You Couldn’t Pay PPS to Close the Achievement Gap

7:10 am

I’m glad that so many people are able to see through Superintendent Smith’s disingenuous claim to be redesigning high schools in an effort to close the achievement gap and address equity concerns.

It’s bad enough that PPS screws poor kids out of an even marginally adequate education but to use poor kids in their plan to close schools is shameful.

That said, there may or may not be a need to close schools.  District administrators are so dishonest it’s hard to know what’s the truth.

Last year 63% of white students and 35% of black students were on track to graduate in 9th grade.  On track being defined as earning 6 or more credits with grades C or above by the end of their freshman year.

There was a 31% difference in Math and 27% difference in the English state test results between white students and the lowest subgroup.  African American students continue to be suspended or expelled at almost 3 times their population rate.

Other than changes in school assignment, what’s in the high school redesign plan to address the achievement gap?

PPS administrators would rather shake up entire communities than try smaller, common sense approaches to closing the gap.

Here’s a radical idea worthy of trying….school principals could USE the federal Title I dollars allocated for their schools.  Even crazier…they could use it according to their School Improvement Plans.  That’s the plan that they were supposed to have created in collaboration with parents and staff.  According to a PPS Title I-A Report dated 1/26/10:

Each school is required to complete a School Improvement Plan that contains strategies to increase the student achievement of educationally disadvantaged students.  The plan must include a needs assessment, prioritization of needs and SMART (student-centered and specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound) goals for the school.

Who from PPS administration has followed up on the School Improvement Plans?

For years, PPS Title I school principals have failed to use the Title I money allocated for improving the academic program for disadvantaged students.  Title I funds are allocated annually.  Historically, the amount remaining at the school level at the end of the school year has been between $500,000 and $750,000 collectively.

Scott leads the list of schools with unspent Title I funds.  In 2007/08, Scott had almost $73,000 remaining at the end of the year.  The amount left unspent in 2008/09 decreased to $49,674.  Even so, less than half of Scott’s black students met benchmarks in reading or math.

At the district level, Title I underspending looks even worse.

For the 09/10 school year, the district was allocated $18,883,118 in Title I-A funding and $14,569,092 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Title I funding.  In addition the district carried over $2, 845,562 from the previous school year for a total budget of $36,297,772 for this school year.

It’s not likely that the district will use the almost $3 million carried over from last year because the 09/10 allocation is even higher than last year’s.

The carryover from 08/09 includes $180,000 for optional parent engagement and $1,200,000 for AYP School Support.  What services could have been provided with that?

The amount remaining at the end of the 08/09 school year for each Title I school is listed below.  Amounts listed in () are negative amounts meaning those schools overspent:

Astor $6,544

Beach $7,562

Boise Eliot $4,954

Chief Joseph $31,476

Clarendon $54,882

Humboldt $(629)

James John $7,739

Markham $2,628

Rosa Parks $8,833

Ockley Green $(358)

Peninsula $16,493

Sitton $10,761

Arleta $16,149

Atkinson $32,306

Bridger $5,936

Clark $27,829

Creston $9,316

Faubion $5,280

Grout $13,788

Kelly $4,876

Irvington $(988)

King $33,178

Lee $11,023

Lent $(5,064)

Lewis $10,261

Marysville $8,438

Rigler $39,088

Roseway Heights $4,535

Sabin $9,573

Scott $49,674

Vernon $7,402

Vestal $13,806

Whitman $6,864

Woodlawn $2,142

Woodmere $14,874

George $11,956

Beaumont $11,505

Hosford $19,669

Lane $3,378

Jefferson HS $33,896

BizTech $31,351

ACT HS $17,500

SEIS HS $9,764

POWER HS $24,962

PAIS HS $4,380

Renaissance HS $26,784

So you see, PPS has had the money to improve the quality of education provided to poor children but they’ve failed to use it.  They’ve also failed to include all of the required partners in creating School Improvement Plans.

In addition to the problem with Title I spending, PPS lost $617,000 for English Language Learner students because they failed to comply with civil rights laws.  English Language Learner students are also kids at the bottom end of the achievement gap.  PPS had more than 20 years to comply with the Office for Civil Rights findings but failed to do so.

Now, we’re expected to believe that PPS is sincere about closing the achievement gap.  Not a chance.

