Why is PPS Partnering with the Department of Defense to Racially Profile Kindergarten to 5th Grade Students?

It’s simple.  The  kindergarten to 5th graders are expected to be the Department of Defense’s (DoD) future workforce.  PPS has a contract with the DoD Starbase supplying them with mini recruits.  In 2008 Congress appropriated $20,203,000 for the program which is available in 34 states.  This year PPS received $350,000 of it.

The DoD Starbase website states: “DoD STARBASE students participate in  challenging ‘hands-on, mind-on’ activities in aviation, science, technology, engineering, math, and space exploration.  They interact with military personnel to explore careers and make connections with the real world.  The program provides students with 20-25 hours of stimulating experiences at National Guard, Navy, Marine, Air Force Reserve and Air Force bases across the nation.”

The real world includes white kids but you won’t find too many of them in the Department of Defense marketing materials.

Starbase targets “at-risk youth” which they define as “students at risk are those who have characteristics that increase their chances of dropping out or falling behind in school.  These characteristics may include being from a single parent household, having an older sibling who dropped out of high school, changing schools two or more times other than the normal progression, having C’s or lower grades, being from a low socioeconomic status family, or repeating an earlier grade.”

I’d love to see the data that PPS used to help Starbase identify those students.  First of all, aren’t a lot of military kids living in single parent households while one or sometimes both parents are fighting in the war?

Does PPS track dropout siblings?  Changing schools two or more times?  Does it count when it’s PPS that keeps closing schools in poor schools then reassigning kids?  Does that put those students at risk?  Do kids even repeat classes anymore?

Starbase and PPS aren’t identifying individual students based on the characteristics mentioned above.  Schools are being identified through socioeconomic status and race.  PPS tracks both of those.

Check out the presentation on the DoD’s plan for the future and you’ll see that students of color are disproportionately represented in their program.  The Portland schools participating in Starbase are schools with high percentages of minority students.

One of the stated goals of Starbase is about increasing drug awareness and prevention.  If PPS is serious about supporting at-risk youth, administrators might try looking across the river.  It’s widely known that students on the west side are struggling with drugs and mental health problems.  Why aren’t they being enrolled in Starbase classes?  Is it because they are wealthier white kids?

One look through the DoD Starbase 2008 Annual Report makes it clear that Starbase is a recruitment program.  The report also talks about the need to engage kids early because they lose interest as they near middle school age.  Here are some items from their post-program assessment:

  • Military bases are fun.
  • I am enjoying coming to a military base.
  • The military base is a good place to work.
  • Military people do lots of different things.

What do any of those questions have to do with math and science skills?  But then that’s not the real goal of the program.

Just when I think PPS can’t do anything more despicable to poor kids, I learn about something new. The most appalling thing is that Starbase isn’t new to PPS.  The superintendent and board have known about this for years.

Years ago the Education Crisis Team brought a coffin to a protest before the school board.  Protesters carried signs saying that the district was handing poor kids a death sentence.  People thought it was extreme.  Maybe it wasn’t extreme enough.

At the time Education Crisis Team leader Ron Herndon was quoted as saying   “This may not be the kind of parental involvement you want us to have, but this is the kind of involvement we need to have”.  Amen.

Take action: Call or write PPS Board members to demand that PPS terminate the contract with the Department of Defense immediately.

SourcedFrom Sourced from: Cheating in Class. Used by permission.

Carrie Adams blogs at Cheating in Class.

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The Law of Lousy Outcomes

I couldn’t believe the Starbase program so I called Beth Slovic at Willamette Week and said, “Beth, have you seen PPS Equity today?” She said she wrote about the Starbase program in 2006. (Not many PPS issues I haven’t heard about – once in awhile Lynn Shore slips one by me. But somehow I missed this one.) So I thought to myself: Why hasn’t this been addressed? Then I remembered the PPS Law of Lousy Outcomes.

I first discovered this law about 15 years ago when I became concerned about kids at the middle school   where I was teaching who could hardly read at all. So I called down to the administration building and got one of the best administrators who really knew her stuff on the line. I told her about my idea for a program to fix this and pitched how important it was. After all, did anyone expect kids reading at 1st and 2nd grade level in the 8th grade to learn to read in high school?   Her answer was, “Well, we need to work on the reading in the lower grades.” Her answer to the problem was that we had another problem.

Just recently I saw a great example of the law used when I was standing behind a teacher waiting to talk to another top administrator following   a high school redesign meeting. The teacher was talking about having 40 kids in her class with a number of ESL kids, a lot of behavior problems, a number of special ed. students and a tough topic to teach. She thought it was impossible and implored the administrator to take the problem seriously (i.e. work to fix it). The administrator’s answer:   I know how difficult it must be, but “We don’t do anything well.” In other words, the reason we can’t fix your problem is because we have so many other problems.

