“Getting it” with Carole Smith

9:43 am

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.

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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.

filed under: Equity, Media

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11 Responses

  1. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I agree, Steve, this is huge.

    The significance is that a major message of this Web site and many community members has become de facto policy: we must abolish the two-tiered system of schools in Portland.

    We can certainly quibble on the details of how and how fast to do this, but we should pause and savor the weight of the moment.

    We have a superintendent who gets it at a fundamental level unseen in recent years at PPS.

  2. Comment from lakeitha:

    I agree that Carole “get’s it” Now if we can get everyone on the board to “get it” too. Then we can make some progress.
    Steves, I was raised in the12 step community and step #1 is admitting the problem. There are a few more steps in those 12 that might apply here, now that we’ve admitted the problem.

    #4.) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    Ok, so maybe not a moral inventory but an inventory of where the district/board has been wrong and who has made decisions that had negative impacts on kids and what current policies, directives and procedures are contributing to the ineqities.
    #5.) Admitted the exact nature of our wrongs.
    Redesigns, school closures, reconfigurations, pushing parents out, inequities in course offerings, VICKI PHILLIPS and THE GATES FOUNDATION, the list goes on and on)

    #8.) Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
    Reach out to families who have left PPS, been pushed out by policies, school closures and to the high school dropouts who have been negatively affected by the things listed above and try to reengage them in a new equitable, quality PPS distrct.
    (HERE’S WHERE THAT EVERY CHILD BY NAME tagline in PPS comes in to play)

    #9.) Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
    Tutoring, career placement assistance,support services, an acknowlegement that PPS has left a generation of kids behind)

    #10.) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
    Keep looking at every thing PPS does thorough the lens of equity)

    Soon, we can stop the discussion that goes something like this.”My child goes to the “good School”, I would never send my child to XYZ school.

    Here’s your Algebra for the day
    XYZ = Jefferson, Vernon, Humboldt

  3. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    Well I am one Vernon mama who has been know to say “I would never send my child to Alameda” :)

  4. Comment from lakeitha:

    pdx. Thanks! Cheers to moms like you!

  5. Comment from Ken Libby:

    The Gates Foundation isn’t gone; they’re paying for the promotional materials used at the high school redesign meetings (this, I was told, by Sarah Singer – who is paid partly by PPS and partly by the Broad Foundation).


  6. Comment from Zarwen:

    Steve B. and Lakeitha,

    Wonderful posts. This election would have been so much better if Lakeitha had run for the Zone 5 seat and Buel were eligible to run for the Zone 6 seat.

    Steve B., what can we do to induce you to move?

  7. Comment from marcia:

    To the list, I would add make amends to all the students, teachers, parents and others affected by the ineffective k-8 model that was rushed into without any forethougt. Yeah, and the Broad FOundation is alive and kicking.

  8. Comment from enoughsugarcoatingalready:

    My child’s school emails out a school newsletter every Fiday and it referred to the high school redesign as a “5-10″ year plan..does anyone know if they have it wrong or is the school district thinking this really is what they’ll need to ” get it right ” and hopefully avoid a huge bungle like the k-8 redesign-?

  9. Comment from Steve Buel:

    I have also heard the 5 to 10 year plan, but I think that is for the implementation. What has bothered me recently is understanding how the decision is to be made. When you gather all sorts of opinions on an issue it is way too hard to sort out the most important parts. People feel good about being involved (I did), but any opinion people give in that type of system gets diluted. Since this is the case then how the final decision is to be made becomes of paramount importance. We (PPS) get 1000 opinions and then we do what we want anyway since there can be no consensus. Or we get to draw up the issues which become the list from which people decide. It is fine with me if the school board makes this type of decision — that is what they are elected to do — but their transparency has left a lot to be desired and furthermore they have for many years not actually dialogued with the community. So how is the decision to be made? And on what principles will it be based?

  10. Comment from Lakeitha:

    Straight from the mouth at the PPS presentation. 10 years. While they said small incremental changes would be put in place ASAP and possibly have an impact, the process woulddn’t be complete for 10 years. My child will be 22 by then. Doesn’t help me much.

  11. Comment from Rita:

    I certainly don’t know what PPS has in mind with the 5-10 year time horizon, but I suspect it refers to facilities more than curriculum changes. Assuming I understand the models, it wouldn’t take much to implement Ideas 1 and 2 within the existing buildings. #1 is essentially the small schools model replicated across the whole District instead of limited to the high poverty schools. (This one makes sense because, you know, the small high schools have been such a smashing success.) #2 is making comprehensive high schools the norm throughout the District. So both of these models could, presumably, be implemented relatively quickly, depending on how they decide to manipulate the transfer policy to balance enrollments in the remaining schools. I would hope the whole reconfiguration could be more or less accomplished by 2010-11 and fully done by 2011-12.

    #3 would require the most extensive changes in everything from curriculum to facilities. I can’t even wrap my head around how this one would play out. It strikes me as a logistical nightmare. Doesn’t mean they won’t pick this one, of course — it is, after all, the most “creative” — but I think (hope) it’s a longshot.

    So, I suspect the 5-10 years refers to the facilities repair/remodeling of the high schools that remain after closures. Since many of the schools will require very extensive construction, the schools may end up playing musical building a lot, but the programs within the building would presumably be portable.

    I should probably say that the above is total speculation on my part since I haven’t heard any actual information from PPS about this at the many meetings I’ve attended on the redesign.