In the news: Oregonian analysis of high school future

8:15 am

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.

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

filed under: High Schools, Jefferson High, Media, Transfer Policy

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13 Responses

  1. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    It’s interesting that at the last board work session the E3 team from the Small Schools (who have been asking for months to present their data to the redesign team and the board!) finally got an opportunity to present their data. They looked at data from several “small schools within big schools” ie: Marshall, Roosevelt and Newberg. The data of improved test scores, and closing of the achievement gap was impressive. The data for graduation rates had not dramatically improved but they have not yet had students that have been in the programs for 4 full years. At this point they believe that the graduation rates of the current freshman and sophomores will increase.

    Isn’t this the very criteria that is the driving force of the redesign? And yet when that part of the meeting concluded and the redesign team moved on to talking about comprehensive schools and focus schools they basically said that there will be no more small schools in bigger schools. If one of those academies wants to apply to become a focus school they can but after all of that good data, it seemed as if they were just discounted. The board members seemed very interested in the information that the E3 people had and then Zeke just seemed to blow by it. Perhaps this will come up later, I don’t know. I just don’t see why this data is not looked at a little more closely before Marshall is thrown open as a big school. If something is working why not keep it going.

  2. Comment from Zarwen:

    I got the impression that Melton’s main criteria were distance between schools via Trimet and enrollment projections. The problem with the latter is that they are always wrong! I couldn’t believe what she wrote about enrollment dropping in the Grant Cluster over the next 10 years—I don’t believe a word of it. Several of Grant’s feeders—Laurelhurst, Cleary, and Irvington—are currently overcrowded. Laurelhurst has no place to put the 8th-graders next year. On what basis does ANYONE think enrollment will drop over the next decade?

  3. Comment from Steve Buel:

    The trouble with the small school data is it is based on test scores. All that type of data is suspect. Is it economic, are the teachers teaching more to the test, are the elementary schools doing a better job at teaching to the test so kids get an extra shot when they teach to the test in high school also, are there better teachers now in the school than there used to be in English, math etc.– particulary better at teaching more directly to the test, how has the population changed, what programs are more supportive of higher test scores (not necessarily better all around education), and on and on and on. So if the test scores go up in a small school it is still impossible to segregate that out as a factor in improving education in general. Many studies show class size, for instance, is not a factor in educational improvement. Doesn’t mean it is not, just that almost all educational research is HIGHLY suspect. (Way too many factors to isolate one out, no control groups, too many people designing their research to show what they want etc. etc.)

    What we can do is create opportunities for children to succeed and focus on trying to help each individual child navigate not only school, but their life, and their future. To base this approach on educational research is rediculous — yet the schools do this over and over. P.S. Vargasgarcia, I don’t think the people you referred to as disregarding the data would have any idea of what I just talked about. It is nice to see you on this blog. Hope you keep coming and contributing.

  4. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Here are some off the cuff takes on each school for the redesign in an effort to get the hidden agenda issues out into the open. Not that I necessarily agree with them. So if you don’t often blog here, be sure to not take this too seriously.

    Marshall is in a parking lot. Way out in nowhere land. Bye. Bye.

    Madison is way too big anyway. Close it. Sell it.

    Jeff. Keep it open. You have to be kidding. Whoops, some people in that neighborhood can be pretty vocal. Maybe I will think about that. Small school maybe.

    Franklin. Always liked Franklin. Too bad it is right in the middle of all those other schools. Keep it as a swing school during the renovation etc.

    Roosevelt. Heck, it is in the middle of nowhere almost, but isn’t in a parking lot. Keep it for now since the people across the street are a long ways from any other school.

    Benson. What difference does it make? The school board and administration has pretty much ruined it anyway. Too bad, used to be one of the top schools in the country.

    Grant. Don’t worry. Close a school in the middle of Irvington and Alameda? Might as well write your political death warrant. Besides we need to put those kids from Franklin someplace.

    Wilson. Not a chance for closure. That community already took enough punishment when we closed one of its elementary schools.