Portland Public Schools is like a person who owns a house and his or her in-laws come over and say, “Geez, your roof is leaking. Why don’t you fix it?” And the person says, “I would but the back porch is falling down, the kitchen needs new plumbing, the house needs to be painted, and I need a new rug. I would fix it, but I have so many other problems.”   If you watch you can see PPS leaders do this all the time. And I imagine it has something to do with why we are letting the army recruit our elementary kids. And the libraries are a mess. And the middle grade education is a mess. Etc., Etc., Etc.


Finally, it all becomes clear.

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.


Wacky Mommy vs. Starbase, or Why It’s Wrong for Portland Public Schools to Allow the U.S. Government to Do Military Recruitment on Any Students, But Especially 5-Year-Olds

Awww, does my headline say it all? I believe it does.

Have you heard about Starbase?

From their website:

STARBASE Portland is designed for students Kindergarten through 12th grade.

The goal of the STARBASE Portland Program is to raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in math, science, and technology by exposing them to the technological environment and positive role models found on military bases and installations.

The STARBASE Portland Program curriculum provides 25 classroom contact hours of instruction spread over 5 days. All STARBASE classroom contact hours take place on the Portland Air National Guard Base or Jackson Army National Guard Armory.

PPS parent Cindy Young has heard of Starbase. I have, too. The fifth-graders at my kids’ school know about it now. You know who’s high on it? My children’s principal and, it would appear, their teachers. I am not high on it. I am wholeheartedly against it. I am against it with my whole, hippie, radical left-leaning, socialist feminist heart. We are pacifists at my house, that’s why. You think I’m cool with my kid “playing war” at a military base? Excuse me, but have we met? I’m Nancy. I do not care for war games and a whitewashed introduction to death. C’mere, so I can smack you upside the head. (I am a pacifist; I never said I don’t have a temper. My mama did not raise a fool.)

Instead of “at-risk youth,” as Starbase so patronizingly calls our students, I would like to suggest that they go for some “transparency” and say “cannon fodder,” ie…

“We need more poor kids for cannon fodder because the wars we have been fighting for… well, let me think… your parents’ entire lives, your entire life and your children’s entire lives, too, aren’t going that well.”

You know what comes to mind? That old saying:

“Join the Army; travel to strange, exotic lands; meet interesting people; and kill them.”

My daughter, “That’s horrible!”
Me, “That’s the military.”

PPS is down with military recruitment, we already knew this. And they don’t have any qualms about starting awfully young. That website, it says “kindergarten through 12th grade,” does it not? Five? Age five. Ages five through eighteen. How convenient.

Here is an article that my colleague Anne Trudeau wrote for the Southeast Examiner, Sept. 2005.

September 2005 Southeast Examiner

William Ramirez was a junior at Franklin High school when he was approached by the Army recruiters who visited there regularly. Annette Pritchard, Ramirez’s aunt, holds up a photograph of nineteen year old William that was found in his belongings after he was killed in Baghdad on February 19, 2004.

“The recruiters became his best friends. They told him that they only took high school graduates. Even after he dropped out of high school, they said he could be an architect or an engineer.”

William served a year in Afghanistan and then went to Iraq. As a member of the 2nd Armored Calvary Division, William was working night patrols in the city of Baghdad. His job was to illuminate targets.

His aunt gazes at the photo of the young man wearing goggles and a helmet. “He was always so shy. We were surprised he looked straight at the camera here. But he still looks scared.”

Spurred on by William’s death, Annette is determined to present another side to the military recruiter’s promises of rewarding career opportunities. Speaking before several dozen people at an August anti-military recruiting workshop in Portland, she lists the subtle and not-so-subtle tactics the military uses to appeal to youth as young as 12 years old. Rock climbing walls at county fairs, military sponsored concerts, the Rose Festival Fleet, and military air shows are all paid for out of the military’s recruiting budget.
“They landed a military helicopter on the playing field of my son’s middle school as a reward for phone cards the students had collected for military personnel.” Annette recalls. Parents were not notified, and attendance was required. Pritchard questioned the motives of this expensive event which cost far more than the money the children raised for phone cards.
Recruiters for the military are common sights in local high schools. The No Child Left Behind Act contains a provision that requires public high schools to hand over the private contact information of students to military recruiters. By September 30, the names of thousands of Portland high schoolers will be given to the military and the private firm that is creating a database to aid in their recruitment efforts.

