Towards a Hybrid Model of Teaching and Learning

2:15 pm

This is a half-baked idea. I fully admit it. So I need your help. There’s lots of talk these days about “crowdsourcing” through the blogosphere, i.e., tapping into the collective wisdom of large groups of people in order to develop ideas or solve problems. So I thought I’d give it a whirl . . .

My daughter is currently enrolled in a PPS school. We like a lot of what our daughter’s school has to offer, esp. regarding the approach it takes in letting kids pursue things they’re interested in and not pressuring very young kids to “be at grade level.” But we’re also considering homeschooling again.

There’s been talk on this blog recently of the agonizing position that many parents are put in RE: their neighborhood school options. “me” wrote:

“Within just a few blocks from us, I can count at least 3, if not 4 or 5 families who are already talking about having to move or opting out of public schooling if it came to that. Several others have already voted with their feet by going to private or online schools. Flight can happen without having to move at all.”

It might be time for the district to think about committing resources to support homeschoolers here in Portland. As I mentioned in a recent comment on this blog, I’m interested in seeing more hybrid models of teaching and learning. As was pointed out in another comment on this blog, the “hybrid” teaching model I’m looking for is already happening to a limited extent in some schools around PPS. But it happens “only at schools viewed as ‘alternative’ by the district, or at neighborhood schools with the resources/demographics to support partnerships with the community resources (private, or parents) to dedicate that kind of time during the school day.” It was suggested in the same post that “a return to comprehensive schools with larger cohort populations would help that to some degree” because “(i)t’s easier to justify dedicating the resources to provide a diverse curriculum when you have the student population base to support it.”

But I’m thinking of something else. In this hybrid model I’m envisioning, our traditional brick-and-mortar schools would function more as community centers. They would offer classes, similar to what Village Home offers. They would offer childcare and healthcare, too. Parents could take parenting workshops while kids played or took classes, similar to what Continuum Learning Community offers. Kids and parents could form affinity groups and then plan outings around shared interests: trips to OMSI, the zoo, Forest Park for a hike, etc. To make it manageable for working parents, parents could volunteer one day a week to be the chaperone/guide/facilitator for the day. In essence, this would resemble a teaching and learning co-op.

If students were enrolled in a PPS-sanctioned and supported homeschooling facility at least half time, the district would still get state dollars. The students would still be PPS students, albeit in a “hybrid” mode. Maybe this would be a way to mitigate some of the awful effects of “school chance”?

So what do you think gang?

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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.

filed under: Reform

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44 Responses

  1. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    I just talked with two moms from my North Portland neighborhood who are not into full-day kinder for their kids (both will be in kinder next year). My suggestion (we did this ourselves for awhile): Take them home at lunchtime. “No, they won’t let you do that.” I say, do it anyway.

    When I used to pick up my spawn, her teacher would joke, Can’t you take 3 or 4 of the others, too?

    It really is time to start thinking creatively. I wish to God I had been homeschooled 7th and 8th grade, it would have changed my life. The district does help provide resources for high-schoolers, I have heard, who are homeschooling, doing online learning, going half-time to PCC, etc.

    Why not grade school, too?

  2. Comment from me:

    I don’t think it needs to go as far as that to support a hybrid model. Homeschooling depends on every parent to be able to dedicate the time and resources, otherwise it continues to draw away from the greater population.

    But a similar hybrid concept already occurs at some schools. Rather than taking the kids out of the building and into the homes – they bring parents and other community members into the buildings themselves. They take the students out into the community to experience what the city has to offer.

    Some schools have already developed these “alternate” pathways to learning. Whether it’s parents teaching elective courses, or partnerships with local universities to bring in student teachers, or taking kids out to experience nature at Springwater or other local areas – these all serve to enrich the curriculum and inspire our students.

    Those schools that already have these “specials” already benefit from either a highly active PTA or active administration that seeks out and drives these initiatives. Not surprisingly, these are the same schools that are filled to the brim as families stream in around the district trying to get in on something special.

    The schools that don’t have these specials, *could* have them. All it takes is a little dedication from the district, to support the administration to try to plant the seeds in their own schools. By tapping outside resources, it doesn’t necessarily have to cost the district a lot of money. But it does cost time and initiative.

    But it only takes the seeds of change. We already have working examples in the district – we only need to get the other schools in on it.

    This is how you re-attract young families back to their neighborhood schools. By standing up and saying “look at us! We are modeling ourselves after the schools that *work*” This is how momentum builds, and you may need less and less assistance from the district to drive these programs as families and administration take over.

    Will it ever be equal? No, of course not. There will still be neighborhoods that have more middle and higher income families with more time and resources. But with a little help from the district, the schools in the “red zone” will at least have a fighting chance.

  3. Comment from Rita:

    Interesting ideas, Peter. I especially like the idea of schools becoming community centers.

    Some of you may remember that when Winterhaven was given the reprieve around moving locations, our school committee was encouraged to come up with creative ways for the school to leverage its math/science focus and develop community partnerships. Among the ideas that we proposed were allowing homeschooled kids to attend specific courses and using the school after hours for adult education. I know that Supt. Smith read the report, but I don’t know if the consideration of our report went much beyond “Never mind. You’re not moving.” Theoretically, somebody in central office (I assumed Ms. Mincburg) was already pursuing talks with some of the local institutions that we suggested as potential partners, but to date I’ve heard nothing about any progress on that front.

    More broadly, it has always struck me as a colossal waste of resources to have schools closed at the end of the school day and during vacations. It’s true that community organizations can arrange to use them for specific purposes, and some schools have afterschool activities, but in general most schools are just sitting there unused for vast amounts of time. Wouldn’t it be nice if the neighborhood school could really be the center of the neighborhood? (The sort of thing you read about in small towns.)

