In the news: district seeks mediation for stalled contract talks

In a press release yesterday, Portland Public Schools announced it would seek state mediation in their stalled contract negotiations with the teacher’s union.

The district is offering a retroactive 2% cost of living raise for the past school year, but would force teachers to take five furlough days in the coming school year, the equivalent of a 2.5% pay cut.

Rebecca Levison, president of Portland Association of Teachers, questions the spending priories of the district.

“They want to give nothing in (2009-10) and yet they pay for BlackBerries for administrators, outside consultants, off-site administrative meetings and new deputy superintendents,” sad Levison in an article in today’s Oregonian. “And teachers have more responsibilities and more put on their plate every year.”

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

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Community Care Day Saturday

Join your friends and neighbors to help spruce up your neighborhood schools 9am – noon this Saturday, August 29. Hands On Greater Portland has a complete list of schools and more details.

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

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New Madison principal announced

Carla Randall has been hired as principal at Madison High School. She was principal at Wilson from 2002 to 2005, and also served as vice principal at Jefferson and Cleveland.

More recently, Randall was director of curriculum for the Tigard-Tuallatin School District.

In a letter to Madison families, deputy superintendent Mark Davalos mentioned in passing the lengthy controversy that preceded her hiring.

The flap began with the involuntary transfer of outspoken counselor David Colton in spring of 2008, a student walk-out to protest that transfer, a teacher vote of no confidence in previous principal Pat Thompson, Thompson’s departure this spring, the appointment of Deborah Peterson as principal with no staff or community input, and Peterson’s withdrawal in the storm of protest over her appointment.

“The path to reach this point has been longer and bumpier than it should have been,” wrote Davalos. He described a hiring process that included a survey and an interview panel of three teachers, a secretary and a student.

Sources at Madison, speaking on the condition of anonymity, were hopeful about Randall as a leader, but noted that the staff and student panel was not presented with other candidates to consider.

Colton declined to comment for this story.

Randall begins work at Madison this Wednesday.

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

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A compromise on No Child Left Behind

How about this compromise. Once a child is in the 5th or 6th grade and has passed benchmarks then let’s quit testing him or her. No more NCLB testing, none, zip, nada. This does a lot of positive things yet retains the NCLB idea (albeit corrupted one) of leaving no child behind.

The positive effects are easily seen.

It saves a fortune. It guarantees that once kids can read decently well the schools can focus on broadening their education and not waste horrendous amounts of time and energy testing them over and over. It allows more time and energy and resources to be directed at students who really are behind. Now, much of that effort is diluted on kids who are doing just fine. It creates a different standard for public accountability, one more applicable to good education. “My kid passed benchmarks, now what is she getting?” “My kid hasn’t passed benchmarks. What are you doing to bring her up to grade level?”

I imagine you could even put together a test for some younger children which tested to see if they were at 6th grade level. Heck, a lot of 4th graders could do fine and then be exempt also.

This idea would certainly make a lot more sense than the resource-robbing and education-subverting mess we have now.

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.

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Resist No Child Left Behind, don’t embrace it

Note: this is a response to e-mail sent by Carole Smith regarding Oregon schools’ performance as measured against federal benchmarks. See below for the text of Smith’s e-mail. –Ed.

Portland Public School Superintendent Carole Smith’s unconditional support of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) sickens me. “Say what you will about the federal law…” That’s quite an invitation Carole.

Let me start by saying that the roots of NCLB are George W. Bush’s friends in the corrupt Houston School Board who were dishonest from the beginning about the real statistics around their NCLB, lying when it was convenient to cover up their real drop out rates. And then there are those friends of Bush in the text book companies and the “educational consultants” who made so much money off of NCLB “aligned” curriculum while our students and teachers suffered with increased class sizes and less resources. We are sick of corporate style public education system that rations resources; that strips art, music, PE, critical thinking, and most history and geography from our curriculum and replaces it with highly scripted, dumbed-down curriculum for all but the most privileged students. We are tired of the massive influence that real estate developers and anti-tax corporate honchos have on educational decisions.

And in case you think this is just a tirade against Bush, let me add that Obama and Arne Duncan don’t impress me either. Just because they renamed NCLB and call it the Elementary and Secondary Education Act does not mean they have cut the ties to corporate America. Our public education system is still being run by corporations, still suffers in comparison to most other industrialized countries, still is stratified by race and class.

And then Supt. Smith, you have the audacity to blame the students and teachers for these problems? Shame on you. Get rid of the consultants, stand up and reject NCLB, and listen to the teachers who still go to work and try to get some joy and meaning out of the shell of a curriculum you hand them.

This letter from Superintendent Smith makes it clear that this situation will only change when students, parents, teachers and other educational workers unite to fight for a public system that is truly public, that provides a quality education for every student no matter what neighborhood they live in.

Text of e-mail sent from Carole Smith:

Today, the state released reports for every Oregon school and district under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly known as No Child Left Behind). Once again, Portland Public Schools had a higher share of schools meeting all the complicated benchmarks set under that federal law than statewide.

I want to particularly congratulate POWER, one of our small high schools on North Portland’s Roosevelt Campus, and Lane Middle School, in outer Southeast Portland — both of which met all the federal standards.

Most Oregon middle schools and high schools fail to meet the federal standards, but those two schools have charted great gains in student achievement, thanks to the dedication and skill of teachers and staff. (Read more about PPS and the federal ratings in today’s news release.)

Along with these success stories, we still have too many schools falling short because too many students aren’t keeping up or aren’t staying engaged. Say what you will about the federal law, I believe we need to reach for high standards. That’s why we’re measuring our progress in preparing all kids for success in life, using defined Milestones — a set of key indicators at early, middle and secondary grades.

For the coming school year, our senior leadership has set goals to increase student performance by 5 percentage points on three of these highly predictive indicators: third-grade reading, seventh-grade writing and credits earned before 10th grade.

We’ve also set goals to close the achievement gap between white students and the lowest performing ethnic subgroup by 5 percentage points on each of those measures.

These indicators will tell us how well our school district is doing as a whole, and how well we are doing for each student by name. They won’t replace the federal ratings and requirements, but they will give us a clearer picture of how well we are preparing our students for success at the next stage of their education — and for success in college or a career.

This is so important that I’m asking the school board to evaluate my performance based on our success in raising student performance in these areas. I’ve told my senior leaders that I will evaluate them based on these targets, too.

It won’t be easy to reach these targets, but keeping more students on track will pay big dividends for the rest of their lives. That’s a goal worth reaching for.

Portland parent activist Anne Trudeau helped found the Neighborhood Schools Alliance.

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In the news: controversy over black studies classroom move

The Mercury reports on controversy at Lincoln High over a classroom move that has prompted a teacher’s family to put up a Web site in protest.

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

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Community Care Day coming up

Community Care Day is Saturday, August 29 this year.

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

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