like it’s hard for me most of us to hear about how hard it is for families earning $100K to make ends meet during this recession, it is also hard for me as a parent whose is disadvantaged by the current system that some charter parents benefit from to hear protestations of the advantaged not being “heard”. Charters exist precisely BECAUSE you are being heard. PPS is not worried about poor children or disabled children or minority children who are perceived as having less ability to vote “with their feet” leaving the system. Consequently, they do not cater us. They are, however, concerned about rentention rates of white, educated,middle class families. . . thusly we have focus option and charters.

    See, Peter, this is why I cannot discuss these issues because we continually come back to people denying their privilege with their arms folded across their chests saying “I don’t believe you ….you need more people”

    I would absolutely love to have PPS charge an option fee for parents who opt for public charters and special focus schools. Something like what parents pay for full-day kindergarten. Families with foster children or who receive food stamps or other public assistance would receive a fee waiver. If people want to talk about what appeals to the market then the market should pay for it, right? Adam’s Peanut Butter costs more than Jif. Pacific Village chicken costs more than Foster Farms. Boutique-y schools are a premium for some families so I’m sure they wouldn’t mind paying for it.

  221. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    I’m sorry to point this out but public schools were not perfect before Measure 5 or before school choice. Suggesting that we can eliminate school choice and restore funding and every thing will be just wonderful is naive.

    Let’s be honest here – public schools have always done a crappy job of serving kids who were “different”.

    Public Schools have changed very little in the last 30 years. The debate should not be Charters vs. Pre Measure 5 status quo. It should be Charters vs. other school reform measures.

    Also I think the comparison between charters like most of those in Portland(largely anti-standardized testing) and corporate charters like Kipp et all (largely pro-testing) is inappropriate, they are totally different animals.

    My solution: Public schools that truly treat each child as individuals. Using testing to determine each child’s optimal learning style and teaching them in that style. Quit grouping children based on chronological age. Small classes, and professional Teachers. Let students learn at there own pace. Value multiple intelligences and the unique life experiences of all children and families. No expectation that all children or all families can be at the same place at the same time.

  222. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    I am not anti-charter nor am I anti-choice because I do not know enough about the ripple effect to know for sure how I feel yet.

    Your solutions are theories and whether or not they will work remains to be seen but what are you doing about it except talking? It feels like you are offering non-charter parents these ideas and expecting us to be grateful while you still get to have your publicly funded private education. I like my non-charter school a lot and would not leave it. I do not expect you to give up what you have for your child at this point either and yes I understand why I really do. However, I am offering concrete solutions to the inequities and this is your response Dorsai:

    (I’m afraid I don’t feel like your suggestions in post 215 and 217 are solutions that address my needs. They’re statements of your dedication to helping your child, and a call for advocacy “go to every meeting” rather than something which really helps me feel confident that you understand the concern that drives me to charters.)

    I post a lot about disability related topics but I am not a one trick pony here. I am a parent coach for low income, minority, disabilities, and even rich white people that don’t know how to handle their kids. I understand why you chose a charter and do not expect you to give that up necessarily but you most certainly are putting this in the lap of the people who keep having things taken away from them by disregarding my solutions as not meeting your needs. If you really care about inequity then you will not talk about what we can do to make our school a place you would consider sending your child and expect us to be grateful. I am doing the work for both of us bringing awareness to the board and community about these inequities and actively seeking partnerships with community members to make my neighborhood a better place for my child. I will keep doing what I am doing regardless and really it is your choice to join me or just keep wishing I would understand you when I have been clear that I do. Can you help me feel that you understand me and why I feel that programs and staff being cut because of falling enrollment is fair?

    The government is supposed to provide a free and appropriate public education. Appropriate as per the government is defined as the “basic floor of opportunity” meaning all students will have the same opportunities. In PPS all students do not have the same opportunities and it is not because you chose a charter. This is a policy issue and really you are either with me or against me because as I said before I am shouting from the rooftops and if we all stand together regardless of where our kids goes to school they have to listen.