On the blogs: Olson exposes Obama’s ed. myths

In response to President Obama’s misguided education policy speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Terry Olson debunks the mythology that Obama is pedaling in pursuit of more charter schools, merit pay for teachers, higher standards and more accountability.

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


In the news: Moore declares for zone 4

PPS Equity friend and contributor Rita Moore has declared her intent to run for school board in zone 4, as reported by Beth Slovic on WWire.

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


Stadiums v. Schools: your voice needed at City Hall

Update: Council approved the measure with an amendment introduced by Dan Saltzman removing the $15 million from a new urban renewal district around PGE Park. Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz voted no on the modified deal. Kudos to Saltzman for taking the county and school district into account, and for Fish and Fritz for opposing the deal outright. If the city doesn’t come up with the $15 million by September, the deal is off.

Original post:

The Portland City Council votes tomorrow today on a deal that would commit something like $89 million of public funds to build one stadium and renovate another for Merritt Paulson, the millionaire son of Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. The source of the funds would be Tax Increment Financing from a new urban renewal district.

Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen and state representative Nick Kahl explain how this takes money from our schools and social services, and City Commissioner Amanda Fritz explains how this type of deal is at odds with her vision of spending scarce public funds in the neighborhoods where people live (among other things).

Amanda is the only City Commissioner who appears likely to oppose the deal at this time. Randy Leonard and Sam Adams are definite yes votes; Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish may be on the fence.

This is on the agenda for 9:30 am Wednesday, March 11. If you are unable to attend, please call or send e-mail to Fish (503-823-3589, nick@ci.portland.or.us) and Saltzman (503-823-4151, dsaltzman@ci.portland.or.us) in particular, urging them to oppose this welfare-for-the-rich deal.

Update: Multnomah County chair Ted Wheeler will testify against the stadium deal tomorrow, as will PPS school board member Trudy Sargent (see below).

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


Towards a Hybrid Model of Teaching and Learning

This is a half-baked idea. I fully admit it. So I need your help. There’s lots of talk these days about “crowdsourcing” through the blogosphere, i.e., tapping into the collective wisdom of large groups of people in order to develop ideas or solve problems. So I thought I’d give it a whirl . . .

My daughter is currently enrolled in a PPS school. We like a lot of what our daughter’s school has to offer, esp. regarding the approach it takes in letting kids pursue things they’re interested in and not pressuring very young kids to “be at grade level.” But we’re also considering homeschooling again.

There’s been talk on this blog recently of the agonizing position that many parents are put in RE: their neighborhood school options. “me” wrote:

“Within just a few blocks from us, I can count at least 3, if not 4 or 5 families who are already talking about having to move or opting out of public schooling if it came to that. Several others have already voted with their feet by going to private or online schools. Flight can happen without having to move at all.”

It might be time for the district to think about committing resources to support homeschoolers here in Portland. As I mentioned in a recent comment on this blog, I’m interested in seeing more hybrid models of teaching and learning. As was pointed out in another comment on this blog, the “hybrid” teaching model I’m looking for is already happening to a limited extent in some schools around PPS. But it happens “only at schools viewed as ‘alternative’ by the district, or at neighborhood schools with the resources/demographics to support partnerships with the community resources (private, or parents) to dedicate that kind of time during the school day.” It was suggested in the same post that “a return to comprehensive schools with larger cohort populations would help that to some degree” because “(i)t’s easier to justify dedicating the resources to provide a diverse curriculum when you have the student population base to support it.”

But I’m thinking of something else. In this hybrid model I’m envisioning, our traditional brick-and-mortar schools would function more as community centers. They would offer classes, similar to what Village Home offers. They would offer childcare and healthcare, too. Parents could take parenting workshops while kids played or took classes, similar to what Continuum Learning Community offers. Kids and parents could form affinity groups and then plan outings around shared interests: trips to OMSI, the zoo, Forest Park for a hike, etc. To make it manageable for working parents, parents could volunteer one day a week to be the chaperone/guide/facilitator for the day. In essence, this would resemble a teaching and learning co-op.

If students were enrolled in a PPS-sanctioned and supported homeschooling facility at least half time, the district would still get state dollars. The students would still be PPS students, albeit in a “hybrid” mode. Maybe this would be a way to mitigate some of the awful effects of “school chance”?

So what do you think gang?

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.


In the news: high school models unveiled

Portland Public Schools staff gave the school board the first look at it’s ideas for a high school system today, and Willamette Week reporter Beth slovic gives us the first public look.

There’s a lot to like, including the fact that balancing enrollment and opportunity, something I’ve long advocated, is a salient factor in the thinking. Model B looks quite a lot like something I’ve seen somewhere else. Models A and E also have a lot to recommend, and are based on neighborhood attendance.

Kudos to Carole Smith and her staff for seeming to get to the basic truth that we must balance enrollment in order to pay for equity of opportunity.

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

1 Comment

K8 questions for Scott Bailey

Community and Parents for Public Schools (CPPS Portland) held a parent leadership conference on February 28, which included a workshop on K8s. CPPS co-founder Scott Bailey, who is running for Sonja Henning’s zone 5 seat on the school board, sent out a summary of comments and questions from workshop particpants (see below).

