HS Redesign resolution: a few suggestions

9:40 am

Here is the body of a letter to the Superintendent, School Board and Redesign Team.  This version contains a few more points and questions that I wish I had thought to include in the original.  My thanks to others out there whose research helped me write this.

First, thank you for the work you are doing to improve our local high schools.  It is both urgent and long overdue.

The Resolution that Supt. Smith unveiled on Feb. 8 is a start.  From here, it looks as if it is undergoing some revisions.  I would like to propose a few more:

1) Strike the language about focus option schools. It is unnecessary anyway, as this issue is already covered in the Board Policies. Those focus options that are thriving in the District have done so because community members came to the Board and pushed to get those programs, not the other way around. If there is community demand for a particular focus option, then it makes no sense to use a building with a capacity for 1500 to serve only 200-400; I seem to recall that was the rationale for so many of the elementary closures over the past 10 years. Focus options can be either co-housed within neighborhood high schools OR set up in the smaller, unused buildings—although I would be very careful about choosing the latter, as we now have many overcrowded K-8s that would benefit from the reopening of some of those buildings such as Rose City Park and Kellogg.

2) Strike the language about closing high schools. It is causing a great deal of unnecessary stress and anxiety to Eastside families that have already lost their elementary and/or middle schools and are still dealing with the fallout from that. Furthermore, it is a highly polarizing strategy that, in and of itself, will solve nothing. Also, the increasing numbers of children in the primary grades will be high school age in only 8 years and, according to every population forecast, no matter how conservative, more are coming. Seattle School District found out the hard way that it costs more to close buildings and reopen them later than to keep the buildings open and running. Should we follow their example, or should we be smart about this?

3)   Work on the language concerning transfers.  If every high school really does have 1100 or more students within its attendance area, then closures are unnecessary.  Franklin HS has already shown us that a robust curriculum can be offered with a student body of only 1000.  PPS also posted a document on their website less than three months ago that shows 1100 as the “magic number.”

4)   Work on your budgeting process.  If is it true that only $4.5 million is necessary to provide equity of curriculum across the district (and I am VERY curious about where that number came from), then it is time to stop throwing money away on expensive consultants and put it into the schools, where it belongs.  Even if the amount needed is actually higher, it would be worth the time and effort to research exactly what the necessary amount is and how it could be accomplished.  For example, taking advantage of efficiencies such as sharing faculty between buildings would reduce the overall number of FTE (and therefore $) needed to meet the goal and would also be a much “greener” choice than bussing children across town.  Another idea would be to overhaul the Portland Schools Foundation and restore its original mission: balancing resources between rich and poor neighborhood schools.  (If anyone is curious about my ideas on this one, I would be happy to address the issue in a separate post.)

5)   OR, set this whole thing aside and turn your attention to the K-8s, where it is also long overdue.  If the problems in those schools aren’t fixed, then anything you do to the high schools will fail anyway because the children arriving in 9th grade will be too unprepared.  Calling a meeting once every two years to hear parents air their grievances is a pointless exercise unless someone in the District has specific responsibility for following up.  After four years, we haven’t seen a whole lotta follow-up.

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Zarwen is a parent, taxpayer, former teacher, and frequent commenter on education blogs.

filed under: High Schools, K-8 Transistion

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156 Responses

  1. Comment from pilbooster:

    Zarwen, this is reasonable, objective and valid criticism of the redesign plan. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

    At last night’s meeting for community input on the redesign, Trudy Sargent specifically asked Botana how Franklin manages such a rich curriculum with only 1000 students. From what I recall, he said that Franklin receives some degree of additional special funding (?) from PPS, and that Franklin has been extremely “creative” at keeping more electives and AP classes available.

    At the same time, a Franklin PTA member pointed out that despite Franklin’s generous elective offerings, student scheduling to get into these classes has been a complete nightmare because only one section can be offered due to FTE limitations with only 1000 kids.

  2. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    About 15% of Franklin’s FTE budget, 8.9 FTE, is above and beyond its ratio FTE (the staff budget that comes with its student enrollment). Other sources are: socio-economic status (SES): 3.67, one time adjustments: 2.7, foundation: .23, and other grants: 2.3. That’s roughly $720,000 extra, some of which can’t be counted on next year, especially if enrollment drops more.

    I also understand that some Franklin teachers voluntarily teach an extra class, which goes a long way to offering more electives without adding FTE. The district can’t compel teachers to do this under the current (or new?) contract.

    In other words, Franklin’s success with around 1000 students is admirable, but it isn’t necessarily sustainable or replicable.

  3. Comment from pilbooster:

    Steve, thanks for the detail info on FTE budget.

    Franklin’s15% above budgeted FTE ratio would perhaps suggest another 200 students (in addition to 1000 it now has) might make Franklin’s present course offerings sustainable.

  4. Comment from Beth Slovic:

    Also, one of Franklin’s shop teachers is a volunteer!

  5. Comment from Zarwen:

    I have stated for years (yes, years, that is not an exaggeration) that I believe the way to help Franklin is to have the language immersions at the elementaries in the Franklin Cluster articulate to
    Franklin. I have never figured out any LOGICAL reason why they should go from Franklin area elementaries to Grant or Cleveland. Anyway, it would be
    a relatively “easy fix” and would also help even out the enrollment among all three high schools.

  6. Comment from Rita:

    Zarwen, I heard from a reliable source that Franklin was originally “offered” the immersion programs, but the principal at the time refused them. Cleveland was next offered the programs and leapt on the opportunity, producing the current articulation anomaly.

    Aside from being astonishingly short-sighted, I’m left wondering how an individual principal can be given the power to make a decision of such magnitude.

    For all its faults, the redesign effort should be applauded for at least acknowledging that the schools are part of a system that must be governed as such if we are going to have any hope of creating a coherent and equitable educational experience for our kids.

  7. Comment from A FHS Parent:

    First Point: I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one that’s been saying this about the immersion programs siphoning students away from Franklin. This combined with the fact that district closed Kellogg middle school which was a major feeder school to Franklin. The district then redirected many of those Kellogg students off to Marshall feeders. The district then changed the feeder pattern of Woodstock elementary to the Cleveland cluster, thus eliminating even more potential students for Franklin.
    Second point: In regards to the earlier coversation about FTE. Yes, Franklin currently gets additional FTE thru grants and special FTE allocation, that is the only way we can possibly support our current programs. With our current enrollment at 1000 students for the past 2 years, our programs we worked so hard to develop couldn’t possibly survive. But this hasn’t always been the case. 3 years ago, we had 1200 students and our programs were even better than today, without the additional FTE.
    At Franklin we have an extreemly socio-economically diverse population as well as a large ESL and SPED population. We do great things. I believe if boundaries were adjusted and one, or two immersion programs were sited at Franklin, our enrollment numbers would significantly increase and the supplemental FTE would not be necessary. At 1200, I belive we could do it.
    My third point:
    The fact that we have teachers that volunteer to teach extra classes such as shop is a great asset. Every school has those special people. The district just doesn’t understand that these teachers are invested in their communities and passionate about helping students. You just can’t pick programs and teachers up and move them assuming you will get the same dedication and successful results elsewhere. Just like any job, you give more and work harer when you feel you make a difference, are listened to and appreciated.

  8. Comment from mom:

    Has there been any real discussion concerning boundary changes? I know that it’s one of those things that gets thrown around in the abstract but after reading FHS post (which made sense) I’m wondering what other boundaries they are looking at that might increase diversity without contradicting their emphasis on proximity and travel times?

  9. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Since the current plan being proposed involves reducing the number of neighborhood schools, boundary changes are a given. If we’re talking about keeping all nine high schools plus Benson open, we’ll still have to talk about boundary changes, since the current clusters aren’t well balanced.

    If I recall correctly, it was boundary change talk that was the match in the gas tank for a lot of the Grant parents.

    Supposing we do keep all nine n’hood schools open… folks in the Grant cluster still might wake up one day and find their house in the Jefferson, Madison, Marshall or Franklin cluster… not sure how that would go over for people who have a lot invested in being in a certain school cluster.

    On the other hand, I’m sure a lot of Roosevelt and Jefferson households wouldn’t mind feeding to Lincoln…

    Nothing speaks to real estate values like school closures and boundary changes!

  10. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Zarwen, great post. Lots of good sense here. And I am not buying the numbers game. Why does PPS believe it can afford to put together stand-alone focus options with several hundred kids at best. but can’t put together decent high schools with a thousand kids each. Sorry, makes no sense to me. Nor to anyone else, since nobody, including school board members, can understand the budget anyway.

    Secondly, I am tired of hearing people refer to the “k-8″ problem when talking about the middle grades. It is a middle grade problem. What kind of education do we want for these children to help them develop, stay interested in school, and be ready for high school? Same old deal, we have no definition of what middle grade education should be. So we flounder around in the same mud we have created ourselves.

  11. Comment from Zarwen:

    Well, it became a “K-8 problem” when Vicki Phillips and 4 members of the School Board made it one!

    They have made everything much harder now—instead of focussing on helping a limited number of middle schools, now there are dozens of K-8s all over the city that need to be fixed. Typical PPS—never met a problem they coudn’t make bigger!

    Thanks to everyone for your comments and perspectives. They will be very helpful to me in drafting my future communications with the School Board and City Council.

  12. Comment from Zarwen:

    Another thought: it might be helpful to take an historic look at the boundary issue. For example, years ago, Boise-Eliot was in the Jefferson Cluster. I believe it was in the ’80′s that it was reassigned to the Grant Cluster. (Buel, do you know any of the backstory on that?) FHS Parent mentioned above about feeder changes and the Kellogg closure shrinking the Franklin territory in favor of Cleveland and Marshall. I remember myself that one outcome of the “Sellwood Conversation” a few years ago was that part of the Woodmere and Whitman territories were shifted to Lewis, which effectively meant shifting them from Marshall to Cleveland (and from Lane to Sellwood). The rationale given was to avoid future overcrowding at Woodmere and Whitman.

    The upshot of all this is that there is an historic and ongoing pattern of boundary changes, stretching back decades, shrinking the territories of poor schools to benefit rich ones.

  13. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Zarwen, don’t remember the circumstances of the Boise-Elliot change — though years ago the whole district was designed so that there was more integration. The middle schools were set on the edge of what was then a predominately black area of the city so that they would be integrated. Actually this irritated the major leaders of the black community who maintained they were highly capable of having a middle school in the middle of the black community. Hence, we put forth Tubman which for a long time was a very good middle school.

    My point on the k-8′s is that you can’t really deal with them well without identifying what type of an education you should have for middle grade kids. Once you have that, then you can look at the whole system, which might mean backing down on the k-8′s altogether. I think PPS is in the throes of loss aversion as well as not being willing to back off their committment to k-8′s. A very bad combination. That is the main issue, not what to do with the k-8′s themselves. Doesn’t mean you can’t keep working on the k-8′s , it just means it shouldn’t be the only focus.

