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.

So here is the PPS Law of Lousy Outcomes: THE WILL TO FIX A PROBLEM IS THE DIRECT INVERSE OF THE NUMBER OF PROBLEMS WE HAVE.

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.

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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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Intervals

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.

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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.

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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.

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Portland’s Crush

PPS

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.

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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.

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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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Monday update

As the school board begins to draw battle lines on the high school redesign, resistance is emerging in expected quarters.

Two weeks ago, the Oregonian editorial board opined against changing the student transfer policy, which has brought a bounty of enrollment and school funding to wealthy neighborhoods in tough times. (As one acquaintance put it, you can always count on the Oregonian editorial board to defend white privilege. I had some words about it here.)

A week ago, in an online op-ed on OregonLive.com (where The Oregonian maintains a half-assed Web presence) Grant High teacher Geoffrey Henderson argued against neighborhood schools, claiming there simply is not enough money to do it. (He doesn’t address how Beaverton, with similar size and demographics and identical state funding, has maintained a very viable and effective neighborhood-based school system during the two decades that Portland’s has been dismantled.)

Last Thursday, The Oregonian ran the op-ed I wrote in response to their editorial. (I joked with my wife that pigs must be flying, because I wrote a strong defense of PPS, and the O published it without rewriting it.) I expected to get some flack for it, and I have. They give you 500 words to make your case, which isn’t enough to get into nuance. I used those 500 words to give the district props for finally addressing the student transfer policy, at least in part, nearly four years after city and county auditors found it to be at odds with their stated goal of strong neighborhood schools.

Suffice it to say, many are troubled with aspects of the high school redesign.

In my high school redesign minority report, I suggested modifications to the ban on neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers to build trust in communities that have historically been hurt by district policies.

The district also missed an opportunity to build trust and demonstrate system planning competence by not fixing the K-8 mess before embarking on high school redesign. And, increasingly, community members are expressing doubts about the magnet school aspect, with concern that it will simply weaken neighborhood high schools. At a recent work session, it was revealed that enrollment at Benson High, our only major high school without an attendance area, would be significantly shrunk under current plans.

The school board is expected to vote on a series of resolutions next month, which will help clarify the process going forward.

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

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