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

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Carrie Adams blogs at Cheating in Class.

filed under: Achievement Gap, Data Crunch, ELL/LEP, High Schools, Title I

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31 Responses

  1. Comment from Zarwen:

    It is nothing short of obscene that PPS is talking about reforming high schools when the K-8s are in the mess they’re in. One official actually used the phrase “trickle down” with regard to reforming high schools before elementaries. Does this means that kids will go back to elementary after they graduate high school? How exactly is ANYTHING supposed to “trickle down” in a school system? At best, you make the improvements in the elementaries and hope that they will “trickle up.” UNBELIEVABLE!

  2. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    I’m speechless. I’m at Astor, and if you folks recall, I NEED BOOKS!!! That six grand would buy a lot of those. Hmmm….

  3. Comment from h.j.:

    S. Wilcox:
    What kind of books do you need? Textbooks or novels? Perhaps we can help.

  4. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    I need some novel sets; four or five titles, 10-15 each.

  5. Comment from h.j.:

    I’m going to suggest that Close the Gap, Not the Schools do a book drive. Give me a list of the titles and I will get the word out.

  6. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    h.j., this library girl says, that is a beautiful idea, do it :)

  7. Comment from h.j.:

    Just let me know the names of the books. I’ll even send out a press release to the media so we can get more citizens involved. It’s B.S. that you don’t have the books that you need. When I lived in California, I organized a book drive for two homeless shelters. At the time, you couldn’t get a library card if you didn’t have an address. One column later in the Sunday L.A. Times and we had collected 10,000 books. Truly the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done. Now I just need titles!

  8. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    Parents at our K8 had to do a book drive because PPS forgot that as you “grow” a K8 from a K5 the library also has to grow. No novel studies, no middle grade books. Horrible. We were able to get the books and fill in the holes PPS left behind.

    Now that I think of it, that’s how we got our computer lab too. And our language teacher.

    Hmmmmm, maybe this is PPS’s MO. Mandate that middle grades have novel studies in Language Arts, sit on hands for better part of 4+ years, and wait for parents to buy said books, computers, world language teachers. Pretty smart those folks down at BESC. Hadn’t thought that maybe if I don’t buy my groceries or pay my mortgage, and if I wait long enough, someone else will — oh wait, is that the foreclosure guy at my front door?

    H.J. I wholeheartedly support a book drive for S. Wilcox. And let’s get some media on THAT!

  9. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Just an FYI, there are currently 224 requests for donations on DonorsChoose.org for schools in Portland. Most of these are for high poverty schools.

    I certainly support a book drive for Sheila’s class (our family has donated lit sets on a couple occasions), but this is a systemic problem. Tens of thousands of poor kids in PPS go without the basics needed for education, and then leaders wring their hands about the “achievement gap.”

    Charity may be virtuous, but it can’t solve underlying policy problems, to wit: schools in wealthy neighborhoods have maintained a pretty decent level of education, by siphoning enrollment from poor neighborhoods and through direct private funding (local school foundations).

    Meanwhile, schools in less wealthy neighborhoods are fighting over crumbs.

  10. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    h.j. – I think it’s very generous of you to offer to help but doing so is the equivalent of applying a bandaid.

    PPS is getting away with abandoning poor kids. They tell the feds that they’re spending the money on certain things then fail to provide them. Again, where’s the accountability? It’s not like there isn’t a need.

    Instead of using the money to improve the quality of education provided to poor kids, PPS administrators spend their time finding loopholes to avoid taking responsibility. They restructure, change boundaries, rename the school….whatever it takes.

    The PPS Title I Coordinator carried over $919,500 from 08/09 for “grant administration”. Does she need help doing her job?

    Everyone’s talking about merit pay for teachers. How about principals and other administrators?

  11. Comment from h.j.:

    I realize it’s a bandaid and not a long term solutions. But if we have a chance to help these kids right now – until we can redesign PPS – shouldn’t we at least make the effort? The kids in Ms. Wilcox’s class shouldn’t have to suffer when we’re ready to help. yes, let’s unite and work toward fixing the mess.

  12. Comment from mom:

    How can they be held accountable? What is the mechanism?
    Steve advocates ending transfers so that resources will be returned to struggling schools but you’ve demonstrated that those in charge are inept and corrupt so how is providing them even more resources to squander and mismanage going to help? Other than padding the NCLB numbers?