  14. Comment from Susan:

    Boundary changes are when we’re definitely going to hear more about real estate. Luckily close the gap already has the signs. Don’t Mess with ____________ (i.e., boundaries). Status quo….

  15. Comment from h.j.:

    I find it a little disingenuous that no one has a problem with Lincoln and Wilson being concerned about boundaries and real estate values but feels it necessary to only talk about Grant.

  16. Comment from Susan:

    No worries, h.j., close the gap has signs for Wilson and Lincoln also. We’re all in this together, right?

  17. Comment from JD:

    So, do you really think that people in the Roosevelt and Jefferson cluster would like to wake up and find themselves in the Lincoln cluster? Would families in these clusters like to have their neighborhood school closed and be forced to travel far outside their neighborhood to get to school? Would they like to abandon the very real possibility that they can have a strong high school in their own neighborhood? Would they like to be part of yet another experiment with our public schools?

  18. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    As a parent of two former Benson students, I’m disappointed that Benson gets a free pass.

    My youngest child spent her first three years at Benson but because Steve Olczak failed to address serious concerns at his school, I chose to transfer her to Grant for her final year.

    Thank god I did.

  19. Comment from Zarwen:

    Ruth as much as stated that Lincoln and Wilson are safe because neither one is large enough to absorb the other. It is true that some of the children zoned for Lincoln are actually closer to Roosevelt (think Skyline), but apparently the School Board finds it more palatable to fight with the Grant folks than the Lincoln folks, even though two of them have children at Grant. What does that tell us?

    And Carrie, I’m not so sure that Benson gets a “free pass.” The talk I am hearing is about shrinking it way down to a two-year, half-day program for juniors and seniors only. They would get their core courses at the neighborhood high schools and their vocational courses at Benson. Is this the future that families all over town want for Benson?

  20. Comment from h.j.:

    Seems to me that Close the Gap has done more to bring the issues to the Board’s table than anyone else to date. Advocating for neighborhood schools is a fine example of civic engagement. If some have problems with specific school populations, it doesn’t seem like they are level-headed enough to have a true honest discussion as to what needs to be done to raise the achievement gap and increase graduation rates.

  21. Comment from mom:

    I think there is a very strong resistance to busing over the river in either direction. I’ve heard several parents from Boise-Eliot and Skyline express concern.

  22. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    …Close the Gap has done more to bring the issues to the Board’s table than anyone else to date.

    The Neighborhood Schools Alliance did a ton of work on school closures a few years back in the face of Hurricane Vicki. Before that, there was somebody by the name of Ron Herndon bringing the issues right up in the face of the school board. I’ve done a little bit over the last three years to call attention to things, too.

    Many people have fought very hard for the Jefferson community over the numerous iterations of design, redesign and re-redesign, and never had a whole lot of support outside the immediate community. It’s safe to say no school has teetered closer to the brink of closure as often as Jefferson.

    From my (perhaps cynical, slightly jaded) perspective, having been involved with the high school redesign process, I always expected some backlash from the “haves” when it became clear that the proposed design would spread our resources out more evenly.

    The “close the gap folks” rose up 18 months into this process, and they seem most interested in defending the status quo of their very well taken care of high school and its attendance area.

    They now claim to be defending all schools from closure, but I don’t understand their math.

    If we keep all ten high schools open, and we balance the enrollment, they’ll all have about 1,000 students. Grant would lose about 26 teachers, and with them, the ability to offer an awful lot of classes. We’d also have to shrink the Grant attendance area, i.e. some homes would become part of neighboring clusters.

    Is this really what the close the gap folks want? Or do they really just want the status quo?

  23. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Seems to me these questions should have been discussed right along. With thousands of people attending meetings we could have at least allowed input on them and given a fair assessment of what the actual consequences are.
    Dodge, dodge, dodge. Same thing for years on the inequities. Don’t really discuss them in a real way so we don’t have to face the consequences. Every time a specific consequence was raised at the meeting I attended the answer was, “we don’t know that yet.” I am afraid the lack of analyzing various solutions will mean that the people with the least political power will be the big losers.

  24. Comment from Zarwen:

    Steve R.,

    For what it’s worth, the closethegap group has stated publicly that they are prepared to lose 300 students (that is, give up the ones who are transferring in) and the FTE that go with them.

    Maybe not your idea of “equity,” but not the status quo, either.

  25. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    They’ll need to lose 600 if they’re serious about not closing any schools. That’s why I say I don’t understand their math. We don’t have 13,000 high school students to divvy up among ten schools. Pretty simple math.

    But maybe they don’t really want to balance enrollment, either, ergo… status quo, more or less.

  26. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    With all due respect, a lot of us in North Portland feel that our neighborhood kids have been kidnapped by Grant, Cleveland and Benson. We’d like them back.

  27. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    One more thing, cuz I’m a little steamed now.

    Those of us not lucky enough (or wealthy enough) to live in one of the “good” school clusters essentially had our neighborhood high schools closed several years ago. Nobody in the Jefferson, Madison, Marshall or Roosevelt cluster has had guaranteed access to a comprehensive secondary school for ages.

    Did we fight it? Hell yes. We’re still fighting. With some success, too.

    This proposed high school redesign is the first time the district has actually proposed bringing back comprehensive secondary education for these neighborhoods.

  28. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    As long as we’re being honest…The Close the Gap group seems to be making token gestures of good will. A media release, book drive, 300 students…then a claim to have done more to bring the issues to the table than anyone else to date. What issues? Certainly not the achievement gap.

  29. Comment from Ellyn Terry:

    Equity doesn’t require each high school to have an “equal” number of students, so there is no need for the simple math to divvy up students evenly. The Close the Gap group is genuinely supportive of comprehensive secondary education for all neighborhoods in Portland. This can be done without closing schools. The group wants the PPS board to move away from adjusting boundaries to engineer socioeconomic parity, and instead work toward closing the achievement gaps in ways that have been successful in other school districts. Closing existing schools in exchange for focus schools and busing more than 4,000 students all over the city is not the answer. For those who feel that their kids have been kidnapped by Grant, Cleveland and Benson, this is because the PPS board has allowed the enrollment transfer program to wreak havoc on neighborhood schools. That is something that must be changed as part of the redesign. It is the policy of the PPS Board, and not the students and families of Grant, Cleveland and Benson, that has ripped apart our neighborhoods. That is one thing Close the Gap is trying to draw attention to via the media. If the communities across the city can join forces to work together, without undeserved bitterness and resentment, to put pressure on the PPS board, there will be a better chance to affect change that will benefit everyone.

  30. Comment from Steve Buel:

    The achievement gap is crap. Nobody has closed it in situations such as Portland’s inequitable high schools.
    So for Close the Gap to say we need to work toward closing the achievement gap instead of dealing with the inequities is wrong. All we can do is help students move as far as they can as fast as they can — all students, which means that once they enter school the ones ahead stay ahead. Trouble is we have handicapped a huge segment of Portland’s student population with policies which give them a worse education than everyone else. Sure, we can have equal education in each high school attendance area, just cost a lot more to do it in the poorer neighborhoods because your starting postion is different. Millions per lower economic high school if you really want to get it done. Then you won’t really get there, but you might create nearly equal opportunities. And you could, with a serious effort, create decent high schools there.

  31. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    Were any of you at the community meeting on Thursday…where the Lincoln parents said they didn’t want to see any students cut from their school or bussed across the river. As it is they have to raise tons of money to support the programs they want there, so they are balking in a big way the idea of cutting their enrollment to 1350. They want our transfers.

    Put your anger where it belongs people. PPS has not provided good schools across ALL Portland neighborhoods, they’ve allowed certain schools (especially those across the river) to cream from some of our struggling schools instead of putting the necessary funding and hard work it takes to build a strong program at all our schools. Those west side schools “do it for themselves” and that’s what PPS likes.

    Again, I say Close the Gaps, not the Schools because PPS needs to put their energy into that (which they say is their mission).

  32. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    In my opinion schools should not be allowed to “do it for themselves” People on the west side should have to deal with the same crappy funding we have in our neck of the woods, then maybe they would support stable funding for all schools. Of course they want to keep the status quo, their kids are the ones benifitting!

  33. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    vargasgarcia – I think what drives most people from the PPS Equity site is anger at PPS for failing to educate all students in an equitable manner.

    h.j. – I prefer to have true, honest discussions with people who identify themselves. Otherwise it feels disingenuous.

  34. Comment from Zarwen:

    For me, “close the gap” means close the curriculum gap, the resources gap, not an achievement gap.

    It is a little-known fact that the school district can allocate its budget any way they choose. The dollars are NOT legally required to follow students from school to school. (An acquaintance of mine verified this information with a phone call to the ODE.) And the FTE formulas are set by local districts, not the state. So, there are steps that PPS COULD take immediately, without the need for resolutions, closures, redrawing boundaries, whatever. It all goes back to how the funds are allocated.

  35. Comment from Neisha:

    Hello everyone! I think most of you know me. I’ve posted here many times before and I’ve always been a strong voice for equity, you know that. I’m also one of those Close the Gap parents.

    Can I just say a few things in defense of the group and of Grant parents in general. First of all, no-one thinks the status quo is fine. We are all aware of the appalling inequities in opportunity in our high schools and in the middle grades. We see these inequities in our own Grant cluster K-8s, and we know that the current high school structure is unsustainable. Enrollment must be balanced. Everyone agrees on that. What we don’t agree on is whether it is necessary to close 2-3 eastside or North Portland high schools in order to achieve a strong comprehensive high school in all parts of the district. I haven’t seen enough information from PPS showing that so many neighborhood school closures are necessary. The best information I have seen is what Steve R wrote a few posts up about why we can’t have a high school like Franklin in all of our high school buildings. I’d like to see more specific information like that about all of our high schools. And Steve shouldn’t have to be the one to provide it. I think we would all like more specifics about what each school will gain or lose under the various enrollment scenarios.

    I also have a lot of questions about the focus option portion of this plan, which in my opinion is the part of the plan that is least developed. There has been only one work session on focus options, and there are many unanswered questions. The following are some questions about focus option high schools that I sent to the School Board earlier this week and, at his request, to the mayor a few minutes ago:

    1) What population are they intended to serve?

    2) How will they be housed? In large high schools? In other smaller buildings (like Kellogg)? If in large high schools, will they be colocated with each other?

    3) Will they be centrally located or located in specific communities?

    4) Why does staff think that a larger number of students will choose focus options than do currently? What is the basis for this?

    5) Will there be any preference for existing programs (YWA, Marshall/Roosevelt small schools)?

    6) If the existing small schools become focus options, will there be efforts to market them outside their current communities or are they intended to serve mainly those communities? Will they be located someplace different?

    7) How will the district use the results of the survey that it is currently conducting regarding interest in small schools?

    8) What about career technical education? There has been discussion about Benson, but no meetings with the Benson community. What will be the future of Benson and career technical education?