But students can “opt out” by filling out a form that prevents their private information from being released to the military’s list. Even students who have signed up for the military under the Delayed Entry Program can change their status by notifying the recruiting station Commander.

Members of the Portland Anti-Military Recruiting Coalition will be handing out leaflets at Franklin, Cleveland and other high schools around the city letting students know they have the right to opt out. Annette Pritchard will continue her work with Military Families Speak Out. She wants to talk to every high school student she can, to let them know that there is more to the recruiter’s pitch than meets the eye.

Leave My Child Alone Coalition
Portland Anti-Military Coalition
Military Families Speak Out
The Military and Draft Counseling Project 503-238-0605

–Anne Trudeau

Rest in peace, my brother. And peace to your family. Peace, peace, peace. I will never grow tired of that word. Peace.

Do you really think that I feel like talking about private matters at my children’s school? With their teachers? Their principal? The other parents? I don’t. Sex, religion and politics are all private, and frankly, it’s no one’s business how I vote, where I donate money, or where I stand on a particular issue. It is still, I believe, a free country, and I don’t like the pressure of having to explain to everyone why I feel the way I do.

It feels like looking down the barrel of a gun to me.

OK, you want to know why we’re opting out of Starbase? I’ll tell you why again and I will say it with pride: We are pacifists at my house. I think it’s a load of crap that our government spends billions of dollars killing mamas, daddies, their babies, grandparents, neighbors, friends, entire communities, in the name of stopping terror. But we can’t seem to get anyone, locally, nationally or internationally, fed or given proper medical care. Jobs would be good. Work and food and clean water and decent healthcare would be a good start. Science, art and music in the schools would just rock, too, wouldn’t it? But that doesn’t seem to be happening, does it?

So who’s terrorizing who, bitch?

I had heard of Starbase, but for my family it came up last school year. The kids are excited — they’ve heard you get to blow things up. Like in video games. The principal is excited, too. “It’s really cool, and they get to blow up rockets.” My daughter called bullshit and said she wasn’t going. I love my girl. Here is the e-mail I sent last spring to my children’s principal and my daughter’s 4th grade teacher:

Dear Mr. — and Mr. —,

Imagine my shock to be told — not asked, but told — that my daughter and her fellow classmates will take part in five full days of Starbase next year.

1) Our country is at war. Having our children go to a military base, while our country is at war, is not a safe or wise decision. That alone is reason enough to cancel the program.

2) I am wondering, as I spend a large portion of my time this year telling my daughter, I’m sorry, but you have to take another test, yes, I know you hate tests, and No, you’re not going to flunk fourth grade if you don’t score high — I am wondering why on earth we would devote five full days of curriculum to military indoctrination? (Because that is what it is. It’s the first steps on the road to recruitment.)

3)I am wondering, at a time when we parents are being told how “stuffed” the curriculum is, how you can justify them missing five days of school?

4) I’m asking you to cancel our school’s participation in the Starbase program.

5) I am doing this because it goes against everything I am teaching my children about “lifeskills,” and “conflict resolution” and “peace and respect.” I am asking you in remembrance of my late friend, David Johnson, who was killed in Iraq. I wrote about him here:

“He was a nice guy, you would have liked him. Very easygoing. Wanted to please. He was pretty shy. His family declined to be interviewed by the Army. The governor said, “He did not die in vain.” No, he died because he signed up to be a cook and ended up working as a machine gunner. God rest his soul, and peace to his family and those who loved him.”

In case you are missing my point: You will remember, please, that our country is at war. You will remember that our country is short on soldiers and that is why the government is happy to foot the bill for field trips like these, in order to send the kids a message that the military is “fun” (math games! science! and we’ll help pay for college!).

In case you have never noticed: The government is especially fond of recruiting at schools with high poverty rates, where brown, black, and poor whites attend school. They target children who think they have no options in life besides joining the military. The government needs more cannon fodder.

You will remember America is responsible for the deaths of at least 723,206 people who have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimates. Most recent update: January 25, 2009. (Edited to say: At least 849,845 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimate, according to numbers posted Dec. 29, 2009.)

Thus far, 4,197 Americans have died in the Iraq war.

Here is the Willamette Week story about the Winterhaven parents’ protest of Starbase.

And, from the Neighborhood Schools Alliance site.

They requested that PPS “Pull the plug on Starbase — stealth military recruiting of PPS elementary students. NSA leader Cindy Young and fellow Winterhaven parents recently testified to the School Board regarding this Department of Defense-funded program in which elementary-aged PPS students spend 5 days at a military base learning about science and technology, but also being subtly groomed for future military recruitment. This program is not mentioned on the PPS website. There has been no Board or public oversight of Starbase at any time since the program’s introduction in Portland back in 1993. NSA calls on the School Board to launch an immediate investigation into this inappropriate and possibly illegal program.”