    Here’s a thought: some school playgrounds are owned by the District, but managed by Parks and Rec. At the same time, Parks and Rec has some community centers, but not that many. Could PPS explore coming up with some kind of joint arrangement for use of the buildings? As an employee of a non-profit that is always looking for training venues, I imagine we’re not alone in thinking there is a paucity of free or cheap venues. It would also provide opportunities for all kinds of partnerships for social services, enrichment for students and families, activities for senior citizens, etc. It could even open up possibilities of for partnerships with for-profit enterprises to provide lower cost opportunities in things like music, ELL and foreign language classes. But perhaps the most important side effect would be to link the schools much more directly to the neighborhood and people’s lives. Parents who might otherwise feel alienated from the school could start to feel more engaged. And, as we hear every election cycle, only 20% of the population has kids in school. This could be a way for the schools to be relevant to the other 80%.

    No doubt there would be complications around things like security, work contracts, etc., but I’m guessing they wouldn’t be insurmountable.

  4. Comment from Anne T.:

    In schools where parents are poorer, meaningful parent involvement is actively DISCOURAGED by principals. In schools where parents have more money, involvement tends to be encouraged.
    We have to do like Wacky Mommy says and start taking it back, remembering that the principals are not our bosses, in fact they are public servants and we are the public.

  5. Comment from Rita:

    Frankly, I don’t think the discouragement of parent involvement is limited to poorer schools. In my experience, schools seem happy to have parents do what they want them to do (esp. raise money), but otherwise they’d rather we just go away and let “the professionals” get on with it. I think the real difference is that wealthier and/or more educated parents are better able and more willing to push through the resistance. In the wealthier schools, staff and administration (esp. office staff) may not necessarily be more welcoming, just more resigned to the parents being assertive.

    I hasten to add that some schools really do encourage parent involvement (I was impressed by testimonials of Binnsmead families, for example), but I think there is quite a bit of room for improvement in many others. It’s all of a piece: if the District at the highest levels doesn’t send a consistent message that they value a real partnership with families and students, then individual schools won’t feel compelled to pursue it either.

  6. Comment from me:

    Rita –

    It feels like the “consistent message” from the District is “more seat time, less alternative stuff”. The individual schools respond to that pressure in different ways. The charters and the “alternative” focus programs appear to have a little more free reign, while many of the neighborhood schools, particularly the poorer ones, feel like they have to fall in with the party line or else take the blame themselves for poor test scores for “going rogue” and doing their own thing.

    Also an interesting idea partnering with PP&R. I can’t say enough good things about the educational programs PP&R has offered to the public, particularly in areas underserved by PPS such as Peninsula Park.

  7. Comment from eric:

    A single point. On the Village Home link, notice that not one offering is at night. A concurrent parent class would have to be during the day. Therefore, working parents cannot be included.

  8. Comment from enoughsugarcoatingalready:

    It seems to me that PPS is going to have to adopt some sort of ” middle ground/ meet-half-way” strategy in order to at least keep PPS enrollment stable, especially since it appears that the k-8 transition hasn’t exactly been a big hit so far . Perhaps they’ll have better luck with the high school redesign but only time will tell.
    I too, have always felt it a shame knowing that once school ends each day, most school buildings( except for perhaps the gym )are just sitting empty and yet, many kids go home to an empty house. And even though there are some PP and R sites that offer after school programs or a place to just ” hang out “, these are not accessable to all students and they are not usually monitored in terms of what kids do with their time there – just recently, my children and I checked out a neighborhood community center during the after school hours..although it’s great kids in the area have a safe place to go after school, it didn’t appear that any of the kids in the computer lab were doing homework- they were all on some sort of on-line game. And the lab is open for 2 hours! How nice it would be if there were some sort of mandated guidelines ( i.e., an hour of homework for an hour of free computer time ). I don’t mean to say that kids don’t deserve some sort of wind-down time after school but I would not be surprised if this isn’t a Mon-Fri. routine for a good deal of those kids. Perhaps if a program like this were offered right there on site ( at the school ), with a combination of parent volunteers/ student teachers ( or even high school students who could earn community service points,etc..), the networking efforts could be a benefit for everyone involved and perhaps the kids would be a little more prepared for school the next day.
    I think one thing you’ll run into here are those that stick to the old-fashioned idea that schools are for teachers and teaching and community centers are for activities/ optional classes, etc.. and the two need to be seperate. If they are not, the profession of teaching will become berated and schools will begin to look like loosey-goosey play arenas…I’m not saying I agree, but I could see this attitude being expressed.
    Overall, I think it’s high time for the greater flexability Peter is suggesting, and perhaps it wouldn’t meet the needs of all students/ families but having it available for those who wish to go that route…why not? It may be just enough to bring at least a few PPS area families back into the picture, even if it is on a part-time basis.

  9. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    I’m consistently wowed by the people that gather at this blog to share ideas! The discourse here is always so high-level. Thanks for all the input so far.

    Let me throw some other thoughts out.

    The concern I have (after thinking this through a bit more) is that homeschool families might become the new pariahs, similar to the fate that many charter school families befall. Whether charter school families deserve this pariah status is open to debate. But the fact is that homeschool families are doing what charter school families are doing: taking kids out of neighborhood schools. The difference is that charter school families are still considered part of PPS, whereas homeschool families are not. So if homeschool families were given more support — maybe even access to several PPS facilities –, would this encourage more families to homeschool?
    My take: I think it would. But, as I mentioned in my original post, if the homeschooled kids attended a PPS school half-time, the district would qualify for state money. Full dollars for a half-time kid is a pretty good deal. So maybe the district could see this as a way to (1) keep kids and families in the district who would otherwise completely abandon it and (2) make money from these families.
    Finally, I think supporting homeschoolers makes sense in light of the “school choice” mantra. If parents are given a complete set of choices about how to best educate their children, then one of the choices should be homeschooling. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it makes sense from a revenue-generating perspective and from a use of space perspective (as many of you mentioned.) It also positions the district as pretty cutting-edge.
    One last concern: would this option be possible at all for low-income families? I think it might be if the kid is at a facility for half the day and at home for half the day. Of course, while the homeschooled kid is at home, he/she might be part of a playgroup co-op where parents take turns watching kids while the others are at work. They could each volunteer once a week or once every other week.
    Just throwing more ideas out there. Keep ’em coming!