    9) Can a student attend a focus option school part time or for part of her education?

    10) Can a plan go forward without concrete information about what the focus options will be, where they will be located, and how they will be utilized by students?

    Anyway, I just wanted to drop into this discussion to let you know that we *are* all in this together. That may sound hokey, but we’re all posting here because we all care about public schools. I’m not doing this just for my school, my kid, or my neighborhood. That’s never been me. And I don’t think that’s the rest of you either. Thanks!

  36. Comment from Scott:

    I hate to see schools and communties burn their energy fighting each other when we all have the same problem of a PPS Administration that refuses to be open and honest with any of us. Does anyone on this board think its ok that PPS still has given us no details and has submitted a proposal that would go from high concept to detailed plan in only 45 days? If PPS is true to form, we will spend most of that 45 days in the dark and by the time the handwriting is on the wall (however it unfolds), the targets of PPS action will have no time to respond. All the while PPS claiming that “engaged in an extended and meaningful conversation with the public.” Gag. We need to pull together to deal with this beast, not unleash old resentments, of which I am sure there are many. I believe Close the Gap is not just about Grant. Close the Gap believes that no neighborhood school should close unless and until PPS makes a convincing case that needs to happen. PPS of course wants to avoid the burden of making any case at all–just get at least 4 board votes and ram it through, potentially leaving us with another K-8 type mess, only much bigger. We need to band together as a group of communities and tell PPS that this old way of doing business is finished. We’re going to hold them to a higher standard, or raise bloody hell. If Grant needs to shrink to 1100-1200 to avoid inequitable school closures so be it. But the dirty secret is that PPS has been free all along to pour more money and more resources into struggling schools that need it. The enrollment-driven formula for calculating FTE’s and other resources is a creature of PPS’ making and can be unmade by PPS if they get the message that folks want to keep their neighborhood schools open–all of them. We’re at the demographic trough anyway. Our bulging elementaries and K-8′s will drive high school enrollments higher over the next 10-15 years. Can we put aside our differences and stand firm together to stop another railroading by PPS? They need to change the way they do businss and we can be the ones to make that happen. Enough is enough.


  37. Comment from Rita:

    All good questions, Neisha. Thanks for putting them together.

    I’d like to add one more: if the whole point of going through this rolling crisis of high school redesign is to make the system fiscally sustainable, then why is the District insisting on creating focus option high schools? Didn’t we already learn that small high schools are relatively costly to run and without additional resources are unable to provide most of their students with anything approaching a robust curriculum?

    I know that the District hasn’t yet produced any actual cost estimates on this redesign (the reliability of the $4 million mentioned in the resolution is questionable at best), but they have asserted that they have crunched the numbers and assure us that this is all doable (even though we don’t yet know what “this” is yet).

    Zarwen is right, PPS can allocate FTE however they want to. But I have heard nothing to suggest that they are even considering changing the current formula of $$ attached to warm student bodies. When pushed about the financials for the focus options, District personnel suggest that the FTE will be supplemented by grants, though none have been identified and the idea seems to go against Carole Smith’s frequent pledge not to rely on grants to support operating expenses.

    So even if the focus options made pedagogical sense (which remains to be seen since we don’t yet know what they will be) OR responded to some expressed desire on the part of students (which I have yet to hear), I have no confidence at all that they will be financially sustainable.

    If this is all about balancing enrollment to ensure the viability of the community comprehensives, then how can we be contemplating taking a significant proportion of students out of the comprehensives that are supposedly the backbone of the system?

    The most recent numbers I’ve heard are that the District planners are projecting that the high school student population will be divided as follows: alternative schools: 15% (same as currently); charters: 5-10%; focus options: 10-15%; community comprehensives: 65-70%. (Math is not my strong point, but it seems to me that these numbers don’t even add up right.) So, they are anticipating that somewhere between 15-25% of students will be in small schools, with as yet undetermined themes, structures, and funding sources. Moreover, I would argue, there is no real evidence that there is a crying need or desire for these focus schools.

    I haven’t gone to all of the public meetings over the last 18 months, but I’ve gone to most and the one consistent message I heard from every community — regardless of location — was a resounding support for neighborhood comprehensives. Students from the small schools were often eloquent in their pleas for a broader curriculum and more opportunities which are possible only at comprehensives. Where is this support for smaller schools that the District planners keep talking about? I don’t see it.

    But ok, even if there is some interest in focus schools in principle, our experience with the small high schools over the last 5 years screams out a critical lesson that we ignore at our peril: these small schools are more expensive to run and require relatively more resources to serve the needs of the students. Creating smaller schools without devoting sufficient resources to support them has produced the kinds of massive inequities of opportunity that have provoked all this recent hand-wringing. In other words, to do small schools right takes MORE money and MORE resources per student. If you don’t plan for that going in, smaller schools can go very, very wrong. Will someone please explain to me how PPS will suddenly have enough resources to do small schools right this time around?

    Benson has historically worked (as I understand it) precisely because it has combined programs to enable the kind of cost-sharing and efficiences of scale that the small high schools have not. Benson makes sense to me. It’s worked well in the past and there is clearly demand for it. So I think we need to hear sooner rather than later some clarification of the District’s plans for it.

    As for the other focus options, I don’t get why we’re even talking about them. In the absence of much more information, I have to assume that the same fiscal realities will plague the focus options as have plagued the small high schools. And the demand for them has been asserted, not demonstrated. If there is a demand, isn’t that what charter schools are for?

    Moreover, I object to one of the basic premises of the proponents of the smaller, focus options: that SOME students benefit from a personalized, hands-on experience and teacher interest, as shown by the small high schools’ experiment. My response is: show me the kid that wouldn’t benefit from these things. ALL of our kids would benefit, so why are we setting the system up so that only a select few get them? Why aren’t those lessons being incorporated into the learning experiences of all kids? And why do 15% of students have to go to alternatives? What does that say about the kind of education we’re offering kids? We’re not even asking that question. Why is the District planning on 30-40% of high school students (15% in alt ed + 15-25% in focus schools) NOT going to the comprehensive schools? How does this make any sense if “the system” is supposed to have at its core the neighborhood comprehensives?

    As we proceed inexorably toward this redesign, I am more and more convinced that this is actually just a facilities plan. The District has explicitly stated that they are not considering two of the three “legs of the stool” for high schools: “effective people” and “effective teaching and supports.” But rest assured, we’ll get to that. Yeah, I’m sure we’ll get right on that.

    The reality is that even the most optimistic curriculum scenarios for the comprehensives presented by the District are remarkably uninspired replications of a bare-bones curriculum from the 1950s-60s, plus some advanced courses (AP and IB) thrown in and minus any of the practical skills (shop, home ec, personal finance, etc.) that prepared kids for work and life. This is the very definition of a 20th century curriculum for 21st century kids. Layered on top of that is the concept of small high schools that even the Gates Foundation, their foremost proponent, has now renounced. For my money, the real focus should be on what’s happening in the classroom. And that’s not even being mentioned in all of this.

    So how is this a redesign? There’s no innovation here that I can see. Aren’t we really just talking about moving some kids around from building to building to balance out the warm bodies? Does this really take 2+ years to figure out? Maybe if we could just dispense with the razzle-dazzle and edu-speak and get to the (politically inconvenient) point, we could actually resolve this mess with a little bit of dignity and integrity.

    Am I missing something here or does this make no sense at all?

  38. Comment from Scott:

    Brilliant comments Rita. At the end of the day, I think you are right–for PPS this is a facilities plan. Get more students in fewer buildings. Then, as an afterthought, create a focus school or two to deal with lose pieces (and to combat the charters). It may also be an NCLB plan. The point remains the same though–all of PPS’s high flown rhetoric about equity is cover for the true drivers here. I always questioned the wisdom of promoting Vicki Phillips chief-of-staff, but was open to giving Carole Smith a chance. Based on what we’re seeing now, she’s blowing it. Let’s get the Broad fellows and the spinmeisters out of PPS. We do need to create more equity in schools. But I doubt we’re going to get there with these folks at the helm.

  39. Comment from Rita:

    Thanks for the kind words, Scott. But I still don’t understand the idea that this is about putting more kids in fewer buildings. If recent comments are to be believed (always debatable), PPS does not plan on actually closing any buildings, but simply repurposing them (whatever that means). So how is this saving money? Especially if much of the repurposing is to fill them up with more expensive focus options.

    Truly, I don’t get it.

    It’s plausible to me that the original idea was, indeed, to close a few buildings, but that PPS has reconsidered that in the face of public opposition. So my next question is: did the public opposition come as a surprise to them? I would have thought that would be a given. Can they possibly be that unaware?

    Alternatively, they may still intend to close buildings, but just don’t want to say so until June by which time school communities will have disbanded for the summer. Gee, that would work out well, don’t you think?

    I tend to agree with you that this batch of decision-makers — in the District and on the Board — is just plain not up to the job. Spin notwithstanding, this “plan” makes no sense. Doesn’t matter how much you spend on communications, if you have nothing coherent to communicate, it’s just more wasted money.

  40. Comment from Scott:

    It really doesn’t make sense. Folks who understand NCLB better than I do think that may be the secret driver. It’s a shame that PPS doesn’t believe in straight talk. People are starved for it. One of the problems is that PPS thinks that everyone’s a nimby so if if they tell the truth, they are arming the opposition (just my theory). I think they underestimate us. There are a lot of us–not everyone mind you, but a lot–who are ready to walk the walk of equity. Sincerely progressive people who want to see a fairer, more equitably system, even at some signficant sacrifice to themselves. Close the Gap is in that place. I know lots of people posting here are there too. Trust has been shattered in this district over the past few years. I can’t begin to express how disappointed I am to see V. Phillips style tactics being employed again with this unbalanced process that holds back the details right up until they’re ready to slam the ball through the hoop. Its surprising that things have come to such a pass in a city like Portland. I don’t think we can count on PPS to make it better. We’re going to have to do that ourselves.

  41. Comment from Zarwen:

    Scott, how do we do that?

  42. Comment from Rita:

    Ok, I’ll bite. So how would NCLB be the driver? I have a few thoughts on that, but I’d love to hear from people who actually understand NCLB.

  43. Comment from scott:


    There are many amazing people in our communities who have a lot to offer, the Steve Rawley’s, Steve Buel’s, you, many others. If anything good has come out of the K-8 and now HS Re-Design fights, it is to meet and get to know the remarkable folks among us who have the knowledge and creativity to help devise a better plan. PPS has, ultimately, been shutting those folks out of the decision-making process and that needs to end. How do you stand up to a bully? The common advice is to punch him in the nose. I guess that’s metaphorical here. The burden of beating back a determined PPS is a hard one–we have to do it all. The point of my original post is that we need to all of us hang together in opposing being railroaded by PPS again. I think we should be out in the streets in numbers–but that’s a tough ask in gentle Portland. We need to be vocal. We have come up with an Alternate Community Resolution. Coming up with an Alternate Plan is a big ask of ordinary citizens who have day jobs, but I believe there are folks working on that too. We are going to media, city politicians, blogs, doing whatever it is we can to face this one down. This should not be about saving any one particular school over any other and it should not be about old grievances between communities. Its about finding a way to make sure that the intelligent, passionate and creative voices of the community are heard and genuinely considered before any big, far-reaching changes are made. That just hasn’t happened yet.

