Category: Demographics

FREE Public Education… But Please Donate at Roosevelt

POWER Academy at Roosevelt had $24,962 in Title I funds remaining at the end of the 2008/09 school year.  So imagine my surprise when reviewing their 2009/10 Course Guide and I read:

Under Oregon law, students cannot be required to pay a fee for classes that are part of the regular school program. However, in some instances, you may be asked to make a contribution for certain classes where additional learning materials enable the school to expand and enrich those classes. Certain science lab expenses and art class supplies are examples of classes where your contribution can make a difference in the quality of the class. You are not required to pay the requested contribution in order to enroll in the class. POWER Academy is only able to offer these enhanced learning opportunities for students because of your support and contributions. We appreciate your commitment to our instructional program and

Roosevelt is 81% free and reduced lunch but Lincoln is only 10% free/reduced.  Why does Roosevelt ask for donations but Lincoln does not?  Why doesn’t Roosevelt use their Title I money to fund the programs?

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

Carrie Adams blogs at Cheating in Class.

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Where’s the Superintendent?

I’ve heard from teachers and central office office staff that Superintendent Smith stays behind closed doors and only her “team” is allowed access to her.  The superintendent is invisible to most people.  When the Superintendent appears at public meetings, she’s always reading from a script.  She presents and announces but she doesn’t just talk.

Last night I decided to write Superintendent Smith to share my concerns about the high school redesign.  I discovered that the Superintendent is also difficult to find on the PPS website.  It used to be that you could find the Superintendent’s link attached to many of her statements.  Now, they all link to the Communications office.

Below is my note to the Superintendent and the response that I received from Sarah Carlin Ames (PPS Public Affairs representative) less than an hour after I sent my email:

Carrie,

I’m helping Carole respond to some of her many e-mails.

You are absolutely right that it’s going to take a multi-faceted effort to truly confront our achievement gap. We know that effective teachers, excellent curriculum and support are all critical, along with a structure that better meets student needs.

We need to keep moving on all of these fronts. I am cc’ing Xavier Botana, our chief academic officer, because I know that he agrees. We have not resolved how to meet the needs of English Language Learners to the standards we should, at any level. We are continuing our equity work and engaging in “courageous conversations” about race, and working to change our institutional practices that fail to educate so many of our students and which consign too many students of color to special education and define too many as discipline issues.

The community school program we have described is important, however.  It allows all students better access to challenging courses, IB and AP, no matter where they live — opportunity we have denied many. It commits every community school to offer programs such as AVID, and to offer on-line credit recovery, credit by proficiency and other support to help students keep up and catch up. It increases the counselor services (not enough, but a start) and commits to working with community partners to offer other wrap-around services on-site. We also plan to incorporate lessons (and perhaps staff and programs) from our small schools into our focus school strategy — so that our focus schools truly meet the needs of different learners, and don’t become boutique schools for a self-selected elite.

There is no one silver bullet in closing the achievement gap — but by offering a community comprehensive school with a broad range of challenge and support in every neighborhood, along with well-designed focus schools, should be a positive step forward in a multi-pronged approach.

Sarah Carlin Ames

PPS Public Affairs

>>> “Carrie Adams” 02/10/10 9:39 PM >>>

Dear Superintendent Smith,

Your introduction to the resolution states:

“Let’s look at Cleveland, Grant, Lincoln and Wilson , our largest schools, and the ones that routinely post the highest aggregate test scores. At those four schools together, 70 percent of white students enter 10th grade on track to graduate. But only half as many - 36 percent - of their black students are on track.”

If those schools have the resources that we’re now saying all of our schools should have and yet black students are not doing well in those schools, maybe there’s a different kind of problem.

Has the district identified why black students at those schools are not doing as well as white students? What is the high school redesign team’s plan to address that?

How does the proposed high school system design address the district’s decades long failure to serve ELL students?

What’s in the high school design to address the over-representation of black and hispanic student discipline rates?

What’s in the high school design plan to close the achievement gap?