  10. Comment from Terry:

    As I’ve pointed out to Peter, SUN Community Schools, which are open to kids before and after school and on the weekends, have been in operation for some time.

    SUN schools –Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (great name, eh?)– are jointly operated by the county, several school districts (including PPS), and Portland Parks and Recreation. So it’s simply not true that all schools are shuttered after normal school hours.

    In 2007, Multnomah County listed 54 operating SUN schools. So there’s the “flexibility” people are clamoring for. Of course, the schools and the county, now more than ever, are strapped for cash.

  11. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    I’ve heard from some unhappy parents that because of budget cuts to SUN (which is county funded, I think?), days/hours have been chopped and parents are scrambling for care. Again, the kids who most need services and consistency are the ones being left out in the cold.

  12. Comment from Rene:

    A few quick points:

    1. What percentage of families can afford to homeschool? It simply isn’t feasible for most families, especially for the poor. My concern is once again the focus here goes to pleasing a minority instead of serving the majority.

    2. I don’t think it is accurate to say schools are shuttered after hours. As has been pointed out, many have SUN. Others have other programs. For instance, in North Portland, Ockley has SUN, Chief Joseph has classes like band, fitness and art, and at least three schools have a Penisula-based aftercare program. In fact I do not know of any schools without some sort of after school classes, though I think at charters and magnets it often comes with a fee.

    3. Homeschool parents in Portland already have strong resources, and many are already well aware of their rights to access public education on a part-time basis. Quite a few chose to enroll their child in sports or music. So I don’t think it is accurate to suggest homeschool students are being denied access to the schools. Where I would differ is how much PPS should have to administer extra funds to encourage homeschooling.

    3. I’ve had friends that homeschool and unschool and completely respect their choices. However, I do think we need to remember we are discussing an option that is not reasonable for most families.

    It does strike me as a bit odd to find a promotion of homeschooling on an equity discussion site. Yes, it is a choice….for a small minority of parents. I personally don’t see how taking sparse resources, whether in studying the subject or implementing programs (and this always costs money) would in any way encourage equity in our schools. Like the charters, I would worry it would be one more way to encourage inequity.

  13. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Rene – admittedly this would be harder on poor families (see my last post). One of the biggest obstacles to potential homeschoolers is that parents don’t have the time. One way to solve that problem is to have the kids be part of a PPS-sanctioned homeschool program. Kids could be at this program for 4 hours per day and the district would qualify for full funding from the state. This would be a way to get more funds into PPS. The district would get full funding for a kid who was only half-time. I think if low-income families were interested in homeschooling, they might be able to find ways to make it work. I know a few low-income families who choose to homeschool and who make it work because they are committed to making it work.
    I’m trying to push the ways that the district can serve all kids and families.

  14. Comment from Rene:

    Hi Peter

    Thank you for your response. It is appreciated.

    1. I am wondering how many parents could realistically afford to have their kids attend school half-time. For some lucky K parents, sure. But how many 6th graders? 8th graders? 11th graders? Part of me wonders that if you want your 12 year old kid to attend school half the day why not bite the nickel and make them stay until 3pm? So realistically what number of PPS kids would use this policy? It would be a tiny portion.

    2. I think it is a myth that low income families can somehow imagine themselves into making homeschooling work.

    I’ll be honest and use my new day job as an example. I am a single mom with three kids I adopted from foster care. I have a new job that started at 24 a year. That is about 700 every two weeks take home, or 1400 a month. For me and three kids.

    I am lucky. I have a second job which brings in money. I get child support. I am sophisticated enough to look for resources. I also get great benefits. But even with all those supports there is no way in hell I could afford to quit my job and homeschool my kids.

    I am guessing that the low income families you know who “choose to homeschool and “make it work because they are committed to making it work” also have support systems. They are probably what I would consider luxury poor, or supported poor. They have families who could take them. They are two-parent homes, and they do not have children with special needs. This is vastly different than parents in PPS who simply cannot afford to homeschool no matter how “motivated” they are.

    I wholeheartedly respect that you are pushing PPS to serve all kids and families. My feelings are that we need to focus always on those who have less.

  15. Comment from me:

    Ok, I read the original post again, and I think I understand better what’s being proposed.

    Peter, I think we’re being thrown off by the term “homeschooling” when it appears you’re proposing that kids stay at the school to be “homeschooled” by some collective of parents/other community members – as opposed to home-schooling the kids at home individually. So I think we’re both sorta saying the same thing.

    If that is the model you’re proposing, then I (obviously 😉 ) agree that utilizing parent/community resources in this manner allows the greater school population to benefit from the limited number of parents who can afford the time/energy to partake in such a thing.

    The two big hurdles to such an idea are:

    1) This would be a HUGE paradigm shift for the district. One that I’m not hopeful of generating enough political will to achieve.

    2) It could get quite tricky finding balance in offerings by parents and other community resources. The classes/field trip opportunities by parents in an affluent middle or upper class neighborhood may be very different to those offered by parents in a poorer working class neighborhood.

    Which is why I think that along with (1) the district may have to kick in a little extra effort with the “poorer” schools to help give them a higher caliber of offerings more on-par with schools that operate on their own momentum. In that way, you can help raise the capture rate and draw in more families who would otherwise be “at risk” of flight out of the neighborhoods.