  13. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    To be clear, my position on student transfers is just a tad more nuanced than “Steve advocates ending transfers.” ;)

    In my minority report on HS redesign, as well in many other blog posts and comments, I have consistently advocated for a restriction on neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers, one of a few kinds of transfers currently allowed.

    I have never called for an end to hardship transfers (special needs, divorces, mid-year family moves, etc.) or special focus school transfers (e.g. for Benson HS). And there’s nothing much we can do about transfers to charter schools without changing state law.

    But I have also called for two exceptions to the restriction on neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers to foster desegregation: for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch to be able to transfer to non-Title 1 schools, and for non-free or reduced lunch students to be able to transfer to Title 1 schools.

    Obviously this won’t solve the chronic disregard for poor children exhibited by the district, but it can at least guarantee some semblance of equity of opportunity.

    And maybe if our schools were more integrated, it would be more difficult for the district to disregard poor children. Right now, they can pretty much just write off whole schools.

    Nobody who defends the current transfer free-for-all, which has led to a two-tiered school system, has proposed an alternate way to pay for offering all students access to the same kinds of schools in all neighborhoods.

  14. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    Thanks for everything. I am already on DonorsChoose.org ($158.00 to go) to fund my four novel sets: Outsiders, Harmless, A Girl Named Disaster, and Impossible (10 each). I appreciate all everyone does on this website. It is not always easy finding support, and one can end up feeling extremely isolated and alone. As frustrating as it may be, I know I am in the right profession.

  15. Comment from mom:

    Steve, what you say makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, at this point PPS lacks the credibility to lead an undertaking like the one you describe.

  16. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    mom, You asked “How can they be held accountable? What is the mechanism?”

    For starters, principal’s evaluations should cover their ability to implement their School Improvement Plans and manage the school’s finances. If they need improvement, they should be put on a plan of assistance. Principals that don’t improve should be fired.

    How many principals are on plans of assistance now? I’ll bet it’s not many, if any.

    The same goes for area, program and department heads.

    Surely, you’re not suggesting that we withhold funds from high poverty schools because district staff are incompetent. Right?

  17. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    It’s been suggested that principals be subject to 360-degree evaluations, i.e. accountable not just to their supervisor (many of whom are totally unresponsive to parent complaints), but also to staff and parents. The current model is “shit rolls down hill,” with kids standing at the bottom of the hill and bad principals just covering their asses to their supervisors.

    Pardon the graphic language, but PPS is like the Catholic church bouncing bad principals around if there are complaints from parents or teachers, until they finally get put out to pasture sorting paper clips at BESC.

  18. Comment from mom:

    Surely, you’re not suggesting that we withhold funds from high poverty schools because district staff are incompetent. Right?

    Like countless citizens right now I’m trying to understand the problem so that I can do my part to work towards a real solution. I do not, however think that those who have proven to be incompetent should be allowed to continue impacting schools and children or be given additional resources to mismanage. So, no not withholding funds but finding a way to make sure that they are properly utilized, especially in OR where people seem irrationally opposed to taxation and school funding.

    Steve’s suggestion sounds most excellent.

  19. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I can’t take credit for suggesting 360-degree evaluations.

    Unfortunately, despite new leadership at the top, district administrators seem mired in a highly dysfunctional way of doing things.

    The philanthro-capitalists like to talk about accountability, but never for administration, only teachers, and only for standardized test scores. If we were serious about accountability, we’d start in BESC, and work down through the principals.

  20. Comment from mom:

    Unfortunately, isn’t some of that “new leadership” X Botana who is Mr. NCLB all the way?

  21. Comment from Steve Buel:

    The schools are so messed up by the testing and the reform movement there is no way to really tell who is a bad principal and who is not. Sure, a rude dogmatic jerk shouldn’t be leading a school, but other than that you can’t tell by the test scores or much else. One of the major problems is what flows downhill (as Steve so elegantly put it) — the mandated school reform improvement trends. The principal’s job is to put out fires and implement these (pretty much useless programs). How good they are at implementing the useless programs becomes the way principals are judged. So, the answer is NOT better evaluation in my opinion. It is to revive the idea of education in its broadest sense and focus on making sure each building works as an excellent place for teachers, other staff members, and students. The principal’s job shoulc be to make sure this takes place.