I will bring in political allies and the media on this if needed.


Nancy Rawley

(Edited to say: You can find Starbase mentioned on the PPS site now, here and there. It is described as a “science program” and the mentions are along the lines of calendar items — which schools are taking part in the program.) Last year, my daughter’s school promised that they would offer “non-military alternate programming” at the school for students who did not want to or could not participate in the Starbase program. The Oregon Peace Institute and some of the staff at Portland State University said they would be happy to lend a hand, but that didn’t get a warm response from PPS.

Now I am being told that my daughter and whoever else protests can go “sit in someone else’s classroom” for the five days their peers are playing war games. No, we’ll figure something else out, thanks.

By the way… reportedly five PPS employees are being paid by the U.S. military to “administer” the Starbase program. That money would pay for a whole lot of microscopes and science supplies, wouldn’t it? Maybe even some staff? But then the military would be short a few bodies, and we couldn’t have that.

Peace. And I mean that, with all my heart.

– Wacky Mommy

Nancy Rawley was co-publisher of PPS Equity. She blogs regularly at Wacky Mommy.


In the news: Portland Monthly on high school plans

Zach Dundas puts high school redesign into perspective in the February issue of Portland Monthly magazine.

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

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In 1998, I joined a multiethnic activist group called the Community Monitoring Advisory Coalition (CMAC).  The group was led by longtime activists Ron Herndon, Richard Luccetti and Halim Rahsaan.

My first CMAC committee assignment was writing the history of the struggle to improve public education for minority children.  That was quite an assignment for me considering that I come from a poor white background.  I’d rarely left my neighborhood.  Needless to say the paper was a collaborative effort.

I’m in the process of updating the Two Decade Struggle for Public School Children because it is now over a decade behind.

I get pissed when I read through the history now because so much of what was fought for has been lost.  Here’s an excerpt from the paper:

In 1979 the Black United Front began working against a school desegregation plan that was very harmful to Black children and discriminatory in its implementation.  Using a study by the Community Coalition for School Integration, the Front protested the forced busing of Black students from their communities while White students were allowed to attend neighborhood schools.  School district policy prevented Black teachers from teaching at schools in the Black community.

There were no schools serving grades 6-8 in the Albina neighborhood where the majority of Portland’s Black children lived.  All middle school aged children were mandatorily bused into other neighborhoods.  School officials tried to put as few Black children as possible in as many White schools as possible.  In 1977, 44 students from the Eliot neighborhood were bused to 20 different schools.  This abusive practice of busing and scattering Black students occurred at every elementary school in the Black community.

The Front sponsored two successful boycotts of Portland Public Schools in 1980 and 1981 to press demands for a new desegregation plan and a middle school in the Black community.

Tubman Middle School was opened in 1983 but only after the firing of Superintendent Blanchard (BESC is named after him), partially because of his unwillingness to work with Black parents and intervention by a mediator from the US Department of Justice.

Sadly Tubman closed in 2006.  Where is the Albina neighborhood’s middle school now?

One of my favorite poems is a long poem called The Intervals by Stuart MacKinnon.  In it MacKinnon talks about not letting the effort of generations drop.

Portland Public Schools has taken advantage of the fact that some communities have been asleep.  PPS has changed school boundaries and reconfigured, consolidated and closed schools in poor communities with little resistance.

By just about every measure (achievement gap, dropout and discipline rates, under and over representation in TAG and SPED, teacher diversity, and equitable opportunities) Portland has gone backwards.  Hard fought gains have been lost.

PPS is about to change school assignment policy at the high school level, redraw boundaries, and close schools.  They say that they’re making the changes in an effort to create equity.  Nothing in their history makes me believe that.

PPS administrators can’t be trusted to do the right thing for kids unless forced.  Hell, they don’t even know it’s about kids.  They think it’s about them.  Parents and community members need to get involved now.  Before it’s too late.

SourcedFrom Sourced from: Cheating in Class. Used by permission.

Carrie Adams blogs at Cheating in Class.


Executive team takes a beach retreat

Portland Public Schools’ 13-member executive team, headed by superintendent Carole Smith, left today for a two-night retreat at the beach, according to an anonymous tip to PPS Equity.

District spokesman Matt Shelby confirmed that the superintendent’s team will be in Rockaway tonight and tomorrow night. Some will stay at the private home of a team member; others will stay at a rental house.