  16. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Rene – the challenges you raise are real, and I don’t pretend to know all the answers. I’m hoping to tap into the wisdom of the people that frequent this blog to pose the kinds of challenges you did, and hopefully others might be able to find some possible solutions.
    That said, one of the original drivers for me behind posing this idea is the vastly different educational experience that low-income kids get. I was imagining the parents of kids at Rosa Parks who might not want their kids there but who have no other choices. In our current system, parents would have to take part in the school luckery (my new term for the lottery) and the process of school chance. If they were lucky, they’d have to drive their kids across town and then drive across town to pick them up, or have their kids on a bus for a couple hours per day. They’d also have to use the skimpy resources on the web to determine what the choices at each school were and somehow get beyond the marketing copy style of the writing to be able to compare apples to apples. For low-income families, these things are unlikely to happen. So they are stuck.
    I don’t like the fact that they are stuck. So besides the luckery and school chance, what other options can we extend to these families? I’m trying to work out how homeschooling could be an option. I also don’t like the fact that only certain kinds of people can homeschool.
    I admit this might be a naive, quixotic endeavor on my part. But I’m just trying some ideas out in an effort to offer kids at Rosa Parks, for example, something besides the status quo.

  17. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    me – slight clarification: I’m not proposing that kids stay at the school to be “homeschooled” by some collective of parents/other community members. I’m proposing that kids have access to resources that would be housed physically at the school. Those resources would include classes, taught by parents or volunteers, but also taught by PPS teachers. Why not? The offerings would be somewhat similar to what Village Home offers, but there would also be offerings at night and on the weekends (similar to what Saturday Academy offers). In short, the district could consolidate the kinds of offerings that are currently scattered across the metro area and house them in one or more locations inside PPS facilities.

  18. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    What about physical and occupational, and speech/language therapy? That is covered for the neighborhood kids, even if they attend private school, yes?

    Just having some random thoughts about all this. It feels like a custody fight to me sometimes, with the back and forth, and the kids are the ones losing out.

    It can be very isolating, homeschooling, and it can be terrifying, having your kid in a school situation that isn’t a great fit for them.

  19. Comment from me:

    Ok, so I guess I read it right, then wrong. I just need to shurrup now. 🙂

  20. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    me — naw, keep talking, please. I’m just throwing ideas around. None of them are necessarily good (or bad).

  21. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    For me, the key to all of this is to expand the options that folks have. Since PPS is promoting “school choice,” then we have to make sure that all choices are equitable. We have to ensure that all schools are places where people want to send their kids, not just places where kids end up because the local neighborhood school is their only option. In doing this, we have to expand programs in schools that do not have the offerings that wealthier schools enjoy. We have to make sure that people have thorough, accurate information to make informed choices.

    Right now, these conditions are not in place. There is vast inequity, their is a paucity of information about what is actually offered at the schools, and parents are often left with no options because they are not lucky in the lottery. On top of this, we see elementary schools becoming increasingly anti-child, as recess has been squeezed out and a broad array of “specials” choked down to a miserable few, all in the name of closing the achievement gap.

    I’m not sure if these issues will ever be addressed. So if people want to homeschool and leave this system, we should find ways to support them in doing that. This includes PPS.

  22. Comment from howard:

    “We have to make sure that people have thorough, accurate information to make informed choices.”

    Students at all levels should be assigned adult guardians capable of providing guidance when parents are unable or unwilling to provide that guidance. One exception would be in cases of emancipated minors preferring to and capable of making decisions.

  23. Comment from Rita:

    I just wanted to pick up on this issue of information in school choice. If, as now seems certain, the Obama administration is going to push school choice, then I think they/we need to give some serious consideration to the burden being placed on parents and the tools that will be provided to them to make informed choices. (I just got a Brookings first cut at analyzing the Obama education agenda See;v=1144626)

    This is a sore subject for me right now because I just went through the high school choice process with my son and was struck by how time consuming and stressful it was. I like to think of myself as reasonably functional, but I have to say, it was a struggle to perform anything approaching due diligence in exploring multiple schools. Not to mention the amount of school time my son lost doing shadow days.

    I think my experience — which seemed to be common among many other parents I spoke to, at least in some neighborhoods — is particularly troubling because high schools are much easier to assess than earlier grades for a whole range of reasons. First, the curricula, including academic and “enrichment” components, are readily available and comparable. To my knowledge, in PPS there is no way to do a similar analysis of the offerings at different schools at the elementary, middle, or K-8 level. In addition, eighth graders, unlike 5 year olds, can check out the schools for themselves and weigh in on the decision making. (Whether 13-14 year old kids should have to be making decisions like this is a whole other question.) Third, by the time you’re talking about high school, things get pretty cut and dried: what classes are offered? how many advanced classes? what foreign language? (often only one, by the way) any career/job stuff available? are there counselors? what’s the graduation rate? what’s the school climate? etc. etc. For younger kids, the number of things parents have to consider is exponentially greater and the things on the wish list are generally much more difficult to quantify.

    So, the fact that I found this high school choice process to be incredibly burdensome makes me question the whole notion of “informed choice.” How many parents have the time and the system knowledge to make an actual “choice?” What kind of information is going to be available to inform this choice? Aren’t we really just talking about a test score?

    The whole school choice concept is based on the idea that by employing market mechanisms, the educational system as a whole will respond to the salutary effects of competition by improving quality overall. Although I’m tempted to launch into a rant about how reliance on market fundamentalism has brought us to where we are today, I will resist and just focus on the “informed choice” piece.

    As we all know from Econ 101, in order for markets to function efficiently, participants must have accurate and sufficient information to make rational choices. Without that, people will indeed make choices, but they may not necessarily be “rational.” So what kind and amount of information is necessary and sufficient to allow someone to be adequately informed about schools?