    In the last few years the principal’s job has become such a rotten one that few people are attracted foremost by the idea of making a difference in the education of the children in their building. Instead the two main attractions are more MONEY, quite a bit more, and getting away from the kids. The rotteness of the job has been going on for so long (about 20 years) that we have become used to it and fail to any longer recognize what a truly good principal looks like.

    So, how to make changes?
    1) Develop a definition of what makes a good education that doesn’t utilize test scores in any but a minor way.
    2) De-emphasize testing by stating that it is not that important and limiting test prep time.
    3) Make sure students who are behind get the help they need. (Doesn’t happen in a testing environment.)
    4) Make sure the education in each building is centered around your definition of what constitutes a good education and district personnel have flexibility to really use their talents and energy to bring this about.
    5) Dump the idea that educational research is the end all and be all of the direction the district needs to go and replace it with some good common educational sense, building on the good ideas and experience of your staffs.

  22. Comment from mom:

    1) Develop a definition of what makes a good education that doesn’t utilize test scores in any but a minor way.

    Who should be involved in this? Would this vary school to school or district to district? I’m not versed in educational research but I personally like Ken Robinson and his ideas about creativity.

    So much to digest.

  23. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Mom,

    There are no control groups in educational research.

    Ken Robinson undoubtedly doesn’t base his ideas on creativity on “educational” research. Psychological research is very helpful in helping people teach. Problem with “educational” research is that it passes with the uninitiated (that sounds snarky) as scientific research even though it doesn’t replicate the guidelines which scientific research demands.

    Heck, pretty much anyone could come up with a usable definition of a good education. You or I could do it in 5 minutes. Trouble is PPS never does it so they have no solid basis for the directions they go. Rediculous if you think about it. (Brought us k-8′s, the testing mess, the time wasting emphasis on teacher improvement instead of student improvement, small schools, and a host of other failures.) Schools are for educating students, not teachers — most of them already have Masters degrees.

    Nice to see you on this site. Keep coming back.

  24. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Dave Colton, Madison Counselor, suggested that we reconstitute all the administrative positions paying 6-figure salaries. That is an excellent idea starting with the Title I Director. She could hardly know how to manage the Title I money and then they added the ARRA money on top of that. What does she have to offer that is so great? If she has a hard time managing and spending Title I money to benefit kids and families, why add more responsibilites to her plate. What has been lacking is long-term planning and strategies to prioritize programs and services to students who need them the most. However, the buck has to stop with the Superintendent, Carole Smith. She really did not have much to offer except for her honesty and ability to work well with others. But many have begun to wonder what has happened to her now, especially with the ones closest to her to give her advice and to protect her: Zeke, Jollee, Sarah Allen, Robb, and the newest HR Director, Hank Harris. Most of them have never worked in the trenches with students, teachers and parents. Carole has turned out to be the most disappointing superintendent in the last 20 years that I have witnessed. We need to hold her and the school board accountable for decisions and/or non-decisions that harm students and communities.

  25. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    My grant for books has been funded on DonorsChoose.org! Thanks everyone. It was set to expire on Sunday!

  26. Comment from JD:

    Congrats Ms. Wilcox! Oh, wait, I can’t believe I’m celebrating that you are finally getting classroom basics–books! Thanks to h.j. for energizing this project. Maybe you should work for PPS. They could use the help.

  27. Comment from Zarwen:

    A few years ago, after her unsuccessful run for school board, Michele Schultz was studying on creating a better alternative to the Foundation by pairing up specific schools to help each other out. I think she called it the Sister Schools Project, or something like that. Could this be the beginning?

  28. Comment from mom:

    The survey:

    http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22AAJ7T8SM3

  29. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Thanks for the survey site, mom.

    This whole high school redesign is like a runaway freight train going down a mountain with the engineer asking the people standing next to it at each section of track what they think about it. The survey treats the comprehensive high schools and focus option schools equally. Here we come, what do you think? Thanks, see you at the bottom of the hill.

  30. Comment from mom:

    Even worse the engineer seems sequestered in the bar car getting second hand reports concerning the opinions of the people along the way.

  31. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Did I say “Fire the Title I Director”? No, I take it back because that would not be fair to her. She is not the only one who messes it up. Reconstitution is what we need for BESC. Everyone will have to reapply for his/her job, especially the ones who make more than $60K a year (which is about how much an average teacher makes). It is called RACE TO THE TOP!!!