Carrie Adams

Sarah Carlin Ames deserves credit for her responsiveness and for working 24/7 but as you can see, my questions still haven’t been answered.

So why is the Superintendent being shielded from the public?   Why doesn’t she speak for herself?  Does the board have so little confidence in her ability to lead the district that they allow the Communications department to speak for her?

Note:  I originally published this post with a different title.  After second thoughts, I feel it was a mistake.  The point of the posting remains….the public needs to hear from the Superintendent in her own words.  We’ve heard enough canned public relations speeches to last for years.  Parents are long overdue for some candor, honesty, integrity and sincerity.

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

Carrie Adams blogs at Cheating in Class.

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Starbase demographics

Demographic information readily available from the district does not provide a fine-grained detail of fourth- and fifth-grade students targeted by the military’s STARBASE recruiting program, but it is clear that poor and minority students are over-represented.

Of the 18 schools participating this year, all but four are Title 1 schools. All but three have higher percentages of minority students than the district-wide minority enrollment (46%). All but four have higher poverty than the district at large (45%).

The schools participating average 11 percentage points more minority and 17 percentage points more poor than the district as a whole, even when factoring in the four wealthy schools that participate.

While many participating staff and families may swear there is no recruiting going on, the program is funded from the US Department of Defense recruiting budget. The military is clear about their need to target potential recruits early.

Student information is shared with the military with little or no notice to parents (or opt-out opportunities), and the program is explicit in its goals of improving the image of the military with young children.

Here are the schools participating this year, with their demographic information.

School free/reduced % minority% Title 1
Humboldt 100.00% 88.40% yes
Rosa Parks 94.80% 85.60% yes
Rigler 86.10% 79.00% yes
Peninsula 78.10% 73.00% yes
James John 79.70% 72.80% yes
Faubion 70.70% 69.70% yes
Whitman 86.70% 68.80% yes
Lee 71.70% 67.70% yes
Marysville 80.30% 59.00% yes
Bridger 74.10% 58.10% yes
Grout 70.20% 50.70% yes
Woodstock 27.30% 50.30% no
Arleta 66.40% 47.90% yes
Markham 54.70% 47.80% yes
Irvington 34.60% 47.70% yes
Buckman 28.70% 23.10% no
Cleary 14.40% 19.70% no
Laurelhurst 10.60% 19.30% no
Averages: 62.73% 57.14%
District: 45.00% 46.00%

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

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Run, Run as Fast as You Can

Recently, The Oregonian has published a few articles about the new “Race to the Top” grant that Portland Public Schools has signed on for, along with many other Oregon school districts.  The grant stipulates that a student’s test scores will follow teachers, and be part of a teacher’s professional file.  Indeed, a teacher will be evaluated based on a student’s standardized test scores. The state’s willingness to sign on smacks of desperation and ignorance.

Besides the obvious, that “one test does not a good teacher make”, there are numerous other reasons why this clause in the grant is ludicrous.  One is that not all grade levels are tested.  Indeed 3rd-8th and 10th grades are tested consistently in math and reading.  If you teach K-2nd grade, or 9th, 11th, or 12th grades, you just may have dodged a bullet.  In addition, if a teacher teaches subjects such as art, P.E., or social studies, which are not currently tested, then the testing does not apply to them. I would hesitate to bring this up to the state, however, as their answer might very well be to test in every single subject, every, single, year.

I know fabulous teachers who teach at schools that have not traditionally done well on standardized tests.  I happen to teach in a cluster in PPS that typically has low test scores.  I could teach in another cluster, but I choose not to.  Does a teacher magically become a better teacher if he or she moves to a school with higher test scores?  Apparently the state of Oregon thinks so.  I  cut one of the Oregonian articles out to pass around to the staff at my school.  Many teachers said that they would like to consider withholding their dues to the OEA, as our state teacher’s union has signed on with this as well.