  44. Comment from Jane:

    NCLB mandates if a school fails to show Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two years running, the school must offer transfer opportunities to higher-performing schools, and or provide free tutoring. Also tied in is the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches. I believe there are greater penalties/sanctions in the form of lost federal and state funding if the problem persists beyond 2 years. I believe 4 PPS high schools fall into this category.
    If PPS implements the Redesign, the 2-year clock is reset; students are redistributed based on socio-economics on the presumption that school test scores will meet AYP standards, the percent eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch to less than 75%, and it avoids the sanctions. But has anything been done for the students’ academic progress in this scenario? Not that I can tell.
    BTW – in this discussion string there is reference to 10 high schools. There are only 9 community-based high schools. Benson is a “magnet” school.

  45. Comment from Ken:


    One of the screwy things about NCLB is that it offers “choice” in year two but doesn’t offer SES until year three (and both from every year on out).

    Multiple studies have shown that the “choice” offered to kids rarely allows them to access a higher quality school. It becomes largely a game of rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, with the most at-risk kids the ones getting (yet again) the short end of the equity stick.

    As the redesign process was underway and the idea of limiting transfers was floated, I asked Carole out the limited choice would comply/not comply with NCLB regulations. Here’s what she told me an an e-mail from 7/6/09:

    “The NCLB choice provisions apply to schools where more than 75 percent of students qualify for free-and-reduced-price meals. If you look at the all students living in our attendance boundaries, none of our neighborhoods have that high a concentration of lower-income families. However, the net effect of school choice and transfers leaves some schools with high concentrations of low-income students.

    If the community schools under the new model actually do have greater diversity by income and educational need (as is our goal), NCLB may not apply to high schools after the new model is implemented. Where NCLB applies now — currently at Jefferson, most of the schools on the Roosevelt and Marshall campuses — during the model’s phase in, we may be able to offer transfer rights differently than we do now, for example offering a couple choices closer to home, rather than a blanket preference out of some schools into all others.”

    She reiterated that this was (and is, I believe) still up in the air.

    Call NCLB whatever you want – an unfunded mandate, a well-intentioned law with some downsides, or a way to break public education and privatize the whole thing – the fact of the matter is the law needs to be thrown out. Unfortunately, the law was actually a very bi-partisan piece of legislation (to the point that New Democratic stalwart and legendary a**hat, Andrew J. Rotherham, called the Bush education agenda “largely a New Democratic one” (Rotherham recently censored a charter school report drafted by a colleague at his think tank, Ed Sector, that was critical of the movement and then called one of this thugs at Scholastic to censor the work of Dean Marc Millot after he questioned the process and secrecy of Race to the Top). Obama/Duncan have given us zero indication that they’ll do anything meaningful with the law. And, if anything, it’s rather likely that we’ll see the current administration encourage states to implement some of the more draconian forms of the law, including the mass firing of teachers, which recently happened in Rhode Island (and Duncan applauded it). The district’s superintendent, of course, was trained by the Broad Foundation. Here’s a rather wonky explanation about how firing all of these teachers neglects to take into consideration some of the social/economic conditions of the school (not to mention the unequal funding).

    Parents, teachers, and students understand this is a bad law. Politicians, on the other hand, are willing to play political football with education, and that makes something like No Child Left Behind awfully appealing for them as they seek out another term in office. We’re likely to see a reauthorization of the law given the bi-partisan support for the Obama administration’s center-right education agenda.

  46. Comment from Rita:

    Thanks for the clarification, Jane. A couple of questions, if I may, since I don’t know the details of NCLB implementation. 1) My understanding is that the clock resets for an individual school if it is restructured. If the system is “redesigned,” does the clock reset for all schools, or just ones that are substantially transformed? What impact would the answer have on the schools currently under sanction or watch?
    2) My understanding is that the local district has some control over the threshold level of free/reduced lunch at which the NCLB sanctions come into play and that PPS has decided to use 75% as the line for high schools. Can they arbitrarily shift the threshold even higher to avoid sanctions (even if at the cost of soe $$)? If the movement of students under this redesign puts the free/reduced population in particular schools under this threshold do they then escape the sanctions, even if not restructured?

  47. Comment from Susan:

    Reformulating the percentage of free/reduced lunch percentage at high schools allowed PPS to redistribute more Title I funds to K-8s, which was sorely needed for the transition, but had the adverse effect of weakening high schools that couldn’t compete with Foundation funding for FTE. Madison lost a lot of FTE that year. I believe (and I might be totally fuzzy-brained about this and many other things) that in order for a school to reset its clock for NCLB, it needs to have a new school ID number. We saw that happen during the K-8 reorg. Middle schools that merged with elementary schools took the elementary school’s ID number even though the merged school was located in the middle school building. The high schools that were redesigned as small schools lost the old at risk school ID and gained new IDs for each new small school. Closing a school would definitely stop the clock. Putting only a focus option in a building would reset the clock. Bringing in a more balanced student population in a struggling school might also affect test scores positively, which would also reset the NCLB clock.

  48. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Neisha – Great questions. I’d also like to know in under what circumstances students at focus option schools will be integrated into the neighborhood schools. Unless I misunderstood last Monday’s board discussion, students at the focus option schools could participate in their neighborhood school’s athletic programs. How will the redesign align with the PIL classifications?

    Susan-there are several ways that a school can reset the NCLB clock including the ones you mentioned and a significant change in boundaries.

    Given that the district had almost $3 million in Title I funds remaining at the end of 08/09, I think they could have distributed the money in a way that better included high schools.

  49. Comment from Neisha:

    Thanks, Carrie and Rita. I would encourage both of you to forward your questions to the school board. The vote on the resolution is scheduled for March 8 and there will be a more detailed plan within 45 days after that. The people working on this need to make sure that all of these questions are answered. We don’t want to see a repeat of the K-8 process.

    WRT NCLB, I have seen communication from Sarah Singer to at least one parent in which she says that, after the redesign, there may not be any more high schools at or above 75% of FRL. Right now we only have 3 Title 1 high schools (and Jeff at least would lose that designation fast if the school population better reflected the surrounding neighborhood). Also, there have been years when *none* of the PPS high schools met AYP. But, as we know, only Title 1 schools are subject to sanctions. It may be that we can redesign our way out of NCLB santions, which I don’t necessarily see as a bad thing. Not sure if this is a primary driver, though, but it could be a helpful outcome. I’m not sure what this means in terms of Title 1 funding, however.

  50. Comment from Susan:


    I appreciate your perspective on close the gap’s concerning re special focus schools. Can you write a little about why ctg deleted the district’s boundary language in its proposed resolutions?

  51. Comment from Neisha:

    Susan, we wanted to create a document that representatives from all 8 eastside schools (including Benson) could agree upon. There were some issues and differences of opinion regarding transfers and boundaries. So, we ended up with the best compromise we could get.

  52. Comment from Susan:

    Who were the reps from each school?

  53. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    There are some interesting PPS jobs posted: Director Office of School Modernization, Capital Projects Manager, Facilities Assistant Director of Operations, Government Relations Director.

    Are these new positions? Where did Doug Capps go? Was another new position created for him?

  54. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Scott, I think some of my trouble with the Close the Gap people comes from their idea that we can redesign the schools based upon the present as a starting point. Might seem odd, but I believe the starting point for a redesign should be one where all schools are made whole with all students attending their neighborhood school and then stating what programs this would entail. You then move from that position as your starting point.

    It isn’t fair for schools who have been politically favored for 20 years to argue they should be able to maintain the advantages they have been so unfairly given. The idea as stated in The Oregonian that you “shouldn’t mess with what is working” just perpetuates the inequities by skewing the process.

    If we all started in the same spot then I would be one of your biggest fans. And you know what, we could really look at whether we need school closures and what directions we need to take to get to a decent, equitable education regardless of the economic state of a neighborhood.

  55. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    Steve – what is your opinion on changing the “money follows the student” funding structure? The more I think about this it makes sense but I don’t know if this is a slippery slope or not. If under-enrolled schools were funded based on their boundary area could this bring families back? I need to re-read the CTG information so forgive me if this is in there but where do the Grant parents stand on the fact that within your own school there has been an achievement gap and what solutions have you looked at and have you already started this work?
    Steve your last paragraph is something I say a lot in regards to special education. Kids in special education deserve the same treatment and opportunities but are starting in a different spot that requires more time, understanding, and support.
    Also – what insight can the K8 veterans give us on school communities coming together and the potential fall out and catfights? How can we prepare for this? It is a necessary step but this clash of cultures is part of what will drive people to charters and focus schools.

  56. Comment from Steve Buel:

    True equity wouldn’t be based on the money following the student. But, as I have contended too many times, we don’t have a definition of a good education which would allow us to equalize educational opportunity based upon the needs of the students.

  57. Comment from Susan:

    Neisha, Scott, anyone?
    Who are the representatives who contributed to the community resolutions? What were the concerns re boundaries and how does the compromise help ctg’s goals?

    What’s ctg’s definition of a neighborhood school?

    My official, 100-year old neighborhood has students assigned to one K-5, one middle, three K-8s and two high schools. None of Portland’s high schools have just one “neighborhood” in its catchment.

    I’m also a home owner in the Grant part of the neighborhood, so please let’s stop saying ctg is Grant parents. ctg doesn’t speak for me, but am certainly open to learn more specifics from the group.

  58. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Susan, Good questions and good point. On the flip side…I’m a Grant parent but don’t live in the neighborhood.

    Are the Close the Gap and Parents for Sensible…Facebook group the same?

    Other than a few exceptions, why is the work being done anonymously?

  59. Comment from getrowdy:

    Hi all, if the school districts primary concern with the high school redesign has to do with keeping students engaged and increasing the graduation rate, then much of the discussion should include overall student support ( and not necessarily in FTE lingo ), and getting the community at large more involved with this.
    As a single parent of 2 ( 6th and 9th grade ) I feel I do a pretty good job of asking them about their homework ( I do this daily ), helping them if they need my help, checking in with teachers every so often, etc.. but I still feel I should be doing more but am already stretched thin. I see far too many kids from low income homes who don’t have someone in their lives to ” check in on them ” on a regular basis. I’m not trying to disrespect these parents, it’s reality here, folks…these parents are exhausted and adequate resources just aren’t there. Perhaps they don’t have another parent to help share the load, etc..
    The school district can re-arrange course offerings and make attempts at leveling the playing field for all students all they want but it’s going to take more than just that to keep students in school and thriving.
    I do feel that the way we teach ( to the test, for i.e., ) is a big part of the problem ( esp. when it comes to engaging students ) but I’m not an educator and that’s a whole seperate discussion that someone like Steve B. could better tackle ( which we all know he has umpteen times! ). Perhaps once the core basics get put in place ( school locations/ size/ magnet schools, etc..) this issue that I feel goes hand-in-hand with school success, will be addressed.

