Monday update

9:09 am

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 (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.

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

filed under: Benson High, High Schools, K-8 Transistion, Media, Reform, School Board, School Closures, Transfer Policy

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8 Responses

  1. Comment from getrowdy:

    Steve , you often use the Beaverton School District as a ” model ” of a well functioning school district, one that seems to do a better job of spreading school funding evenly amongst it’s schools, and so on. I’d like to see a cost analysis of PPS vs. Beaverton as far as what the districts spend on what and what disparities show up between the two. Perhaps you have shown this in the past and I just need a refresher course. Does the Beaverton School District also hire their non-teaching staff based on fancy resumes and credentials rather than experience in education like PPS seems to?

  2. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    I sent in my ballot today (YES on 66 and 67) but do sympathize with others who say that government mismanages the money it does get. Our illustrious district does not have a good track record when it comes to spending and accountability. I have no doubt that this whole redesign will end up benefiting exactly who the board and the superintendent and her cronies want it to. If you do not dismantle the transfer policy, then the WHOLE issue is moot. There is no redesign without looking at changing this policy.

  3. Comment from Zarwen:

    Steve, who gave you the flack? And what form did it take?

  4. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    People always want to make it personal and drag our kids into it, without any knowledge of our situation. (I would no sooner discuss my children in a public forum than ask these people to 1. identify themselves, and 2. tell us all where their kids go to school.)

    I don’t bother with the comments on OregonLive, because I rarely see any useful discussion there. But I hear it’s gotten pretty ugly.

  5. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    @getrowdy, I don’t have a comparative analysis of BSD vs. PPS spending.

    In broad strokes, BSD provides what they do by 1) having relatively large schools — around 600 for K-5s, 600-1000 for 6-8s and 2000 for HS — with enrollment balanced by disallowing neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers.

    That doesn’t mean they don’t have school choice.

    They have a very nice selection of focus options, starting in 6th grade, but enrollment in these schools is limited. I don’t know the percentages, but the 6-12 arts academy, for example, only takes 60 sixth graders each year.

    Suffice it to say, if you don’t get into a focus option, every neighborhood middle and high school offers a similar selection of art, music, world languages, theatre, and other electives to keep students engaged.

  6. Comment from howard:

    Some years ago one of the Oregonian’s better reporters did a comparison, touching heavily on finances, between Beaverton and PPS. I will try to find a link.

    A few advantages Beaverton has enjoyed over the years are as a growing district they have often been pleasantly surprised by added per-student funding reflecting added students, for about ten years they benefited from the services of Superintendent Yvonne Katz and labor-management relations in Beaverton have been relatively calm.

  7. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Yeah, and Portland chose Bierwirth instead of Katz, and what did we get? Jefferson restructuring..and that really worked, didn’t it…NOT.

  8. Comment from Zarwen:

    Don’t forget about Humboldt, too!