Since CPPS has been generally uncritical of Portland Public Schools policies, and Scott Bailey is running as a CPPS candidate — CPPS board members Kathy Couch and Rick Barasch are his campaign manager and treasurer, respectively — I thought it would be informative for Scott to express his own opinions about what many consider to be a botched K8 reconfiguration. Here’s the e-mail I sent him yesterday. I have extended Scott an open invitation to respond in a new post on this Web site, and articulate his own vision for how middle grade education should look in Portland.

It’s pretty clear to me and many parents and teachers I’ve spoken with that, as you allude to, K8s that started as middle schools can do pretty well, but K8s that started as K5s have immense problems — facilities, staffing, etc. — that aren’t going to be solved without spending a lot more money, which is obviously in very short supply these days.

We’re already spending a lot more general fund money than we ever expected on these schools, only to put middle graders in portables without access to electives or age- and curriculum-appropriate facilities.

You note the lack of a K-8 option on the west side in #3 (Skyline notwithstanding, I assume), but fail to mention the lack of a middle school option in the Jefferson and Madison clusters (as well as in broad swaths of the Roosevelt and Marshall clusters). If we’re serious about #10 (“District needs to ensure equity in all schools”), this is a glaring inequity. Why do we treat middle schoolers in one part of town differently from those in another part of town?

Or, to be more explicit about what’s going on: Why are poor and minority students disproportionately assigned to K8s for middle grades, while white, middle class students have generally maintained access to comprehensive middle schools in their neighborhoods?

There’s a fiscal responsibility question here, too, since comprehensive middle schools provide vastly more opportunity at lower cost due to the size of student cohorts. For example, a 400-student middle school gets around 17 teachers in the current staffing formula, easily enough to provide all the basics plus a broad array of electives, advanced math and performing arts. A K8 with, say, 100 students in the middle grades, gets a little more than four teachers for those grades. How many electives are they going to provide?

How much more do we have to spend to give these students access to electives, adequate science labs, advanced math, and performing arts? How do we justify this additional expense, when these things are essentially free with the middle school model?

In other words, what are the specific benefits of this model, given its dramatically higher (and still not fully known) costs, and its relative dearth of academic opportunity when compared to the middle school model?

Are these benefits somehow specific to poor and minority students? If not, why not implement this model district-wide? What metrics can we use to determine if these benefits outweigh the cost to the district and students, in terms of higher spending and lost educational opportunities?

More to the point: How are ethnically and socio-economically segregated, self-containted eighth-grade classrooms preparing our at-risk youth to be successful in high school and beyond?

Other than a stated desire to follow through on a decision by a previous administration, Portland Public Schools board members and staff have have failed to articulate an overall vision and rationale for this reconfiguration.

I’ll appreciate your thoughts on this, since you’re aspiring to a policy-making position currently occupied by a director who opposed the K8 reconfiguration.

Participant questions and comments on the CPPS K8 workshop

1. Things have improved at Vernon in terms of course offerings (Spanish, PE, art, algebra) with a full rotation of teachers for students. There is only one sixth-grade class, which is a big concern. The 7th and 8th graders are segregated from the rest of the school in portables, and do not feel welcome in the school. PE equipment is inadequate for the older kids, and the gym is too small for activities for them.

2. Faubion: same issue with lack of integration of 7th and 8th graders. Mentoring programs linking older and younger kids need to be started.

3. No K-8 option is available on the west side.

4. Loss of electives in the switch from middle school to K-8. This can lead to a vicious cycle, where low FTE lowers offerings which makes it hard to keep families at the school.

5. Roseway Heights–lots of positives. 8th graders can get high school credits for algebra. Art and band are offered. Lots of linking of older and younger kids–maybe it helped that it was a middle school growing down rather than an elementary growing up. School is packed, enrollment-wise.

6. District needs better communication (resentment that communication just seemed to stop), and another K-8 meeting with parents.

7. Anger over the Pearl District decision–inconsistent with recent closures of small schools in other areas.

8. Astor: biggest issue is space– no room for library, science lab, etc.

9. Question: how will the K-8 programs be evaluated?

10. District needs to ensure equity in all schools.

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


Campaign finance watch: Bailey on a roll, Regan among donors

In the only (so far) contested race for school board this May (zone 5), Scott Bailey has set the wheels in motion on what looks to be a campaign fund-raising juggernaut. He’s raised over $7,000, including $250 from school board member Bobbie Regan, and spent nearly $3,000 in the two months since he kicked off his campaign fund-raising efforts.

Other donors contributing more than $100 so far include Elizabeth Marantz ($200), Donald Oman ($200), Lynn Youngbar ($200), Joan Volpert ($200), Kalyn Culler Cohen ($200), Laura Foster ($150), Leslie Comnes ($200), Robert Arnott ($1,000) and David Oberhausen ($350).

Kari Chisolm’s Mandate Media, Inc., remains the number one beneficiary of Bailey’s campaign spending, having pocketed $1,000 for “management services”. Bailey also has campaign manager Kathy Couch on his payroll, to the tune of $900 since February 12.

Bailey’s opponent, Pam Knowles, will be playing catch up, having only raised $100 to date and spent nothing. One can assume the business community will start ponying up to her campaign soon enough, and the first mailers for both candidates should start hitting your mail box within the next several weeks.

The school board election for Portland Public Schools zones 4, 5 and 6 is May 19. The filing deadline is March 19.

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


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