There are many, many influences in a child’s life.  A teacher is just one of them.  This heinous grant asserts that a teacher’s sole purpose is to get a child to pass some contrived, intrusive test that has little to do with what he or she does on a daily basis, while also asserting that a teacher is the only one responsible if said child passes or fails.   I’m sorry, but “No Child Left Behind” is starting to look like a picnic.  We need to run far away from “Race to the Top.”

Sheila Wilcox is a PPS parent and K8 teacher.

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Wacky Mommy vs. Starbase, or Why It’s Wrong for Portland Public Schools to Allow the U.S. Government to Do Military Recruitment on Any Students, But Especially 5-Year-Olds

Awww, does my headline say it all? I believe it does.

Have you heard about Starbase?

From their website:

STARBASE Portland is designed for students Kindergarten through 12th grade.

The goal of the STARBASE Portland Program is to raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in math, science, and technology by exposing them to the technological environment and positive role models found on military bases and installations.

The STARBASE Portland Program curriculum provides 25 classroom contact hours of instruction spread over 5 days. All STARBASE classroom contact hours take place on the Portland Air National Guard Base or Jackson Army National Guard Armory.

PPS parent Cindy Young has heard of Starbase. I have, too. The fifth-graders at my kids’ school know about it now. You know who’s high on it? My children’s principal and, it would appear, their teachers. I am not high on it. I am wholeheartedly against it. I am against it with my whole, hippie, radical left-leaning, socialist feminist heart. We are pacifists at my house, that’s why. You think I’m cool with my kid “playing war” at a military base? Excuse me, but have we met? I’m Nancy. I do not care for war games and a whitewashed introduction to death. C’mere, so I can smack you upside the head. (I am a pacifist; I never said I don’t have a temper. My mama did not raise a fool.)

Instead of “at-risk youth,” as Starbase so patronizingly calls our students, I would like to suggest that they go for some “transparency” and say “cannon fodder,” ie…

“We need more poor kids for cannon fodder because the wars we have been fighting for… well, let me think… your parents’ entire lives, your entire life and your children’s entire lives, too, aren’t going that well.”

You know what comes to mind? That old saying:

“Join the Army; travel to strange, exotic lands; meet interesting people; and kill them.”

My daughter, “That’s horrible!”
Me, “That’s the military.”

PPS is down with military recruitment, we already knew this. And they don’t have any qualms about starting awfully young. That website, it says “kindergarten through 12th grade,” does it not? Five? Age five. Ages five through eighteen. How convenient.

Here is an article that my colleague Anne Trudeau wrote for the Southeast Examiner, Sept. 2005.

ANOTHER SIDE TO THE MILITARY RECRUITMENT STORY
September 2005 Southeast Examiner

William Ramirez was a junior at Franklin High school when he was approached by the Army recruiters who visited there regularly. Annette Pritchard, Ramirez’s aunt, holds up a photograph of nineteen year old William that was found in his belongings after he was killed in Baghdad on February 19, 2004.

“The recruiters became his best friends. They told him that they only took high school graduates. Even after he dropped out of high school, they said he could be an architect or an engineer.”

William served a year in Afghanistan and then went to Iraq. As a member of the 2nd Armored Calvary Division, William was working night patrols in the city of Baghdad. His job was to illuminate targets.

His aunt gazes at the photo of the young man wearing goggles and a helmet. “He was always so shy. We were surprised he looked straight at the camera here. But he still looks scared.”

Spurred on by William’s death, Annette is determined to present another side to the military recruiter’s promises of rewarding career opportunities. Speaking before several dozen people at an August anti-military recruiting workshop in Portland, she lists the subtle and not-so-subtle tactics the military uses to appeal to youth as young as 12 years old. Rock climbing walls at county fairs, military sponsored concerts, the Rose Festival Fleet, and military air shows are all paid for out of the military’s recruiting budget.
“They landed a military helicopter on the playing field of my son’s middle school as a reward for phone cards the students had collected for military personnel.” Annette recalls. Parents were not notified, and attendance was required. Pritchard questioned the motives of this expensive event which cost far more than the money the children raised for phone cards.
Recruiters for the military are common sights in local high schools. The No Child Left Behind Act contains a provision that requires public high schools to hand over the private contact information of students to military recruiters. By September 30, the names of thousands of Portland high schoolers will be given to the military and the private firm that is creating a database to aid in their recruitment efforts.