  60. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    The fact remains that at every high school in Portland and all across our country there is an achievement gap between students of color and white students.

    Boise-Eliot has done some amazing work raising the test scores of their 80+% African American student body being taught by 80+% teachers through professional development called (I believe) “Courageous Conversations.”

    If you talk with the counselors at our high schools they will tell you that it is in fact relationships and connection and outreach that keeps a student interested and engaged in school. Read Sunday’s article on Century High School, here is more information about how relationships and outreach affect the achievement gap and increase graduation rates. These are things I’ve learned from reading the CTG google group.

    There has been a lot on CTG: national research, NCLB information, AYP, funding and ODE requirements. It seems to me that CTG is at least trying to hold PPS accountable to their stated mission in this redesign which is to close the achievement gap and raise graduation rates.

    And it was on that site that I found a copy of the document that PPS handed out at all the community meetings (even the Vestal meeting last week) which says PPS can guarantee that core program at 1100 students. If PPS really can provide that full comprehensive program at 1100, then no school would have to close and no student would have to ride Tri-met past their own school to get to their new school.

  61. Comment from Susan:

    Who is ctg?

    How does the deletion of the boundary language in the community resolutions acheive it’s goals.

    What’s ctg’s definition of neighborhood school?

  62. Comment from Susan:


    I’m not seeing any of the info you wrote about on the ctg website. Are you talking about the grant google group?

  63. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    Yes, I’m talking about the Close the Gap, Not the Schools Google Group (is that CTG? Did I get that wrong). The docs I mention are in the files section. I know parents from Cleveland and Franklin and Jeff that are on the group. I don’t think it’s a Grant-specific group. Anyone can join it. Just concerned parents, like most of us.

    As for the deletion of the boundary language, I understand that because some schools, like Franklin, wanted there to be boundary changes to boost their catchment, and other schools didn’t want there to be massive redrawing of boundaries, AND in order to reach some consensus across the community, the language was deleted. At this point, PPS hasn’t shown anyone that this is absolutely necessary.

    They state 1100 enrollment is adequate for the “full meal deal” as Trudy Sargent called it. Perhaps it’s not. Perhaps it would cost way more than the $4.5 million to have the full comprehensive program across all schools today. But PPS is throwing numbers around that seem to change with nearly every meeting — we’re still waiting for the latest red-line version of their resolution to hit the website (they said it would be up for the community by Sunday evening or Monday morning). I think it’s time to ask them to bring on the data to support their resolution. How does it address the achievement gap or the graduation rates?

  64. Comment from Susan:



    does not have files section.

    Can you post a link?

    Community resolutions were written by concensus via web group? Not by the signers of the cover letter?

  65. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    Susan, you are right. I’m following the high school redesign on Close the Gap and on the Grant Google Group and here and now it would seem I’m confused as to where I’ve read what I’ve read.

    It was on the google group.
    My apologies.

  66. Comment from Anonymous Too:

    Dear Close the Gap Not the Schools: Cut the Crap. We’re Not Fools!

  67. Comment from vargasgarcia:


    So much for PPS Equity welcoming “all civil discussion.”

    Anonymous Too, to whom do you address your rant?

  68. Comment from Susan:


    It is confusing. I read the “we paid the premium” post on the grant google group. Probably have missed some good info because I unsubscribed. Too bad info is being posted more on the grant google group than on the ctg website.

    Still would like to know who wrote the community resolutions, if it included more than the signers of the cover letter.

  69. Comment from Anonymous Too:

    vargasgarcia, Who do you suggest? Got names?

  70. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    Is your beef that there aren’t names or is it that you disagree with their desire to keep schools open and bring the full comprehensive curriculum to all schools regardless of the neighborhood?

    It would seem to me that everyone I’ve encountered on these sites are all trying to hold PPS accountable, parents trying to make sure their student and every student gets a comprehensive high school education (some thoughtfully, some angry, some frustrated). That’s my take.

    I don’t need names, not even yours. I’m just grateful that so many have joined the discussion to make sure this redesign goes through fully formed and not half-baked like the K8.

  71. Comment from Susan:

    I do want names. I don’t want to give my voice to the “we paid a premium” and “you can’t change boundaries because that lowers my real estate values” believer. Because before it became a more pc movement to keep all schools open, that was the message leading the charge.

    So, yes, I want to know who and why and to what end the boundary language in the community resolutions was deleted. Until then, I’ll keep speaking for myself and not give my political power to a group led by someone I have a enormous disagreement with regarding a core value of what public education should be.

  72. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    You all might be interested in the discussion on this topic on Jack Bog’s blog, including good, common sense contributions from Sue Hagmeier and Paul Gronke.

  73. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    I don’t think anyone would want you to give your voice or political power away. It’s a community. All voices should be welcome and heard. Voices that may have started as Mama Bear / Papa Bear protecting “my child” may have grown into a more inclusive and equitable voice as they learned more. Some who have started out angry have turned more thoughtful. People can and do change their perspectives as they learn more about what is happening around the city. I’m just saying, I hear concerned parents and community members in all these voices. I hope PPS is listening.

  74. Comment from Zarwen:

    “Mover Mike” also has a tongue-in-cheek response to Jack Bog’s post here:


  75. Comment from Susan:

    Portland is a community. ctg is a group. Mama/Papa Bear protecting their cub, their school – that I can understand. Demanding a public school district make decisions based on how much income tax people pay on their homes is something I can’t agree with or silently support. People learn and grow every day. That’s why I’m trying to stay informed.

    So, someone from ctg: what’s the intended consequence of deleting the bounardy language? Who wanted it deleted and why?

    S and Z, Thanks for the posting the Jack’s Bog site.

  76. Comment from Leesa Cooper:


    Why, if you wanted to stay informed would you drop off the Google group? I appreciate the discussion and community, neighborhood involvement, and I’ve only seen a handfull of comments about housing values. It is a discussion. When any one fails to listen to other views their OWN views become one sided.

    The authors of the CTG have posted and signed their resolutions. If you were still part of the google group you would know that.

    Leesa Cooper

  77. Comment from Susan:


    I dropped the google group because it wasn’t informing me, just frustrating me. After posting my disagreement about the importance of property values re the hs redesign, posts popped up about the grant google site being for people who were like-minded. I wasn’t like-minded on that issue.

    I’m only familiar with a few signers of the community resolutions, which are available to all through the ctg website. The signers I know are all Grant parents.

    How I keep myself informed is through venues that are public (when I joined the grant google group, it had just been decided that press would not be allowed access).

    So, I’m still asking who were the other school community members and what were the concerns regarding boundaries? Which is a question, not an opinion.

  78. Comment from Stephanie:

    Bringing it back to what Steve B says, we don’t have a definition of what a good education is that will allow us to equalize opportunity for all. I want to talk more about that (new thread perhaps?) I appreciate getrowdy’s comments on relationships and the reality of the overstretched and disenfranchised parents. Let’s talk about that. I am visiting the Midwest now where I grew up and reminded as I look around how Portland still has a long way to go just to be equitable citizens beyond the schools. Let’s bring that to the Mayor.
    I don’t know perhaps we need to have a non-PPS organized meeting of the minds here because the response from some ctg folks that they have “done more” to bring this to the board just bums me out. Makes me feel like a real jerk spending the last year plus of my life emailing board members, pissing off my poor husband to attend 3 community meetings a week, rebutting rude people that say they will never ever send their kid to Jeff if boundaries change, and reading policy till my eyes are bloodshot just to be told I am chopped liver. I know it is not personal but can we just not do that, please. The dialogue has been great really and I have learned a lot but the boasting has got to go. One person gets angry and the response is that PPS Equity does not welcome civil discussion?? I am not ready to go “all in” aligning myself with a group that I am not completely certain has my clusters (Jefferson) best interest at heart. Listening still but had to get that off my chest. I will probably regret pressing send, but here goes….

  79. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Susan, thank you for making this post more informative for all. At this point, I don’t see signing on with the ctg group to be any more useful than rubber stamping the district’s plan.

    Your questions are reasonable and the fact that you’re not getting answers warrants caution. Why should anyone sign on with a plan that the ctg group is unwilling to publicly stand behind?

  80. Comment from Leesa Cooper:

    The CTG google group has posted every response that members have sent to public officials. Reading both the original letter and the pps, city government, and board members responses to legitimate questions is invaluable to me.

  81. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    So, who were the other school community members and what were the concerns regarding boundaries?

  82. Comment from Ellyn Terry:

    Since the PPS school board is neither addressing the opening of new schools nor school overcrowding, then one must wonder why they are so committed to a review and revision of our
    current high school attendance boundaries.

    The only reason the PPS board feels the need to redraw boundaries is to allow the board to engineer their goals of diversity.

    Specifically, the resolution clearly states that attendance boundaries will be drawn
    to promote a more equitable integration across all campuses considering factors such as income level, educational attainment of the community
    that students live in, racial diversity of a student’s neighborhood, and percentage of students who are not native English speakers.

    These boundary changes help support and justify the PPS board’s perceived “need” to close schools to in order to achieve the Holy Grail of parity. And utilization of a consultant (SEER Analytics) gives the Board the opportunity to avoid responsibility for the ultimate decisions.

    According to the PPS board, the achievement gap is all about demographics — racial and ethnic background. Therefore, the only way to resolve the achievement gap under this definition is to evenly distribute students by race and ethnicity which drives income status.

    CTG views the achievement gap differently. Rather than redrawing boundary lines, the focus should be on investing resources — money, teacher training, and other improvements — across all the schools, regardless of student demographics.

  83. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Oh. I just thought ctg didn’t want our kids to mingle.

  84. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Ellyn, does CTG believe that all high schools should have equal opportunities (either 1) all class offerings are equal or 2) the needs of kids are equally met)? In otherwords, now the big 4 have more offerings etc. since they have more kids. So, does CTG believe that in dividing up the resources it should be equal throughout the district? This doesn’t seem like a holy grail to me, but more of a fair system of public education? What is their position on this issue? Thanks. Nice to see you here.

  85. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    “…to engineer their goals of diversity…”

    i kind of thought that was what Grant was doing by “taking in” the students from Jeff and other “poor” schools. (We are rich at Jeff, by the way, in very many ways. You have no idea.)

    I actually had a Grant parent tell me, nervously (this was a few years back), that without the students from Jeff, Grant wouldn’t be as diverse. Then she asked, how would the school be able to offer as much, if North Portland students went away?

    yeah, it was that kind of conversation. I’ve seen this one coming for a long time, sorry.