    Here’s my take on the question: I’m not convinced that we have developed a system to evaluate individual schools in a sufficiently comprehensive way that would allow families to make the kinds of comparisons that are assumed by “informed choice” advocates. We have test scores, sure, but what are they actually measuring and are those things really the most important things? Beyond simple test scores, comparisons get really difficult and I’m not convinced that parents would be able to really do them in any meaningful way. I’m not being elitist here. I have multiple graduate degrees and spent almost 20 years teaching at the university level, but I don’t feel qualified to evaluate classroom techniques, alternative systems of instruction in math or reading, etc. Some things are easy. Like recess. It’s a good thing. Teaching to a test? Not so much. Mean teacher? Not for my kid. But do I have the expertise or the time to really evaluate a whole bunch of different kindergartens as indicative of the kind of education a school will provide my kid over the next 8 years? Almost certainly not. More to the point, are those kindergartens really indicative of anything other than themselves?

    If schools are in the business of marketing themselves, they’re going to put on a good show. How do I know if it’s rubbish or not? In market systems, the slogan is caveat emptor, but that assumes I know what I’m buying. If education is not my life’s work, how am I supposed to evaluate it? So I have to question the practicality of using “choice” as a mechanism for ensuring equity or improving overall quality.

    My educated guess is that most parents are going to choose schools based on some combination of convenience/doability, gut feeling walking into the building, rumors and friendly chats, and the assumption that the wealthier the neighborhood the “better” the school.

    I know we live in America, but market mechanisms are not appropriate for everything. How’s that market in health care working out for you?

    I fear I’m blathering here and I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I think it’s worth asking some questions since it appears charters and choice are here to stay.

  24. Comment from mary:

    Equity between schools could be had by boosting FTE at schools that need to build library, art, music, PE, etc. I don’t think creating another layer of beaurocracy to plan and monitor a homeschooling hybrid is a just use of funds if equity between schools is the goal. To volunteer during daytime hours requires a flexible or part time job that many parents do not have.

    SUN schools are a wonderful. Our school (Roseway Heights) offers yoga, lego robotics, ceramics, sports, open gym, poetry slams, etc. Homeschoolers could easily access these low cost and free classes.

    Attending neighborhood schools also builds community ties. Personally, I have not seen “teaching to the test” in my son’s 6 years with PPS. I prefer having him taught by experienced teachers than volunteer parents. The quality of instruction could really vary with volunteer parent instruction. My son has also benefited from his friendships with children with special needs. Would those children be supported in a hybrid model? Frankly, I’m not sure they are well supported at some of the focus options.

  25. Comment from Zarwen:


    May I suggest you copy your last post onto your campaign website?

  26. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Eric and Mary – I wanted to pick up on a couple things you mentioned around working parents.

    Eric said, “On the Village Home link, notice that not one offering is at night. A concurrent parent class would have to be during the day. Therefore, working parents cannot be included.”

    And Mary said:

    “To volunteer during daytime hours requires a flexible or part time job that many parents do not have.”

    There’s no doubt that classes would need to be offered during the day and at night, and it’s clear that you definitely need flexibility in your daily schedule to make things work.

    But I’m pretty sure that all of our careers are likely going to go through some serious challenges over the next several years. Some of us are likely going to lose our jobs. So I’m wondering what those shifts in so many people’s lives is going to do to their role as a parent. I’m betting there’s going to be more interest in homescholing because I’m betting that more parents are going to have time on their hands. And they want/need something to do.

    So I think part of the model here revolves around parents wanting/needing to outsource certain homeschool duties to others. For example, homeschool families often supplement their home-based instruction with math classes from a place like Village Home. So I suppose what I’m suggesting is that PPS get in this particular market, one that puts parents at the center of the decision-making process for what and how their kids learn. But it doesn’t mean they want to — or even can — do it themselves.
    And I could be wrong about all of this . . . 🙂
    But I’m thinking about emerging trends here and emerging educational offerings that will respond to this shifting economic and social shake-up in our families.

  27. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Just for clarity’s sake – I’m not sure these market-based offerings are a good thing or a bad thing. Just suggesting a possible trend. The notion of the public school as the democratic commons would be seriously challenged under this. But, then again, parents may wish to form new forms of public commons.

  28. Comment from Susan:

    The whole concept of marketing schools makes me crazy (as some of my previous posts might have revealed). Rita, if parents do have the time and energy to compare even a handful of schools, they have no choice but to visit and question each and every school they are considering. PPS’ schools pages are so outdated as to be almost useless. The enrollment and program data sections are from last school year – and with the K-8s still transitioning into whatever it is they’re supposed to end up being, these facts are misleading at best. And, as parents, we can’t be publically critical of anything our neighborhood schools could improve upon for fear our “robust, rigorous and fabulous” school will look like a poor choice to incoming K families or transferring families (whom we all need desperately in order to swell enrollment so that we can offer competitive programs).

    Opening public school buildings to communities is a wonderful idea. I often wonder how we can merge one of the most amazing public library systems in the country with public schools that have some of the most shameful libraries.

    But I agree with other posters that homeschooling parents already have access to public school families and programs. Boosting programs like SUN which keep our neighborhood schools open longer hours, relatively free to neighborhood children, will be important in helping to create or maintain livable communities.

    I would like to see PPS finish what they started with the K-8s before moving on to the next big thing.

  29. Comment from Rose:

    Rita, I agree that the whole school choice process is disengenous at best.

    I have gone through it for K through high school at this point and there is no meaningful way parents can decide the best choice. If you have kids with special needs it is almost impossible.

    The problem with the entire marketplace concept is obvious: the consumers with the most “dollars” to spend (time, resources, connections, savvy, sophistication, literacy, gumption) will fare much better than those who are poor. Take a school like MLC that require parents to submit a portfolio. How many gas station workers who speak Spanish only can summon that?

    Peter, if you want to look at ways to improve the education for kids at schools like Rosa Parks, I think homeschooling is your most unlikely option. I have clients at the new Villa. They are often single moms working two jobs, taking care of ill and aging parents as well as their own children…this is not a viable option. Honestly it seems a bit like “let them eat cake.”