But students can “opt out” by filling out a form that prevents their private information from being released to the military’s list. Even students who have signed up for the military under the Delayed Entry Program can change their status by notifying the recruiting station Commander.

Members of the Portland Anti-Military Recruiting Coalition will be handing out leaflets at Franklin, Cleveland and other high schools around the city letting students know they have the right to opt out. Annette Pritchard will continue her work with Military Families Speak Out. She wants to talk to every high school student she can, to let them know that there is more to the recruiter’s pitch than meets the eye.

RESOURCES
Leave My Child Alone Coalition
Portland Anti-Military Coalition
Military Families Speak Out
The Military and Draft Counseling Project 503-238-0605

–Anne Trudeau

Rest in peace, my brother. And peace to your family. Peace, peace, peace. I will never grow tired of that word. Peace.

Do you really think that I feel like talking about private matters at my children’s school? With their teachers? Their principal? The other parents? I don’t. Sex, religion and politics are all private, and frankly, it’s no one’s business how I vote, where I donate money, or where I stand on a particular issue. It is still, I believe, a free country, and I don’t like the pressure of having to explain to everyone why I feel the way I do.

It feels like looking down the barrel of a gun to me.

OK, you want to know why we’re opting out of Starbase? I’ll tell you why again and I will say it with pride: We are pacifists at my house. I think it’s a load of crap that our government spends billions of dollars killing mamas, daddies, their babies, grandparents, neighbors, friends, entire communities, in the name of stopping terror. But we can’t seem to get anyone, locally, nationally or internationally, fed or given proper medical care. Jobs would be good. Work and food and clean water and decent healthcare would be a good start. Science, art and music in the schools would just rock, too, wouldn’t it? But that doesn’t seem to be happening, does it?

So who’s terrorizing who, bitch?

I had heard of Starbase, but for my family it came up last school year. The kids are excited — they’ve heard you get to blow things up. Like in video games. The principal is excited, too. “It’s really cool, and they get to blow up rockets.” My daughter called bullshit and said she wasn’t going. I love my girl. Here is the e-mail I sent last spring to my children’s principal and my daughter’s 4th grade teacher:

Dear Mr. — and Mr. —,

Imagine my shock to be told — not asked, but told — that my daughter and her fellow classmates will take part in five full days of Starbase next year.

1) Our country is at war. Having our children go to a military base, while our country is at war, is not a safe or wise decision. That alone is reason enough to cancel the program.

2) I am wondering, as I spend a large portion of my time this year telling my daughter, I’m sorry, but you have to take another test, yes, I know you hate tests, and No, you’re not going to flunk fourth grade if you don’t score high — I am wondering why on earth we would devote five full days of curriculum to military indoctrination? (Because that is what it is. It’s the first steps on the road to recruitment.)

3)I am wondering, at a time when we parents are being told how “stuffed” the curriculum is, how you can justify them missing five days of school?

4) I’m asking you to cancel our school’s participation in the Starbase program.

5) I am doing this because it goes against everything I am teaching my children about “lifeskills,” and “conflict resolution” and “peace and respect.” I am asking you in remembrance of my late friend, David Johnson, who was killed in Iraq. I wrote about him here:

“He was a nice guy, you would have liked him. Very easygoing. Wanted to please. He was pretty shy. His family declined to be interviewed by the Army. The governor said, “He did not die in vain.” No, he died because he signed up to be a cook and ended up working as a machine gunner. God rest his soul, and peace to his family and those who loved him.”