  86. Comment from Leesa Cooper:

    The latest responce from the CTG google group.

    Below I have pasted an email reply from Amanda Fritz to my email asking her to get involved in her role as a member of City Council and in particular as the commissioner in charge of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement. She says that the impact PPS’s redesign may have on the City is not her concern, and suggests that having the same students who went through the K-8 debacle go through a PPS high school redesign upheaval will help build character. If you disagree with her, please let her know. -

    “Thank you for writing to me again. I hope you are continuing to follow the Portland Plan, and to advocate for the continued inclusion of public schools within it.

    For 17 years, I was a parent in Portland Public Schools, and I participated vigorously in many struggles concerning our precious public schools. Public schools are hugely important to me. Your story regarding your son’s challenges, and having done well despite the schools reorganizations, strikes many chords within me. It seemed every year, there was a new threat of closure or reconfiguration, while my kids were going through. Certainly, every year except the last, there were cuts. My kids also did well regardless. In fact, in some ways I believe the challenges made them, and me, stronger.

    While I agree neighborhood schools are vital centers of community vitality, the School Board’s elected leaders are charged with making the difficult decisions on school configurations and locations. I trust the parents, teachers, and administration of Portland Public Schools to help the School Board reach good solutions. I know from experience that I cannot now dedicate sufficient time and energy to engage and intervene. My focus must be on the matters I am charged with leading by the City Charter – already, there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all the urgent items on my To Do list.

    I attended a session at Cleveland High School to be informed of the process. I continue to read multiple school-related emails from the various mailing lists I’m still on. I am monitoring the process, however the leadership to direct the outcomes is in the community and on the School Board. Please focus your advocacy to the elected leaders who make the decisions on this matter, on the School Board.


    Amanda Fritz
    Commissioner, City of Portland “

  87. Comment from Steve Buel:

    I like Amanda Fritz, but this is a typical copout. The mayor didn’t mind working on the dropout problem. He didn’t say it was a school problem only, but a community problem. Same with school closures.

  88. Comment from Leesa Cooper:

    The above is the kind of group CTG is. Parent informing parent.

  89. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    To Carrie Adams,
    why would you think CTG wouldn’t want our kids to mingle? I’ve been on their site from close to the beginning when they were concerned about Grant closing, to when they were worried about another failed PPS implementation a la K8, to now when they press for more transparency, data to back up PPS enrollment numbers and Focus school desire, and they do have media who’ve joined, as well as some board members. But I’ve never heard anyone, not one, write anything about not wanting the kids to mingle. Have I missed something? You make them sound elitist and exclusive and that has not been my experience. Just like this site, it’s a forum for discussion and sharing and informing.

  90. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    And thank you Zarwen for stating so succinctly and clearly what so many of us question about Carole Smith’s resolution. Hopefully the data Zeke Smith said would be up the PPS High School Redesign two days ago, will be up tomorrow. It’s clear that we want to see the data behind their enrollment projections, the data behind their required 1350 comprehensive enrollment, perhaps even some data around the need for Focus schools. Oh yeah, some data supporting that $4.5 million PPS says it would take to get the full program up and running in all our schools. Seems pretty overdue if you ask me.

  91. Comment from Zarwen:

    You’re welcome, but don’t hold your breath on the data!

  92. Comment from Susan:

    Thanks for posting your comments on ctg’s goals vs. boundary revisions.

    My take is that boundaries around the overcrowded and critically under-enrolled K-8s should have been dealt with years ago. I would like to learn exactly what the district plans in the way of boundary revisions before taking redrawn boundaries off the table.

    And, sorry folks, but just have to ask again: who were the representatives from all 8 eastside schools (including Benson, but why would Benson care about boundaries?) and what were their concerns re boundaries that resulted in a compromise of deleting almost all boundary language?

  93. Comment from Bill:

    Has ctg explicitly condemned obscene comments such as the “We paid a premium” post?”

  94. Comment from Susan:


    I’m feelin’ you girl! Just want you to know that I’ve learned a lot from your posts and admire your ability to keep our special education kids in everyone’s discussions and thoughts. Please keep pissing off your husband ;)

    We’re all going to need to find common ground, but that includes common ground with PPS admin and board.

  95. Comment from Susan:



  96. Comment from Rita:

    I’m not part of CTG at all, but I’d just like to caution people against leaping to conclusions about a group based on a few unappealing googlegroup postings.

    A few years ago I was part of a school group defending ourselves against a stupid Vicki proposal and we had a lively googlegroup going that was very helpful. But every now and then somebody would post a silly or offensive statement. Rather than have those remarks hijack the otherwise productive discussion, we collectively chose to ignore them and move on.

    I’m not vouching for anybody or anything here. Just reminding us all of the joys of wide open posting.

  97. Comment from Susan:


    Absolutely. My experience while on the grant google group was that the “paid a premium” poster was one of the leaders.

    Can anyone from ctg clarify?

  98. Comment from Rita:

    By the way, I just took the PPS survey on the redesign. http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22AAJ7T8SM3

    For those of you who haven’t taken it yet, it claims to be asking for input on criteria for siting high schools. My particular favorite was the part that asked my opinion (ranging from not important to very important) of a criterion (yes, PPS, that is the singular of criteria) focusing on the “Best use of existing campuses. Locating schools to make optimal use of current facilities, minimizing the need for temporary space expansions and allowing for future growth based on viable enrollment projections.”

    What the hell does that mean? Am I crazy or can that be interpreted pretty much however they want to? Shall we count up all the unspoken assumptions embedded in that little question?

  99. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Seems to me the best use for existing campi (just kidding, Rita)would be a school since that is the present design.

  100. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Maybe I missed this but who paid for the Don’t Mess With My School yard signs?

    Does the Close the Gap group have a spokesperson? If so, who is it?

  101. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    in regards to Bill’s question:
    wait a second Susan, you said earlier you unsubscribed from CTG ages ago. I’m still on there and haven’t read anything about premiums. Not sure, Susan, you’re the best person to answer Bill’s question. If everyone is invited to the discussion (like here on PPSEquity) then there are bound to be some viewpoints you disagree with.

    And Zarwen, I hear (from the CTG site) that today noon PPS should have some data posted — per email with Zeke Smith. But like you said, I’m not holding my breath.

  102. Comment from Susan:

    Absolutely again! My experience is weeks old. Surely, the posts are in the archive on the grant google group. At that time, I was the only desenter – actually was chastised for being critical of the comment.

    My take was that the poster of “we paid a premium” was a leader of the group, not just one random comment among many voices.

    So it would be great if someone who wrote/signed the community resolutions could clarify.

  103. Comment from Susan:

    Oops. I mean dissenter. Although I am feeling a little off de’ center.

  104. Comment from Zarwen:


    You’re right that the writer of the “premium” comment is ONE of the group leaders, but not the only one. Being a “leader” doesn’t make one person’s comment more important than all the rest. The ctg group has 10 “leaders,” and I doubt that they all agree on everything. They wrote a rebuttal to the Superintendent’s reolution, and they have a Mission Statement on their website. Those are the official positions of the group; any individual comments on the google group are exactly that, individual comments that represent an individual’s opinions. I find it sad that ONE comment by ONE individual has attracted so much attention which, IMHO, it doesn’t deserve.

  105. Comment from Susan:

    Your point is well taken.

    Unfortunately, I still don’t have an answer to my original question: who wrote the community resolutions, who were the representatives from other school communities, and what are the intended goals of deleting the boundary language?

  106. Comment from stephanie:

    Susan thanks for staying focused on this. I agree we can’t base our opinions on a random comment on a google group even if it was a leader if the groups mission does not reflect this. Like you I would like to know who from my cluster Jefferson spoke for me. If this representation did not occur or was not a consensus of cluster families then let’s figure out how to get on the same side of the boulder we are pushing here.

  107. Comment from mom:


    Guess she talked to some teachers?

  108. Comment from Susan:

    Thanks for posting that link mom. I needed a ray of sunshine today.

  109. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    Hey all, here’s the latest from PPS regarding the redesign.

    The “Packet of Information” includes:
    1. A review of past and future enrollment projections and their accuracy.

    2. A detailed analysis of the high school core program (the range of classes and educational opportunities guaranteed to students at each community school).

    3. Survey results

    4. Summary of teacher questions and comments on the proposed high school changes following discussions at all current neighborhood high school campuses.


  110. Comment from Susan:


    There’s an interesting comment from Frank on Beth Slovic’s blog re the Mayor’s meeting with ctg. I belive he is a signer/writer of the community resolutions. Sounds like they’re interested in hearing from you — in the not too distant future.

    Neisha, maybe you can ask some ctg leaders to post at ppsequity and get some networking going with non-Grant families.


  111. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Susan, do you know if the Grant Google group is still screening out non-Grant parents? In January, Suzanne asked members to give her the heads up on referrals for membership.

  112. Comment from c.breshears:

    The Google Group is open to all. We have Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, Grant, Cleveland, Wilson parents on there … maybe even some Lincoln, Benson and Marshall as well: no one asks which school cluster you’re in. It’s never been closed to parents — except at first we thought we would try to keep PPS/BESC off since we wanted it to be an open forum for everyone’s concerns to be heard and respected. Now, of course, we are sure there are PPS admin on the site.

    There’s a lot to discuss with this new Packet of Information and the revised Resolution. It would be good to hear everyone’s thoughts as this moves forward, fast.

  113. Comment from Susan:

    Welcome, c.breshears.

    I had a question on the how the deletion of the boundary language in the community resolutions meets ctg’s goals. And which school communities had imput on that compromise.

    Thanks for posting on ppsequity.

  114. Comment from c.breshears:

    Hi Susan,
    after reading posts from all the parents from mostly Grant (at first) and increasingly more from other schools, it became clear that no neighborhood wanted to see their school closed or converted to a Focus.

    Franklin expressed concern that they needed some of their lost catchment and would embrace boundary changes. The Jeff and Roosevelt comments I’ve heard were that they wanted their students back from Grant, Lincoln, Benson.

    Each school’s current catchment has roughly enough students to support the smaller version of PPS’s Comprehensive school and because we seem to all agree that enrollment is increasing, that would allow the schools to grow as Portland’s neighborhoods grow.

    Because we couldn’t reach any full-on consensus regarding boundaries after reading comments from the group as well as private conversations with PTA members and stakeholders, it was taken off the Community Resolution.

    At this point, Cleveland, Franklin, even Grant have written their own Points of Consensus to address their own school-specific issues with language that includes their own desires regarding boundaries. You’ll see in Franklin’s that they want boundary changes. I believe (and I may not be remembering correctly) Cleveland does not. Grant wanted their catchment to stay the same as well. School-specific issues have been left to that school. The Community Resolution is an effort toward a more inclusive language.