    If we want to help parents like this we need more programs such as SUN and services such as the dental van. Actually, one huge boon to parents would be a volunteer network of doctors willing to evaluate learning disabilities for free. Poor parents cannot afford these evaluations (Oregon Health Plan does not cover them) and so their kids often go untreated for problems like dyslexia.

  30. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    Thank you Rose foryour unending patience and committment to these conversation.

    I amsimply too worn out by the rampant isms in PPS to have conversations about why homeschooling is not a feasible option for most folks. Or why focus and magnet and charter schools have application processes and schedules that exclude many families.

    None of this information is breaking news.

    Masters-level educated couple who choose to work part-time or from home or have only one parent work is NOT poverty. Many of the people I have known have had families or savings or substantial trusts that can “make up the difference”. It is an extremely rarefied group that PPS has decided to cater to.

    Argh! Why do I feel like Charlie Brown and PPS is Lucy snatching away that football?

  31. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    I think my half-baked idea is still half-baked. Maybe it’s just raw? But I still think it’s worth thinking beyond the constraints of the status quo. We all know that schools still reflect both their agrarian roots — we still take time off in the summer even though most of our kids no longer work the fields — and their manufacturing origins — bells still ring to signal the end of the shift. Schools also respond to the urgent need for childcare because parents have to work. But in each of these cases, school has always reacted to the dictates of the economy. We haven’t had much of an opportunity to think about schooling as an end in itself.

    We take our work culture for granted, but we forget that in France and Germany and Sweden, social policies are developed to support the needs and interests of families, often taking precedence over the needs of the economy.

    So if we focused on making schools what we wanted them to be — and not in reaction to what the economy tells us they have to be — and we developed policies that were truly family and kid friendly, what would our schools look like?

    Of course I understand the current constraints. But do we have to accept them as immutable? If not, are we willing to work to change them? And how do we want them to change?

  32. Comment from Rose:

    Homeschooling is an interesting trend. I think it quite fashionable right now, so people are perhaps unwilling to have an open discussion about it.

    At one time I researched the community intensively. I was supportive but also perturbed. One aspect that perturbed me is I did not meet one single African American parent who homeschooled. The community was even more racially segregated than the magnet schools, and that is saying a lot.

    Another interesting aspect is the neo-traditionalist aspects of the community. Most the parents who stay at home for the homeschooling are the moms. So you end up having homeschool groups who meet at places like Penisula Park…..and every single family is white and headed by a mom.

    I am sure much of this is a reflection of class and privelege. But I couldn’t help but think of the unspoken message to the kids as well as how completely unpractical this is for most women who have to work.

    Friends who have homeschooled and unschooled have also told me quite frankly that what works when a child is six is not realistic when they are 16 and want to learn a variety of subjects like advanced math. At that point homeschooling often morphs into public or private education, whether they use public school classes or homeschooling groups.

    All that said I still don’t see how this trend, which so few have the luxury of indulging, has anything to do with creating family and kid friendly schools. So say we spend a lot of time and money to make Rosa Parks homeschool friendly (is there an oxymoron in this concept?). So maybe two kids in the entire neighborhood can be brought to an afterschool class by their moms who already have a car, money, library cards and probably a full schedule of events on the fridge?

    If we want to make education equitable it means moving towards equity for everyone, not moving further towards a goal of catering to a small and already capable population.

  33. Comment from enoughsugarcoatingalready:

    I know this initial discussion wasn’t just about school choice ( and really not the lottery), but I just have to say a few things about the lottery process- for one, I’ve heard that the actual ” machine” part of the lottery takes only about 5 minutes…the rest of the time ( that long 6 weeks until we find out our results ) is the T and E Office sorting through it all. I really believe there is so much more to the way it’s actually done than what PPS discloses to PPS families, and for some things, I think they almost prefer to keep us confused or “in the dark”.
    There is one high school ( of course, one of the more desired schools ) in which you can pick it as 2 choices = one as a neighborhood school and one for a so-called special program it offers although there are no special requirements to pick it as another choice ( i.e, you don’t need to attend any type of meeting or open house or sign anything )…I even told a few families about this months ago but now, when it came time to fill out their school choice form ( most did the on-line version ), they forgot what I told them! It wasn’t apparent to them that this was an option. I also think it isn’t just about the school in which a student wishes to attend, but also the situation at the school they’re leaving ( and I don’t mean the weighted factors or priority because of the NCLB rules ). I have a hunch that some of these current 5th graders at evolving, over-crowded k-8’s who choose to leave will fair quite well in the lottery and it makes sense to let them go, if it means a more workable outcome for the school they are leaving (i.e, less portables to purchase, perhaps just enough kids left to need only 2 6th grade classes for next year, etc..). We were also told by a PPS employee to NOT put down a 3rd choice because they said that it would make it easier for them ( meaning the T and E Office ) to not give us the school we were really hoping for. Now, if you were to read the ” lottery logic ” and how the whole process is supposed to take place…what we were told really makes no sense but I totally know what they meant and really believe this is the under-current of the messed up, so-called ” school lottery “. We’ve heard, too, from a few families who have been approached by certain sports coaches telling them that they could get their “star” athlete into the school they coach at via the lottery…we know of one situation from last year in which it seemed to have worked in the athlete/students benefit. And no, the family did not use a phoney address!
    Anyway, back to the discussion of a modern day, expanded PPS + homeschooling connection…I would certainly keep your thoughts brewing, Peter, although it may help your cause if you could find a model ( or something close ) that already exists in the US, and then share some of the details..?

  34. Comment from anon:

    I had really hoped that the discussion about a possible PPS homeschooling program would have died out by now. And I really find it almost offensive that it is still being presented as a valid proposal on a website that is supposed to be dedicated to equitable PPS schools. Can we please drop it until someone can describe a realistic way that it could possibly increase equity in a school district that is already neglecting half of its schools and students?