In case you are missing my point: You will remember, please, that our country is at war. You will remember that our country is short on soldiers and that is why the government is happy to foot the bill for field trips like these, in order to send the kids a message that the military is “fun” (math games! science! and we’ll help pay for college!).

In case you have never noticed: The government is especially fond of recruiting at schools with high poverty rates, where brown, black, and poor whites attend school. They target children who think they have no options in life besides joining the military. The government needs more cannon fodder.

You will remember America is responsible for the deaths of at least 723,206 people who have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimates. Most recent update: January 25, 2009. (Edited to say: At least 849,845 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimate, according to numbers posted Dec. 29, 2009.)

Thus far, 4,197 Americans have died in the Iraq war.

Here is the Willamette Week story about the Winterhaven parents’ protest of Starbase.

And, from the Neighborhood Schools Alliance site.

They requested that PPS “Pull the plug on Starbase — stealth military recruiting of PPS elementary students. NSA leader Cindy Young and fellow Winterhaven parents recently testified to the School Board regarding this Department of Defense-funded program in which elementary-aged PPS students spend 5 days at a military base learning about science and technology, but also being subtly groomed for future military recruitment. This program is not mentioned on the PPS website. There has been no Board or public oversight of Starbase at any time since the program’s introduction in Portland back in 1993. NSA calls on the School Board to launch an immediate investigation into this inappropriate and possibly illegal program.”

I will bring in political allies and the media on this if needed.

Respectfully,

Nancy Rawley

(Edited to say: You can find Starbase mentioned on the PPS site now, here and there. It is described as a “science program” and the mentions are along the lines of calendar items — which schools are taking part in the program.) Last year, my daughter’s school promised that they would offer “non-military alternate programming” at the school for students who did not want to or could not participate in the Starbase program. The Oregon Peace Institute and some of the staff at Portland State University said they would be happy to lend a hand, but that didn’t get a warm response from PPS.

Now I am being told that my daughter and whoever else protests can go “sit in someone else’s classroom” for the five days their peers are playing war games. No, we’ll figure something else out, thanks.

By the way… reportedly five PPS employees are being paid by the U.S. military to “administer” the Starbase program. That money would pay for a whole lot of microscopes and science supplies, wouldn’t it? Maybe even some staff? But then the military would be short a few bodies, and we couldn’t have that.

Peace. And I mean that, with all my heart.

– Wacky Mommy

Nancy Rawley was co-publisher of PPS Equity. She blogs regularly at Wacky Mommy.

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Charting the correlation between poverty, ELL, and state report cards

Earlier this week, the Oregon Department of Education released report cards for the state’s schools. The scoring system is a new formula that, in my opinion, actually makes testing even more high-stakes. I’m not sure that’s beneficial to our children, teachers, or schools. Here’s a run-down of how this new scoring mechanism works, courtesy of The Oregonian :

A school’s achievement index shows how well it succeeds at teaching reading and math, on a scale from 0 to 133.

A school gets 133 points for every student who exceeds the grade-level standard in reading or math, 100 points for students who meet the standard and 100 points for students who begin far below grade level and reach an ambitious growth target.

For students who neither meet benchmarks nor the growth target, the school gets no points. For minority, special education, limited English and low-income students, the score is doubled — 0 out of 266 possible if the student falls short,200 if he meets, 266 points if the student exceeds. The score for each student is averaged into a schoolwide index. Elementary and middle schools must score 90 points to be outstanding; high schools must score 80 points. A score below 60 lands an elementary or middle school in need of improvement; a score below 50 does that to high schools

Here is a summary of the correlation (not causation) between the new index scores, percent of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches, and percentage of ELL students (via PASW, formerly known as SPSS). These data tables and graphs looked only at the 56 traditional elementary schools and K-8 schools. No, I’m not a statistician – but there’s an awfully strong correlation between the variables.

And a graph of percent of students on F/R lunch (x) vs. index score (y):

And percent of ELL students (x) vs. index scores (y):

And poverty (x) vs. ELL students (y):

SourcedFrom Sourced from: Our Global Education

Kenneth Libby is an independent education researcher and a recent graduate of Lewis and Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling. He writes about national education issues, testing and philanthropy on Schools Matter and Global Ideologies in Education.