    Many people on the Google Group want there to be some accountability before schools close and boundaries are changed. Many of us know from experience how contentious and divisive this is and we’d like not to war with neighbors. Many of us are concerned with follow-through and accountability, metrics and budget. Many of us also understand that our programs will diminish if our schools go from 1600 to 1200. Not all are on board with that. It is clear from the Vestal meeting that Lincoln wants to grow their program. But many understand, especially as this process has unfolded over the past 12 months, that the inequities are untenable. I know all of you here on PPSEquity have known that for years. Some of us don’t yet have high school students (myself included) and have been narrowly focused on the K8 inequities.

    I guess I haven’t fully answered your question how the deletion of the boundary language meets CTG’s goals of Close the Gap, Not the School. Deleting the boundary language is our effort at reminding PPS that closing any school and changing boundaries does nothing to close the gap. I would like to see the district support less invasive efforts at our schools (someone mentioned Boise-Eliot and Century HS). I would like to see PPS put more money toward the students and less toward administrative costs which is the converse of their proposed plan. So, that boundary language was left for each individual school to write.

    The Information and Resolution that PPS released yesterday still presses for 2-3 closures. It still indicates that up to 40% of our students will choose Focus schools. That’s what is on the table. That’s what we’re talking about on the Google Group. I hope you will join the discussion.

    Thanks for the opportunity to post here.

  115. Comment from Susan:


    THANK YOU! I very much appreciate your thorough answer to my question.

    I respectfully disagree with ctg’s conclusions and do point out that deleting language is actually the opposite of your statement “So, that boundary language was left for each individual school to write.”

    And thank you for your invite to the Grant google group, but still can’t join a group where leaders (even one leader) believes public school policy should be driven by the amount of taxes homeowners pay. Whether it’s part of ctg’s mission or not, it’s hard for me to believe that value-system won’t affect the group’s actions.

    I am reading the district’s new 3-2-10 document and will find a way to chime in to the board and superintendent on my own.

    Good luck to you guys.

  116. Comment from c.breshears:

    I would say, good luck to us all. It looks like we may need it.

  117. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    c.breshears, I’m a little confused about how individual schools could write their own boundary language. Can you elaborate on that?

  118. Comment from Susan:


    I found some info on Franklin’s take on the community resolutions.


    the Franklin Community Forum on HS Redesign facebook page is located here:


  119. Comment from c.breshears:

    Hi Carrie,
    So the Community Resolution was an effort at a united front. Something I still believe in. We knew that we couldn’t reach consensus on the boundary issues because of the reasons you’ve read from Susan’s above links. So we concentrated on the issues we could agree on such as achievement gap, grad rates, full comprehensive program for all students, and no closures, no conversions because everyone we talked with and every post we read indicated that no one wanted their school to close.

    However, at this point, it looks like PPS is going to close three schools, and they are set on the Focus schools though I’m not convinced that they are warranted.

    My father-in-law went to Jeff. My mother-in-law went to Grant. They met at a football game, went to college together and my husband (in utero) walked across the stage at OSU graduation four years later. I know it’s sappy, but I don’t want either school to close.

    Portland neighborhoods are as individual as all our students and I believe that PPS needs to take a more individual stance toward raising the graduation rates and closing the gaps: student by student and in meaningful relationships. And I think we all want equitable education for all our children.

    I hope this helps answer your question. Please let me know if there’s something more.

  120. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Wow. That’s transparency. You don’t even have to go through a credit check to view the comments. No wonder Franklin had 2000 people turn out for their meeting.

  121. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Cris, sappy or not, I believe you. Nobody wants their school to close. They are the heart of communities and sadly, PPS has spent the last decade using schools to divide communities.

    Poor kids and families have suffered through generations of these inequities in education. No more.

  122. Comment from Bill:

    Excerpt from the PPS FAQ linked above:

    How can we put the core program in place?
    The most efficient way to provide this program is to balance enrollment across community schools. The logic is simple: equal enrollment equates to approximately equal numbers of teachers which leads to approximately equal number of courses; thus, students from high poverty schools or low poverty schools will all have about the same quantity of course offerings. Balancing enrollment across schools is also a relatively budget neutral (and potentially cost cutting) method of addressing program inequities. PPS will have the same number of students so it will need the same number of teachers. It is likely that balancing enrollment would reduce administrative costs.

    Seems obvious to me: equalizing enrollment is in the best interests of students and taxpayers. Anyone disagree?

  123. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Does changing the state tests from 10th grade to 11th grade enable the district to reset the NCLB clock?

  124. Comment from c.breshears:

    Hi Bill,
    it is my understanding from recent discussions with ODE that the district gets set amount of money-per-student from the state. However, how PPS allocates that money is up to them. PPS can choose to fund schools in the “money follows student” way (completely based on enrollment), or they can choose to fund on a more subjective need basis, meaning that schools that have greater need get extra funding. I haven’t said this very eloquently, but that’s the gist.

    Also, it should be noted that PPS’s current plan is heavy in Focus schools which is heavy in administrative costs. PPS’s current plan has more money going toward administrative costs than toward students or lower class sizes.

  125. Comment from Rita:

    I don’t have time to pore over the 28 page document right now, but need to alert my committee, so I’m going to take the lazy way out. Could someone point me to where it states that 40% enrollment in focus options and 2-3 closures?


  126. Comment from Susan:


    Page 21 shows current breakdown of enrollment by school type and pages 21-23 show enrollment sceanarios with school type configurations, with page 23 showing scearios for how many campuses through the year 2020.

  127. Comment from Rita:

    Thanks, Susan.

  128. Comment from Susan:

    Bill and Cris,

    On the Answers to Frequently Asked Qs, Chart 1 (page 2, with endnote on page 27) shows the current student/FTE funding, which is not limited to actual student enrollment.

    It looks like there is less emphasis on special focus schools in this document. Although the forecasts show community comprehensives getting 64% to 74%, the remaining percentages go to district wide programs, charters and the alternative/special programs, not just special focus.

    I went through the process of having my neighborhood elementary school close and understand the emotions surrounding not wanting to see a school closed and not wanting to disrupt students and staff. But what defines a neighborhood school at the high school level? There are numerous neighborhoods that feed into any one Portland high school, with neighborhoods split up to feed into different high schools.

  129. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Bill, I have argued — literally for years — that balancing enrollment is the only way to provide equity of opportunity without some new source of funding (and the reality is we’re losing funding, not gaining it).

    If we want the same programs with different sized schools, we will have less overall. Simple math, if you think about it; it’s a closed financial system (unless you want to take money from early childhood, K-8, special ed., ESL, etc.).

    If we want 10,000 students in 10 buildings — no matter if they’re all 1000 students, or if some are 1300 and others are 600 — you only get so much. (With different sized schools, the larger schools would have to subsidize the smaller schools.)

    If that’s what we want — the kind of school that’s funded with what the state sends us for 1000 students — lets be honest about it.

    Basically, if we don’t balance enrollment, we keep all ten “comprehensive” schools open, and we want equity of opportunity, the “haves” will give up far more than they would under the proposed district plan. More likely, they would fight to keep as much as they could, and the smaller, poorer schools would continue to have less opportunity.

    If, on the other hand, we don’t balance enrollment, we keep all ten schools open, and we don’t care about equity… well, that’s pretty much what we’ve got right now. It’s worked out pretty well for Cleveland, Grant, Lincoln and Wilson at least.

    Balancing enrollment is the only way to go if we’re serious about balancing opportunity and providing a decent level of education for all students.

  130. Comment from lek:

    I live in the Marshal cluster and if Marshal needs to close so my kids can have a decent high school so be it. There is no way they can keep all the schools open and have great programs. I had my son move so he could go to Cleveland next year. I would rather have him home and take a longer bus ride. Sure it would be great to keep all schools open, just not realistic.

  131. Comment from c.breshears:

    I just became aware of this email exchange between Ruth Adkins and Cathy Mincberg from January 2008. Perhaps you all remember this since you’ve been involved way longer than my 18 mos.


    Is any of this about equity? About achievement gaps or graduation rates? Or is it about politics and money? I’m feeling duped, played, gaslighted.

  132. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    CB, I understand about feeling gas lighted… welcome to PPS!

    This has always been about campus consolidation and planning for a large facilities bond. But it has also been about equity of opportunity.

    For as long as I’ve watched, families in the Lincoln, Wilson, parts of Grant and parts of Lincoln have basically horded the educational goods in this city. Jefferson, Roosevelt, Madison and Marshall have been on the margin picking over crumbs. Franklin has teetered in the delicate edge of what might be an ideal 1000 student school… but the money isn’t there to replicate it at nine other campuses.

    In the have not part of the city, our schools closed a long time ago, so we’re over mourning in a lot of ways. We’re ready for some real, meaningful change in the way PPS distributes the goods.

    Carole Smith has expressed a vision largely in line with what I’ve called for: balanced enrollment, with the same kinds of schools available in all parts of Portland, for all classes and every ethnicity.

    Will this close the achievement gap? Of course not. But it could actually do something meaningful toward closing the opportunity gap.

    The achievement gap is guaranteed to persist as long as the poverty gap and institutional racism persist.

    The least we can do is make sure everybody has access to the same kinds of schools.

    As for closing schools, take your pick: smaller schools with fewer electives, or larger schools with more electives, spaced a little further apart.

    I wouldn’t be too worried about Grant… I seriously think you guys have more to worry about if they don’t close a school or two.

  133. Comment from Susan:


    Yes, read that before. It’s hard to let go of the bitterness of the backdoor agendas and planning, but Steve’s right about the redesign being the possibility of the chance to move forward.

  134. Comment from c.breshears:

    It would have gone a long, long way toward building bridges if PPS had only stated this was about the “Opportunity Gap,” as Steve calls it, instead of Achievement Gaps and Graduation Rates. I totally get the Opportunity Gap and I think the transfer policy that Portland has allowed all these years, along with NCLB, has perpetrated that crime against our neighborhoods (I wouldn’t say that the families from those 4 schools “horded the goods”: they were handed the students on a silver platter by PPS).

    That’s been my question all along: what’s any of this have to do with Achievement Gaps and Grad Rates. And what I’ve been calling for echoes Steve as well: “the same kinds of schools available in all parts of Portland, for all classes and every ethnicity.”

    But once again (God, fool me once with the K8, fool me twice — I’m such a fool), PPS’s disingenuous approach to closing campuses is heinous. A reprehensible breach of the trust they said they were trying to build.

    And Susan, how do we move forward after how they handled (continue to handle) the K8 and now this lie? How do we trust they will follow through this time?

  135. Comment from Susan:

    We look at this process compared to the K-8 reorg process and appreciate the difference. The last FAQ update (28 page doc), together with some of the other info last offered (staff notes) gives me great hope. And we continue to demand accountability for schools outside our neighborhoods. Why aren’t K-8 boundaries being redrawn as part of this process if it means a more stable student base for K-8s that are under-enrolled and therefore can’t offer adequate 6th-8th grade offerings. And why aren’t funds being earmarked as part of the hs redesign for materials K-8s still don’t have if funds are being earmarked for things like band equipment for high schools that aren’t currently able to offer band (yeah, this kind of funding is actually being planned)?