  35. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Hey, anon. With all due respect, I don’t think calling for people to shut up on a topic that is generating a lot of interesting debate, insights, and analysis is a very good idea. If this offends you, then I suggest you stop reading the thread.

    Rose – you keep drilling home the status quo constraints of homeschooling. But what I’m exploring is the possibility of challenging and changing those constraints so that it becomes more of an option for more people. If we were able to remove the constraints that you mention, would more low-income and low-income minority families want to take part in homeschooling?

    The larger issue is wondering about the relationship between the institution of the family and the institution of the school. How do we raise and educate children in this culture? If schools didn’t exist, somehow we’d figure out a way to raise and educate children. So if we take school completely out of the picture and imagine the role — limited or not — it would play, what would it look like?

    Our local, state, and federal policies should be shaped based on these visions we have of school. We keep expending energy on systems that had little to no relationship with what we value. I, for one, have absolutely zero interest in Obama’s obsession — and Bush’s obsession before him — of preparing kids to be beat the Chinese in the game of global economic domination.

  36. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    I can see where anon would become frustrated because this like other conversations devolve into Rose or someone telling you about the class and privilege inherent in your suggestions and your responses of “yeah, I hear that but. . . . ” which is what children and families who are being woefully and purposefully neglected and their futures prescribed by a system that actively discriminates against them FOR YEARS.

    The homeschooling option is NOT and WILL NOT be an option for most children who are not served like charters, magnets and all the rest “options” that you have spoken about.

    Most americans supported the draconian cuts in welfare that happened a decade ago. The message was that if you were too stupid/undesirable/immoral to marry “well”, your kid was better off in any kind of childcare at age six weeks than home with you. Does a child get the same nurturing and modeling from a low-paid caregiver than a parent? These are not the parent doing nannyshares with collegel-educated nannies. We know that so much brain development happens from 0-3 years. So folks really aren’t going to suddenly be behind goverment parent stipends to facilitate homeschooling for poorer families.

    So we know that homeschooling is an “exclusive” option. Why are we spending this much time arguing that point with someone who doesn’t want to hear that? Whose optimistic perspective doesn’t allow them to dwell on the very children who are being abused by the system that they benefit from? ‘Cause trust me if your child(ren) had been abused by this system, you wouldn’t be able gloss over it so easily.

    Rose, I knew one African-American homeschooling family in Portland. Two parents, one with a very flexible work schedule. They were so worried for the health and safety of their black sons, one of whom had been physically assaulted by PPS staff that they pulled them out.

  37. Comment from Marian:

    I think the conversation here is interesting but this hybrid model already exists for those who want it. Let’s face it–most of us with kids in PPS are already utilizing some sort of hybrid by piecing together the art, music, and athletics after hours. We are forced to do this since our kids are no longer receiving the basics that my generation was offered through our public schools.

    I happen to like the way the school year is structured. Most people I know like it, too. I would rather utilize the summer months for outdoor activities and vacations when the weather is prime for it. I think kids would rather have free time in the summer, too.

    Homeschooling is a great option for folks who want something different for their child. I don’t think changing the whole system for the benefit of a few is good for the majority.

    Mostly, I think our public schools are being so heavily criticized because they aren’t funded adequately. If PPS finished what they started with the K-8 implementation, made sure quality and equitable offerings are at every school, we’d be in pretty good shape.

    Realistically, not many of us are qualified to homeschool our kids. You can be highly educated but still not qualified to teach a child, even your own. Teaching is a profession that requires special training and oversight. I wouldn’t want to get rid of my doctor and have my spouse diagnose and treat my ailments by using google and a medical dictionary. But I do want to use these resources to advocate for and educate myself.

    I think it would be a waste of money and time to try to tweak the current systen to fit the needs of very few folks.

  38. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Marian – I agree that “it would be a waste of money and time to try to tweak the current system to fit the needs of very few folks.” I’m suggesting we find ways to expand it so that it’s not just for a few.

    I don’t know, folks. I’m pretty depressed these days about PPS and public ed as a whole. I fought Dubbya as hard as I could and counted the days until he would be gone. Now we have Dubbya on steroids in the Obama administration. Dubbya’s ilk and now Obama/Duncan are pushing public education to the brink.

    I think we need to come up with creative ways to save public education. Even if we have equitable offerings and equitable enrollments, we’re still looking at class sizes of 25 to 35 kids. We’re still talking about special ed kids being forced to comply with idiotic testing requirements. And we’re still talking about English Language Learners getting by on a prayer. And now, with “merit pay,” we’ll give teachers an economic incentive to further dumb down their instruction and teach to the test.
    It’s sad to see so many people defending this sorry state of affairs. All our kids — all of them — deserve better.

  39. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    No one is defending this sorry state of affairs. Especially not those of us whose children are being screwed.

    if this is all that was taken away from people’s comments, then indeed the conversation was a waste of time.

    Factor into your solutions how low-income families will pay for basic needs in your solutions that require that more parent-driven educational time. But even more traditional alternatives like charters and magnet haven’t worked that all out. I remember a focus option that had a delayed start to the school year. Poorer working parents and parents who do not have workplace flexiility couldn’t send their children to that school because YMCA/Peninsula child care (that allowed them to work and support their families) adhered to a PPS traditional schedule.

    Until you factor the hierarchy of needs like shelter/clothing/food/transportation into these solutions it will be difficult to get “buy-in” from regular folks. Same with looking through a lens informed by a white, middle class experience. As long that is the lens it will be hard to reach other folks.

  40. Comment from Rose:

    Peter, you asked if we removed the constraints keeping from parents from homeschooling would they want to?

    I think if most parents had the option of working less, of course we would say yes! A thousand times yes!

    At the same time, as Mariam says, not all parents or their kids are suited to learning together. Probably this is a slice of humble pie best appreciated by those with special needs kids or teenagers.