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This Week in PPS: the State of Black Oregon


Download audio, subscribe to the podcast, or listen here:

“It is a civil rights violation of the worst kind in the city of Portland when based on race and zip code roughly 85% of white students have access to opportunity in rigorous college prep programs, curriculum and resources compared to 27% of black students. We are a better state than this. We are a better city than this.” –PPS Deputy Superintendent Charles Hopson

This week in PPS, we feature sound clips from the Urban League of Portland‘s presentation to the Portland City Club on the State of Black Oregon.

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

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Money buys enrichment

I am a teacher at Harrison Park Elementary (formally Clark K-8 @ Binnsmead). Our demographics include a wonderfully diverse population with students from over 20 countries. I have seven languages represented in my room alone. We also have 80% of our families receiving free or reduced lunch benefits, which places us in the top 15% highest poverty schools in the district. At least 50% of our parents speak a language other than English. I am beginning my ninth year working with our wonderful families.

We have always had to limit our extra activities, such as field trips, with our students. We received some money ($75-$100) for each class for field trips each year, and our school budget helped cover some overages. Of course, buses are $200 each in addition to admission to events, so we still had to ask parents for contributions for field trips, although no child was denied a field trip due to lack of funds. We usually had to ask for less than five dollars per child, and most could contribute that much. These field trips were memorable, and for some of my first graders, the first time they had crossed a bridge over the Willamette River.

We recently were reminded by the district that we cannot require students to contribute to field trip costs, and we have to make sure the parents know this. Also, our school no longer has a PTA to raise funds for the school. Basically, there is no money for field trips from the school or PTA. Our district has not helped with field trip costs for years.

I have written/applied for many grants to help enrich my classroom, last year supplying the funds for a $900 field trip through a Donors Choose grant. Many of our teachers go the extra mile (and take personal time, thank you) to write/apply for grants so our disadvantaged students can experience a world outside of their neighborhood.

It is a fact that more affluent schools have PTAs and fund raising mechanisms in place to provide money to their teachers for class field trips, visitors and supplies. It is great that the parents at these schools have the money and time to supplement their child’s educational experience. As far as I am aware, our district perceives no problem with this status quo.

However, this district is charged to provide an equal education to all. Our leadership tries to do this with a canned curriculum, but when students who already come to school with a wealth of experience and opportunities continue to receive more of these rich experiences at school (due to luck of birth or the location of their home) the gap of equity widens. Children in poverty enter school at least two years behind in skills and language development. Rich curriculum and real experiences can help with that gap, but when there is no money for extra-curricular activities unless they can be raised by the families they benefit, our poor children stagnate, our rich children grow. Once again, families that can afford more, and already do more, get more for their children in our “free and public” educational system.

Is there a solution to this problem? Perhaps if all students do not have an opportunity for field trips, no students should. If our students cannot raise money for field trips, perhaps none should be able to raise money. Maybe the district could pay one administrator 10k less and pay for one field trip a year for each class in a poverty school. Well, I am sure that will not happen, so I will go ahead and try to write more grants so my students can attempt to have an educational experience equal to their more affluent peers. They deserve nothing less.

Bonnie Robb teaches at Harrison Park Elementary. She is a recent recipient of the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.

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Resist No Child Left Behind, don’t embrace it

Note: this is a response to e-mail sent by Carole Smith regarding Oregon schools’ performance as measured against federal benchmarks. See below for the text of Smith’s e-mail. –Ed.

Portland Public School Superintendent Carole Smith’s unconditional support of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) sickens me. “Say what you will about the federal law…” That’s quite an invitation Carole.