    We stop being hung up on semantics. Acheivement / opportunity, neighborhood / community, etc.

    And we ask our board members to stop negotiating with PPS admin and individual parents behind closed doors.

  136. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    c.breshears, True, the students may have been handed to those 4 schools on a silver platter but who from those schools spoke out?

  137. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Saying this process is better than the k-8′s is like saying it is better to die from a knife to the heart than a gunshot to the head.

    Basically the process so far is that the school administration came up with a plan with no real detail then had 10,000 people to meetings who offered no organized input. And, lo and behold we have the same plan still.

    The process should have been like this: Decide on what to do with Benson. Then …
    List how much FTE would be in each high school if there were 9, 8, or 7 high schools. Then assign each group of high schools (9,8,and 7) the FTE to meet graduation requirements. Then assign each group certain FTE for general electives which should be in any high school (music, art, computer technology, performing arts, yearbook, newspaper, whatever they decide). Then integrate these two sets of courses where possible.

    Then decide on how many FTE are left over and assign courses based on what needs each school has. This gives you a real comparison of what the impact of one or two high school closures (add down to 6 high schools if you like) would be.

    Then look at impacts if you have one, two, or three focus option schools.

    Then look at impacts if you have no focus options but instead have magnet schools within the comprehensives.

    When the community, school board, teachers union, and administsrators discuss these options they can see the REAL impact. NOW I dare say not even the administration or school board have any actual idea of what the impacts of these decisions might be.

    Just like k-8′s which they stumbled through with mistake after mistake and like the transfer policy which had consequences they didn’t even come close to seeing.

    The problem is that instead of working backwards from the classroom the adminstration used the school reform ideas and worked from the top down. This is what Botana did in Chicago I believe. But in Chicago they have a much larger district and in Portland it is easy to do what I suggest and much, much more sensible and transparent.

    Now the board and administration are using the Law of Awful Outcomes (i.e. since there are other problems, we can’t solve this problem) to offset criticism. David Wynde did it to me the other evening when I suggested they use what actually happens in the schools as the starting point of analysis and also suggested they look at magnet schools within the comprehensives. (Which, by the way, Steve R., is a third, sensible, maybe the most sensible, approach to high school redesign equity.)

    When you blunder forward as PPS has done in this process a good result can only come by luck. Maybe they are due…… Hope so, but I doubt it. I haven’t won the lottery yet either.

  138. Comment from Susan:


    I am a little giddy with spring, but I’ll have a go at why I’m encouraged with the redesign process. When the process started, I believe, the hs redesign team had hoped that focus options would be what communities demanded. Turns out most wanted a quality neighborhood school. During the K-8 reorg, the argument was that the K-8 model was better than the middle school model. The board bought that premise (well, 4 members of the board), schools were reorganized and told “make it work.” There was little importance given to what a K-8 should look like and how to implement the reorg, especially since some schools were growing into a K-8 (no problem, you just, you know, add an extra grade a year) and some were merging into an instant K-8 (no problem, you just –oh, yeah, I guess you need bathrooms for Kinders and have to finally give the school a safe climate).

    The design team was not well prepared for the community conversations. They really did owe parents and staff a better dialogue instead of the reliance of powerpoint presentations. I’m hoping Carole Smith takes the mic away from Zeke Smith and starts wading into the conversations as the process moves forward. Frustrations abound.

    The one thing the redesign has done well is come up with the core curriculum for a neighborhood high school. See pages 23-28, together with page 2 of the FAQ update from PPS to see how they are thinking about what FTE is needed to implement the core curriculum and how focus options affect those numbers. New focus options seem to be taking a back seat to existing focus options (Benson, MLC, and the small academies that are working).

    I have lots of questions and would love to see meaningful attention given to how to best support the K-8s that are struggling or still lacking materials, and would like to see the forecast projections continue into 2020 instead of 2010.

    Otherwise, I’m good.

  139. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Susan, sorry to sound a little brusque and it wasn’t directed at you in any way. Obviously it is somewhat better than the k-8 procedure and the transfer policy proceduere. But I don’t think they have done the job by creating the data which allows for real comparisons. The core curriclum for a neighborhood high school is not the same as data which allows for meaningful comparisons and therefore a meaningful decision.

  140. Comment from c.breshears:

    Hey Carrie,
    should the parents at those schools have said they didn’t want the reboundaried children? I don’t understand. No matter what they might have said, it would have been wrong. We’ve all been played by PPS, not by our neighbors, not by our fellow parents.

    It’s clear that you all know so much more than I do about how things have worked in this district. All I know is that our K8 is still not meeting minimum requirements, still doesn’t have the promised core program that was to be implemented by fall of 2008, and what we do have (Spanish teacher and Technology) is because parents raised the money for FTE and computers.

    At the K8 meeting a few weeks ago we hear that “all’s good with the K8″ and Carole Smith said the same at the City Club last Friday. It’s not true. It is a lie. It’s not just “unrequieted expectations.” It’s aboutthe promised curriculum and PPS failing to fulfill their promise.

    And those emails that I just read from the Olson blog between Cathy Mincberg and Ruth Adkins just proves what so many of us have thought all along … they are lying again.

    I hope that this all works out for everyone. I hope that for the students in your neighborhood Carrie. I hope it works for all the students in Portland. But I can’t trust that PPS will find the money or follow through. Three years I’ve been waiting and fighting for Portland’s eastside K8s and now I believe that I’ll have to fight 4+ more years to see my 8th grader through this high school implementation. I never thought we’d have to fight so hard for something I thought was an intrinsic right of every child.

    As David Wynde said at the BrewHaHa when as when we might enjoy the heyday of the high school again “in five years, we’ll have great high schools in five years.” Great.

  141. Comment from Susan:


    I was finally able to download and listen to Carole Smith’s City Club speech and the Q&A (http://www.pdxcityclub.org/friday_forum_archive) and yeah, she skimmed over the K-8 issues. We have to keep making a fuss about our unrequited expectations or the more specific realities of not having facilities, materials or FTE that ensure equity between K-8s and traditional K-5/middle schools. Achievement might be increasing between the new K-8 6th-7th compared to the closed middle schools, but some test scores dropped for the K-8 3rd-5ths, compared to the old K-5s.

    Also wished she had done a smack down on Peter Livingston, who described the redesign as trying to “create equivalent schools in different districts” and said “a course that calls itself advanced math means one thing in the west hills and another thing on 82nd Street.” Dang. Really?! At the very least couldn’t she have pointed out we’re actually one district and that it’s 82nd Boulevard, not street?

  142. Comment from Zarwen:

    Actually, it’s 82nd AVENUE.

  143. Comment from Susan:

    Yes it is. :)

  144. Comment from Steve Buel:

    I played golf yesterday with a suburban principal who said he told his supervisor he is no longer willing to play the “testing game” in his elementary school. He has 70% free and reduced lunch and he said his kids couldn’t afford to miss all the education which testing took from them. Particularly the kids who were really behind.

    Then Susan Nielsen writes the great article on not speeding up high school graduation in this morning’s paper (Sunday Oregonian) Maybe there is hope after all. :)

  145. Comment from Neisha:

    I just wanted to post a link to a community-created survey on HS Redesign:


    Please feel free to take it. We’re trying not to have it be so Grant-heavy and would like other points of view as well. Thanks in advance!

  146. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    The survey asks for your full name and zip code at the end of the FYI for anyone who takes it. Not that I have anything to hide but dropping that on the end instead of the beginning sketched me out a bit so I did not submit.

  147. Comment from Neisha:

    I think people have been sending it in without that information.

  148. Comment from Bill:

    A comment or two on Steve Duin’s Thursday column on the HS redesign:
    He makes a good point about partnerhips with PCC and other entities. Schools should not operate in a vacuum, and partnerships can help to stretch taxpayer dollars in addition to helping schools engage with the surrounding community.
    But I was taken aback by his comment about the District’s stated goal of balancing school enrollment. PPS’s logic was not “pursuasive” because we can’t “clone the Lincoln Booster Club.”
    In other words, because we can’t eliminate all inequalities, we shouldn’t bother to fix any of them.
    I’ve seen this same logical fallacy, in various forms, used over and over to justify the status quo by those who benefit from it.
    Balancing enrollment will not fix all of PPS’s problems. But as Steve Rawley and others have argued for years, quite “pursuasively”, it is an essential first step.

  149. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Please forgive my naivety. But if my memory is correct, Steve Rawley has been complaining about PPS transfer policy for at least several years. Why was it that PPS never bothered to check it out and make modifications? Why are we paying big bucks to folks who are supposed to know what they are doing and the impact of their decisions. How did the Enrollment Transfer Center get to be so huge? It used to be the job of one person for many years. The ETC Director needs to be fired or demoted. She expanded that center like no body’s business and her negative creativity has left this big mess to be cleaned up. What will happen to her department after HS Redesign and the decision to limit HS transfer? Who is going to hold her accountable? I also heard she was contentious, patronizing and arrogant as heck too.

  150. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    The high school application window closed on 2/26/10 and letters are supposed to be mailed out on April 9th but the major changes at Roosevelt were announced yesterday?

    Will parents ever be given an opportunity to make informed decisions in PPS or are parents expected to follow the board’s lead and make uniformed decisions?

  151. Comment from Susan:

    It’s hard to believe there are four scenarios being considered for Roosevelt. If Roosevelt closes, the district doesn’t get the money, does it? The hs redesign has planned to eliminate most of the small schools. If Roosevelt is going to become a special focus or charter, then how could that be implemented for the 2010-2011 school year? A new special focus/charter couldn’t keep the neighborhood catchment one year and then disburse everyone to a neighborhood school the next with access to the special focus through the lottery.

    Or redraw boundaries before the beginning of the school year? Yeah, it would seem like the lottery would have to be a do-over.

    Hard to pass up $6 million, but come on, PPS, it’s obvious there’s a plan in place for Roosevelt.

  152. Comment from Zarwen:

    AND everywhere else. They’ll tell us all about it come June.

  153. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Just to clarify I meant “uninformed” decisions.

    Two board members were smart enough not to make the high school redesign resolution a uniform decision.

  154. Comment from Rita:

    I’ve heard a couple of reports on OPB about a study that was just published that analyzes small high schools over the last 5 years. But I didn’t catch who released it and can’t find any reference to it anywhere. Anybody else heard about this?

  155. Comment from Neisha:

    Rita — I think that probably refers to an ECONorthwest study of small high schools in Oregon. A couple of people from ECONorthwest presented their findings at the PPS Board work session on Focus Options. However, I can’t find the report on the ECONorthwest website.

  156. Comment from Rita:

    Thanks, Neisha. I got the cite from OPB. It’s a study sponsored by the Employers for Education Excellence group, conducted by EcoNorthwest. You can find it at:

    I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.