    Also, one must appreciate factors like multiple children. You have one kid, I believe. Try homeschooling when you have three, and all are adopted special needs children.

    Also this needs to be said: not all parents want to homeschool. Many of us take great joy in our outside work. Or at least we get away from the little buggers.

    The bottom line is that unless you plan to change the economic stucture of the United States your plan will only benefit a minority. Most parents have to work a full 40 or more hours a week.

    I agree with anon that this discussion is diversionary when we are supposed to be focused on promoting equity.

    I completely understand your frustration with PPS. Try then to understand how it feels as a single working mom who has special needs kids in PPS.

    If you want equity for my kids I suggest you start with something like the Jeff cluster. I am honestly not trying to sound harsh. It is just that some of us do not have the choice to homeschool. I don’t even have the choice of what you aptly call the school luckery, because schools can refuse to serve an IEP and send my kid back to their neighborhood school, which is Jeff.

    Now, on the other hand, if you want to homeschool my 13 year-old, hmmmmm…..

  41. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    Rose – thanks for the gut-level assessment. I appreciate the candor. I’m doing what I can to make the system work and to make it better. I think part of that effort involves thinking outside the box (I detest this phrase, but you know what I mean.) Thanks for taking on the big picture question I was throwing out there, i.e., would this be a desirable option for low-income families? I can better understand the obstacles that would stand between this model and its implementation. So thanks – and thanks to PPSExpatriate, anon, and me for pitching in.
    I’m hoping some homeschool families will jump in here and offer what they know from experience. Like I said at the beginning, this is a half-baked idea . . .

  42. Comment from Stephanie:

    I just digested 41 posts on this topic so I could be remotely up to date with the conversation. I am reading a lot of great insight and ideas and there are a few I noticed that stand out as points I would hate to lose in the large discussion of a PPS homeschool community center.
    Rita had posted quite a bit earlier about training space that is free/cheap being a huge necessity and in my line of work this is certainly true as well. I teach a positive behavior support and parenting workshop for the non-profit I work at. We offer this workshop for free to any group that is willing to provide the space, light AV equipment, and of course bring in the folks. I am sure there are other groups willing to donate valuable information parents can use as long as all they have to do is show up to an audience. I know there are countless obstacles to the vision that Peter originally presented. One of these barriers is how to meet the needs of parents who have the resources to be able to homeschool and those who do not or are not interested. It is good that we start with a vision and then decide how we get there. This is how we dream of possibilities for our kids as well. I love the idea of schools as community hubs and also agree let’s not create a new bureacracy to slow it down. Community mapping and coalition building is one place to start. Who and what is in the neighborhood around a school and what are their needs and what can they offer? What groups already exist that share a common thread. I have only been spending time on this blog for a few days but already see a lot of mission overlap with the special education PTA that I am a member of. I have been working with families in poverty and child welfare for many years. The single most important thing I have been able to do for these families is to believe in them. I know that sounds sappy and unrealistic but it is true. Imagine if we could map the community around a school and identify the strengths and gifts, define what is working and not, decide on what the vision is that meets a community consensus, and then start delegating tasks to coalition members. Part of that vision needs to be drawing in the parents that don’t attend meetings for various reasons, the parents that have disabilities, the parents that just got their child back from CPS, the foster parent that is undersupported by the county/state etc. I have been spending a lot of time the last 3 years trying to brainstorm ways to draw in parents to my free workshops or support groups. Food and childcare win hands down every time. The parents that have the freedom, resources, and flexible schedules perhaps could “believe in” a parent or two and then building a school as a community hub becomes an easier sell. If we use community resources and existing coalitions then we have more freedom to dream big and see it through.
    I see stuff weekly in family homes that is disturbing and shocking; people who live in crisis as the norm. Despite this I can still be a glass half full kind of person so forgive me if I made any of this sound easy. I think it would be really difficult and frustrating but also possible.

  43. Comment from eric:

    Stephanie: Food and childcare win hands down every time.

    Just a point, (and I haven’t digested 41 comments, apologies) … Our school in Beaverton is on the high side of 50% free and reduced lunch … Our monthly PTC meetings offer food & childcare & we still only get 15 parents. That’s < 5% of the potential parents (guesstimate). And that includes 5 PTC board members.

    At the February meeting, we had a math night, where two teachers talked math teaching & we had a professor from a local university come to talk about math expectations.

    We got well over 30 that night!

    The only point being, if parents perceive a value, they will come to trainings, meetings, become involved.

    But often there is little perceived value or incentive for parents to get involved.

  44. Comment from Stephanie:

    Eric this is really helpful. Food, childcare, and relevant knowledge; perhaps this is part of the solution. A group I am a part of called Multnomah Parent Action Committee has been playing around with different settings to see what the best combinations are to bring in the biggest audience. We found that changing the names of our parent nights helped a lot and also finding out what people wanted to learn with guided surveys. We get the biggest draw of very hard to reach parents with food that is a meal vs. refreshments and either childcare or activities for the kids in a room the parents can see them in. There is a huge difference with our latino outreach in how we draw in families. With these families we need to have capacity for the extended family, translators, and a large room for the kids and families to spread out. We found creating more of an event atmosphere for even a 2 hour workshop helps bring in more families. Another key thing has been changing the names of the workshops. In 2007 our sensory workshop was called something like “Sensory Processing Solutions” but in 2008 we changed it to “Success in an itchy, bumpy, scratchy world” and wrote in the description that it was about sensory issues. We got twice as many people and a lot more networking. With that said, we are still not reaching the audience we especially want to target. Our hope is to draw out the parents in isolation and get them connected. I worked with a family from Haiti for a little while and the children did not leave their home but a handful of times the entire summer and never went to the park or community settings with peers. There is a lot of loneliness out there and unfortunately it is a vicious cycle and people won’t even take an invitation when you make it painfully easy for them to be included. There is a lot of work to do here.