Let me start by saying that the roots of NCLB are George W. Bush’s friends in the corrupt Houston School Board who were dishonest from the beginning about the real statistics around their NCLB, lying when it was convenient to cover up their real drop out rates. And then there are those friends of Bush in the text book companies and the “educational consultants” who made so much money off of NCLB “aligned” curriculum while our students and teachers suffered with increased class sizes and less resources. We are sick of corporate style public education system that rations resources; that strips art, music, PE, critical thinking, and most history and geography from our curriculum and replaces it with highly scripted, dumbed-down curriculum for all but the most privileged students. We are tired of the massive influence that real estate developers and anti-tax corporate honchos have on educational decisions.

And in case you think this is just a tirade against Bush, let me add that Obama and Arne Duncan don’t impress me either. Just because they renamed NCLB and call it the Elementary and Secondary Education Act does not mean they have cut the ties to corporate America. Our public education system is still being run by corporations, still suffers in comparison to most other industrialized countries, still is stratified by race and class.

And then Supt. Smith, you have the audacity to blame the students and teachers for these problems? Shame on you. Get rid of the consultants, stand up and reject NCLB, and listen to the teachers who still go to work and try to get some joy and meaning out of the shell of a curriculum you hand them.

This letter from Superintendent Smith makes it clear that this situation will only change when students, parents, teachers and other educational workers unite to fight for a public system that is truly public, that provides a quality education for every student no matter what neighborhood they live in.

Text of e-mail sent from Carole Smith:

Today, the state released reports for every Oregon school and district under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly known as No Child Left Behind). Once again, Portland Public Schools had a higher share of schools meeting all the complicated benchmarks set under that federal law than statewide.

I want to particularly congratulate POWER, one of our small high schools on North Portland’s Roosevelt Campus, and Lane Middle School, in outer Southeast Portland — both of which met all the federal standards.

Most Oregon middle schools and high schools fail to meet the federal standards, but those two schools have charted great gains in student achievement, thanks to the dedication and skill of teachers and staff. (Read more about PPS and the federal ratings in today’s news release.)

Along with these success stories, we still have too many schools falling short because too many students aren’t keeping up or aren’t staying engaged. Say what you will about the federal law, I believe we need to reach for high standards. That’s why we’re measuring our progress in preparing all kids for success in life, using defined Milestones — a set of key indicators at early, middle and secondary grades.

For the coming school year, our senior leadership has set goals to increase student performance by 5 percentage points on three of these highly predictive indicators: third-grade reading, seventh-grade writing and credits earned before 10th grade.

We’ve also set goals to close the achievement gap between white students and the lowest performing ethnic subgroup by 5 percentage points on each of those measures.

These indicators will tell us how well our school district is doing as a whole, and how well we are doing for each student by name. They won’t replace the federal ratings and requirements, but they will give us a clearer picture of how well we are preparing our students for success at the next stage of their education — and for success in college or a career.

This is so important that I’m asking the school board to evaluate my performance based on our success in raising student performance in these areas. I’ve told my senior leaders that I will evaluate them based on these targets, too.

It won’t be easy to reach these targets, but keeping more students on track will pay big dividends for the rest of their lives. That’s a goal worth reaching for.

Portland parent activist Anne Trudeau helped found the Neighborhood Schools Alliance.

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Is Poverty Just an Excuse?

In the effort to fight the “poverty is no excuse” crowd, education researcher Dr. David Berliner reviews a half-dozen out-of-school factors that have been clearly linked to lower achievement among poor and minority-group students: birth weight and non-genetic parental influences; medical care; food insecurity; environmental pollution; family breakdown and stress; and neighborhood norms and conditions. Additionally, he notes a seventh factor: extended learning opportunities in the form of summer programs, after-school programs, and pre-school programs. Access to these resources by poor and minority students could help mitigate the effects of the other six factors.

Here’s the link to the full policy brief. (712 KB PDF document)

Peter Campbell is a parent, educator, and activist, who served in a volunteer role for four years as the Missouri State Coordinator for FairTest before moving to Portland. He has taught multiple subjects and grade levels for over 20 years. He blogs at Transform Education.

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