“Getting it” with Carole Smith

Saturday I woke up to this quote by Carole Smith in Anna Griffin’s column in The Oregonian: “It can’t be that where you live determines what kind of education you get, but that’s what we have right now.”

The significance of this statement can hardly be overstated. When board members or school leaders have talked about the equity issue in the past they have always said things like, “There is an equity problem.” or “We need to work to be more equitable.” or any other of many generalized statements. But Smith’s statement is black and white. The schools are not equitable because if you live in a more affluent neighborhood we are giving your child a better education and this is not right.

There it is folks. Step two is complete. First the school leaders recognized there was a problem. Now they have defined the problem.

Where should they go from here? This is what I think.

The district needs to define what equity means. But it can’t do that unless it defines just what a good education entails. How can you know if education is equitable unless you are able to define what a good education is? (Of course, you need a definition which can be layered and prioritized since Portland Public Schools does not always have the money to reach the goal of a good education.)

So a clear definition of what a good education in PPS is at every grade level is necessary first. Then we can evaluate the district in terms of equity, which is the 4th step.

And the final step in this process is to eliminate the inequities which are hindering some children from receiving the good education PPS has defined.

Then we hold the party and afterwards all get busy on the other problems.

Steve Buel has taught in public schools for 41 years. He served on the PPS school board (1979-1983) and co-authored the 1980 School Desegregation Plan. He has followed PPS politics since 1975.