Zeke Smith – Closing the Gap Then and Now

2:05 pm

The high school redesign process is a mess but I have to wonder if that’s intentional.  Closing the achievement gap isn’t that complicated.  The district has had many opportunities to work towards closing the gap but failed to do so.

Here’s a list of some of the opportunities that the district has missed for better serving low-income and minority students:

  • failure to follow through on recommendations from mediation between PPS and the Education Crisis Team
  • failure to use almost $3 million in 2008/09 Title I funds intended to be spent on improving the educational program for poor kids
  • failure to use at least $500,000 annually in school level Title I funds for the last decade
  • a failed district audit of legally required Supplemental Services for struggling students
  • over two decades of failure to comply with civil rights laws for English Language Learners
  • decades of unchanging disparities in student discipline, special education, and talented and gifted rates

It’s widely believed that Zeke Smith is running the district now.  What does Zeke know about closing the achievement gap?

Zeke was the Portland Schools Foundation’s Director of Community Engagement in 2007 when they identified Astor, Clark, Faubion, Vestal and Woodmere as  Excellence in Education Award winners for being high poverty schools that were closing the achievement gap.  At that time the Portland Schools Foundation reported:

There is remarkable consistency in the research on the essential elements of schools that are closing the achievement gap – it doesn’t happen by chance.  Six key factors need to be in place for schools to make significant gains:

  • high expectations
  • leadership
  • quality teaching
  • ongoing professional development
  • community engagement
  • accountability

What?  Where does it mention equity in access? Is that  the 7th key factor?

It seems to me that the absence of the 6 key factors in this week’s high school resolution was the reason that board members Williams and Gonzalez opposed the resolution.

Show me a resolution that includes a detailed plan for ensuring those 6 key factors are in place and I might be able to get behind it.

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

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Carrie Adams blogs at Cheating in Class.

filed under: Achievement Gap, BESC, High Schools

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12 Responses

  1. Comment from Zarwen:

    And let’s not forget that Clark’s reward for their excellence was closure! And Woodmere was forced to cede a chunk of their territory to Lewis. Funny system of rewards PPS has, isn’t it.

    Thanks so much for this article, Carrie–truly brilliant.

  2. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Hi Carrie:

    If these key factors are not in place, then we are just dividing up the students the same way we divided up Marshall campus into three small schools. The essence of high school redesign is not a bad thing by itself but if the district is not mindful of what goes into the planning to constitute good schools, then we are back in the same mess. Zeke Smith is not an expert, but what he provides to Carole is protection and loyalty. Now, here is the question: As a superintendent who is responsible for the future of 46,000+ students in Portland, is Carole strong enough to be a person of her own strengths and convictions. She needs a strong, knowledgeable and competent team, not a team to protect her and to be loyal to her. Loyalty is a good virtue by itself, but if not combined with good judgments, expertise and wisdom, it can be blinding and harmful. That is the question Carole needs to be asking herself with this HS redesign. Is her HS Redesign team strong and competent and know what they are doing? So far, I don’t think this team has convinced the public that what they have been doing will be beneficial to the high school students in Portland. In other areas noted in your article, Special Ed department is a mess. ESL department is in need of real leadership and reform. Title I and Title IA desperately need help. Migrant education has only 150 kids but a highly paid incompetent and lazy Director who just waits for time to retire but does not really give a rip about kids. I think we need to revisit the idea of reconstituting all these highly paid BESC jobs.

  3. Comment from Steve Buel:

    All that the high school redesign can seriously do is help fix the offering inequities. (I have no idea where the other stuff has come from.) The idea that there is someone out there who knows how to truly fix the achievement gap is just not the case. However there are a lot of things that can be done to improve Portland’s schools. Carrie’s list is a good one. I can add another 50 things that would help. But until PPS gets over their obsession with testing, the reform movement, and generalized teacher improvement methods nothing they will do will make much of a dent in helping kids progress faster or get a truly better education or even drop out a great deal less.

  4. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Steve Buel, that’s Zeke and the Portland Schools Foundation’s list of factors critical for closing the achievement gap, not mine.

    I agree with you that the list is incomplete but a good start.

  5. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    Where is the accountability? Why aren’t we holding Zeke, Carole, Ruth Adkins, Bobbie Regan, Trudy Sargent, Pam Knowles and David Wynde responsible? Why aren’t they answering these questions? Who do they answer to? Anyone?

  6. Comment from vargasgarcia:

    p.s. Fantastic article Carrie. Thank you.

  7. Comment from Zarwen:

    The only say we have is at the ballot box, where we are outnumbered and outcampaigned by the folks with the deep pockets.

  8. Comment from Steve Buel:

    I guess I should have said the PPS list Carrie mentioned …but the point is that reform and testing gets all the effort. Interesting article on Lents today. Time, effort, and energy are the keys to improvement whatever the goal. They have improved on the tests because they did these things and focussed on improving on the tests. Want something to duplicate to improve test scores then this is the ticket. But that is the question: “Do you want to improve on the test scores?” Where the answer is yes, you can go this route. Maybe the school district could divide up kids based on whether they need to improve on their test scores or not. School A is a test score school. School B is an education school etc.

  9. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    I agree with Steve. Those successful schools? They managed to get their test scores up, or keep them up. That is all. Some have no resources, no support, no leadership. But they are ALL about the test. That is success in the district.

  10. Comment from moonlighting:

    Zeke who?? What are his qualifications? He is second in command of a huge school district and as we all know really running the district (maybe into the ground). He seems to protect Ms. Smith from fixing special ed., title I and ESL.

  11. Comment from lek:

    lents raising there scores are a joke. since moving to lents last november. my son who always exceeded state tests barely passed. my mainstreamed son failed the math state test he used to exceed and my first grade daaughters teacher forgot to have her tag tested. how so many kids supposedly passed is beyond me. lents school is a joke.

  12. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Zeke does not know enough about education issues to fix anything so let’s face it. His resume is about one page long. How did he get to be Chief of Staff of a school district with 47,000 students is beyond me. He will protect Carole though to her detriment. I think Carole is an honest and decent person and she means well, but I don’t know about Zeke. He is manipulative and slick and will do anything to protect Carole but at the expense of anything else. What Carole needs to do is to have the gut to fire a few of her senior management level staff who does not have anything to offer. BTW, why do I keep seeing Jean Fischer back at the BESC? Is she double-dipping enough? Isn’t she one of the trimmings mentioned in the Willamette Week a while back. Isn’t there enough talent out there to do what she is doing for central? So a new person has been hired for the Director of Office of School Modernization, an architech, I believe. There should be more talented people out there to bring into central rather than hiring the old hands who were not very successful with what they were doing for decades.