Shelby wrote in e-mail to PPS Equity that the rental and food are being paid for “by a fund in the [superintendent's] office — established by private donations — designated for organizational development and staff recognition. The only taxpayer money spent on this comes in the form of staff paid time.”

It was not clear exactly what they would be working on. “It’s my impression that it’s some goal setting and defining this year’s budget building process,” wrote Shelby.

The executive team consists of Superintendent Smith; chief of staff Zeke Smith; general counsel Jollee Patterson; chief academic officer Xavier Botana; deputy superintendents Greg Baker, Mark Davalos, Toni Hunter and Charles Hopson; director of community involvement and public affairs Robb Cowie; director of finance Mike Gunter; director of human resources Hank Harris; director of operations C.J. Sylvester; and director of system planning and performance Sara Allan.

Shelby said he requested more information and promised more details later; I’ll post them when I get them.

Friday update: Matt Shelby confirms that this is indeed the house the district is renting. Based on published rates, PPS is spending $850 for the rental, plus a $250 cleaning fee, for a total of $1,100 for lodging. They are also spending an undisclosed amount on food.

Shelby says this will be charged to an account with a balance of $8,000 from a private donation (an inquiry about the source is still pending). “The account has also been used to purchase cards, flowers, etc… during Teacher Appreciation Week and Classified Appreciation Week,” writes Shelby.

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


In the news: Oregonian analysis of high school future

The Oregonian attempted a little analysis today, with a two-page spread in the “In Portland” section.

Reporter Kimberly Melton took several factors into account, including enrollment trends, political climate, community resources and current academic programs.

What this approach clearly misses is that free-flowing student transfers have drained significant enrollment from schools in poor neighborhoods, resulting in schools with some of the largest attendance area population having the smallest enrollment.

Also not considered in The Oregonian analysis is the value of the properties.

In the past, Portland Public Schools has allowed student transfers to drain enrollment from poor schools, then used low enrollment as an excuse to close them (think Kenton, with its valuable real estate at the intersection of N. Interstate and Lombard). In its analysis of Jefferson High, The O mentions PCC, but not the fact that PCC has long coveted the property for its own expansion.

In the end, the O puts Jefferson, Grant and Madison in the “too close to call” column, which will only lead to more fear, uncertainty and doubt in the community. The district is already dealing with a mini parent rebellion at Grant, and Jefferson, Oregon’s only majority black high school, has long been suspected as a candidate for closure.

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


Portland’s Crush


Seattle School District

If people have any doubts about the direction that PPS is heading, they only need to head north 175 miles.  PPS and the Seattle School District have so much in common.

Seattle School District converted some K-5 and 6-8 schools to K-8s.  PPS followed (sort of…it’s half-assed and still in limbo).  Both districts have parents and staff complaining about lack of support in the transitions.

The Seattle School District closed and consolidated schools.  Portland followed.

The Seattle School District contracted with DeJong to develop enrollment projections.  Those projections were met with skepticism by parents and board members.

In Portland, DeJong partnered with Magellan Consulting to complete a facilities assessment for PPS.  More skepticism.

Both Seattle and Portland love to hire Broad graduates.  They pop up like new Starbucks.  Broad graduates are supposedly hired for their business expertise.  That expertise has played out to be disastrous for public education.

In 2009, the Seattle School District developed a Student Assignment Plan which changed attendance boundaries and the way in which students were assigned to schools.  Portland is in the middle of a high school redesign plan which also affects boundaries and student enrollment.

The Seattle School District closed several schools in 2009 due to declining enrollment.  They expected to save $3 million per year.   Just one year later they find themselves in need of buildings.  The cost to reopen 5 of the recently closed buildings is $47.8 million.  Not only was it a foolish financial decision but it disrupted the education of children.

Will PPS follow?

SourcedFrom Sourced from: Cheating in Class. Used by permission.

Carrie Adams blogs at Cheating in Class.


In the news: Botana weighs in

The Oregonian ran an op-ed today by Xavier Botana, chief academic officer of Portland Public Schools, in response to a January 4 editorial criticizing high school system redesign plans.

Botana writes that “current plans would guarantee a well-rounded core program at each community high school. And those plans aren’t based on wishful thinking — they’re realistically budgeted, based on current resources and forecasted enrollment. They’re also based on what today’s students need.”

He also writes frankly about “small but real tradeoffs” required to bring comprehensive high schools to all students. Botana talks about having ninth grade academies at all schools, which have been shown to reduce dropouts, but he does not mention doing anything about the gross inequities still present in the middle grades.

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


Dr. King

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

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


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