    Cleveland. Nope. Gotta have it to put the Marshall kids who don’t transfer out after the transfer policy is given a 10 year continuance. Well, guess technically they are transfers at Cleveland. Change name to East Moreland High and put in an AP and IB special focus option. Don’t really want to rub shoulders with people who live east of 52nd.

    Lincoln. Close for sure. Right after they build the new Lincoln NW.

    And all in the name of equity. :)

  5. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    Sometimes I wonder if these redesigners are here to do their post-grad social justice research. An experiment. With our children.

    The Oregonian’s article today is speculative, but maybe it’ll incite enough people in storming the next board meeting and demanding some transparency. I’ll be there.

  6. Comment from Steve Buel:

    They’ve already done the experiment. It proved that if you let everyone go wherever they want and not tightly control enrollment then the schools in wealthier neighborhoods will continue to get better and the ones in less wealthy neighborhoods will continue to get worse. It has worked all across the country.

    Give ‘em hell at the board meeting, Vargasgarcia.

  7. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    It seems like a good time to revisit the history of school configurations and enrollment projections.

    Enrollment projections have been all over the place. This link provides some data and history:

  8. Comment from Rita:

    I was involved in one of those K-8 “conversations” that was supposed to recommend a closure. In the end, we didn’t. We were presented with the PSU enrollment projections and had serious questions about their reliability. Their track record over time was pretty lousy and their projections for the neighborhood in question did not match with the perceptions of people living in that neighborhood that the area was experiencing some pretty significant development and an influx of young families. We presented anecdotal information that suggested an imminent increase in the school-age population. That info was scoffed at, but in the end proved to be more accurate at predicting Kindergarten enrollment 2 years out than the PPS analysis.

    During more recent conversations, I have questioned the new projections, noting my previous experience with them, and have been assured that the PSU group has improved their methodology.

    I remain skeptical. Mostly because in 2005-6 the reps from the PSU group conceded that they had pretty good confidence in their projections District-wide, but that the numbers got less and less reliable as the focus narrowed. By the time you got to projections about a particular school, their numbers were close to garbage (my words, not theirs). Which, as the K-8 fiasco shows, is pretty accurate. The resulting overcrowding in many of the expanded schools required PPS spending an unbudgeted $20 million in portables to accommodate overcrowding.

    The other issue that I find troubling about the current enrollment planning is that the District/Board has established a 10 year time horizon. If we’re talking about closing buildings that will be leased (the current lease for Kenton is 20 years), or even sold, that seems like a very short timeframe.

    As far as I know, despite the economic downturn, Metro has not backed off much from its projection of a million new residents in the area over the next decade, many of them being young professionals, the prime family-starting age. I get that predictions are a tricky business, especially when they’re trying to plan for both the short-term and long-term, and I’m not qualified to come up with better numbers. But I think the lesson here is that the District needs to preserve flexibility.

    In other words, keep leases relatively short (like 10 years max) and don’t sell anything. It’s the people’s land. Our forebears (who were, by the way, a lot poorer on average than we are now) spent their hard-earned $$ to invest in education. (What a concept!) The least we can do is honor that foresight and preserve the public wealth. We’re probably going to need it.

  9. Comment from Whiebuffalo:

    Rita, I worry a great deal about selling off property too. We all know that the population in our area is supposed to explode in the coming decades. It would be tragically wasteful to sell everything off and then have to look for new land to buy when the crush hits. My faith in long term forecasting is not great with PPS. You know that developers are absolutely drooling over every possible school that could close.

  10. Comment from Zarwen:

    Well put, Whitebuffalo! I have been saying this for at least a decade now, but too many of the stakeholders out there just don’t want to believe it!

    As far as “looking for new land to buy,” the first place they’ll look is . . . the parks.

  11. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Does anyone know the city ordinances about reopening closed schools? Do they have to be upgraded prior to reopening?

  12. Comment from Zarwen:

    PPS didn’t seem to have any trouble reopening RCP for the Marysville children.

  13. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    I’d hate to see Portland follow Seattle’s example and close schools based on Magellan and DeJong’s work only to have to re-open them. What was supposed to save Seattle $3 million ended up costing them about $48 million.