In the news: Oregonian endorsements

The Oregonian today echoes yesterday’s Willamette Week endorsements, giving their nod to Pam Knowles and Martín González for next month’s school board contest. Ballots go out tomorrow.

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

Comments Off on In the news: Oregonian endorsements

In the news: WWeek endorsements, NCLB failure

Willamette Week has endorsed Pam Knowles and Martín González for school board. On the national front, the New York Times reports that the achievement gap persists in spite of No Child left behind.

The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency.

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


In the news: foundation reforms, Mincberg to depart

The Portland Schools Foundation (PSF) is mostly doing away with its competitive grant program, and will award most of its Equity Fund money based on need. Under the leadership of former PPS school board co-chair Dan Ryan, the foundation will also allow schools to hire teaching staff with the money, something that was not previously allowed.

This is a serious step toward ending the cruel irony of a system that has allowed wealthy families to directly fund teachers at their schools while scattering crumbs across the rest of the district. I and others have been calling for exactly this kind of reform for quite a while.

Dan Ryan deserves kudos for taking this first important step, but let’s go all the way. Eliminate the $10,000 exemption (wealthy schools keep all of the first $10K they raise) and raise the equity contribution to 50% (wealthy schools currently tithe 30% of funds raised). Only when we can hire one teacher in a poor school for every teacher hired with private fund-raising in a wealthy school will the Equity Fund live up to its name.

In other news, PPS COO Cathy Mincberg will leave the district May 15, according to a press release.

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


On moderation of discussions

Things have been lively at PPS Equity lately. Chalk it up to growing pains (readership suddenly doubled and comments went through the roof a a few weeks ago), but I’ve had to become a little proactive on moderation of discussions. A few notes with regard to a recent complaint about this moderation:

  • This Web site is hosted on a server that I own, with bandwidth I pay for.
  • When you’re participating in a discussion here, you’re my guest. As such, I want to make my guests — especially those typically on the short end of the stick in the issues at hand — feel comfortable expressing themselves. If one boorish guest makes several well-mannered guests want to leave, I’m going to err on the side of the well-mannered guests.
  • I am interested in minority opinions here. Majority opinions, by definition, dominate in the world around us. This is an alternative publication, intended to give voice to people who are not well-represented in mainstream media and organizations.
  • Minority opinions have always been shouted down in the public square, and majority rule frequently denies basic civil rights when majority privilege is perceived to be under threat.
  • If we’re discussing how to lessen inequity, I’m not interested in arguing whether inequity exists. Likewise, if we’re talking about race, I don’t want to host arguments that white privilege doesn’t exist. And since the education of our children is at the center of everything here, I’m definitely not interested in giving grown-ups a platform to trash talk students for typos.
  • This is not a freedom of speech issue, it is a freedom of press issue. I own this press; I decide what gets published (and until very recently, I’ve published every comment that’s been submitted). Anybody with access to the library can get a free blog of their own at WordPress or several other sites, and discuss whatever they choose. If they follow the rules here, they can even post a link to their own blog.

I do not take lightly the decision to moderate a discussion — by admonishment, editing comments, deleting comments, moderating certain users, or, as a last resort, banning users. I have a strong presumption to allow all voices to be heard, but that is tempered by a desire to work toward social justice. Yes, this Web site has a point of view, and I’m not going to let it get derailed.

In time I’ve published PPS Equity, the vast majority of participants have been respectful, mature, intelligent and informed, even when in disagreement. You, the readers, have contributed far more column inches to this site than me. I’ve learned a ton, and have been respectfully corrected on a number of issues I thought I had a line on.

I’ve participated in online discussions — Usenet, e-mail lists, Web forums and blogs — for over a decade. So I can say with some authority that the tone of discussion here is something we should all be proud of (see, for example, how ugly things have been getting on another Portland site). I don’t know of any other political Web site that rises to the level of discourse here. I’m not about to let one person change that.

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


Racial code words for dummies

Racism exists in many forms. Perhaps the most hurtful form is the unconscious kind, expressed inadvertently by people who consider themselves to be well-meaning. I don’t think anybody who contributes to the discussions at PPS Equity is a racist, but there have been times when non-white readers have contacted me in exasperation about some of the things they’ve read here.

Just for kicks, see how many code words you can spot in the following passage. This is a real comment on a different blog.

We live in our neighborhood b/c it’s what we can afford, but the schools here are scoring so low and are socially very rough. We go to a charter school (thankfully k-8) about 4mi away, and have been developing a great community there. Most of the kids in our neighborhood go to various other schools too. Ironically, they are the more balanced, healthy kids that I prefer my kids befriend anyway. The ones from our neighborhood school are often yelling cusswords, lying, flipping each other off, and don’t seem to be supervised.

Now, I can see the black readers rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. And I can see some white readers shrugging their shoulders, saying “What? Sounds reasonable to me….”

This, my friends, illustrates the racial divide in “post-racial” America.

Let’s start with the first phrase: “We live in our neighborhood b/c it’s what we can afford….” Right away, we have a denial of privilege. And privilege is at the heart of racism. This is a show stopper for readers who are not privileged (e.g. non-white or economically disadvantaged). Nobody who’s a product of a generational struggle for basic rights and justice wants to explain to you that you are, in fact, privileged, and they’re not likely to get beyond this first phrase.

But if they do, they’re gonna get hit with this doozy: “…but the schools here are scoring so low and are socially very rough.”

Test scores correlate highly to race and income. There is strong statistical evidence showing poor and non-white students score poorly regardless of setting. Conversely, white, middle class students tend to score highly regardless of setting. “Low test scores” are a proxy for race and income. “Socially very rough” is even less oblique, as the writer shows later in the passage.

Note the thankfulness for the charter school being K-8, but no acknowledgment of the privilege that allows a family to enroll in a charter and do an 8 mile round-trip commute for elementary school. Also note that they’re “developing” a community outside of their neighborhood, implying an unwillingness to adapt to the community that existed in the neighborhood before they moved in, presumably “other” in one or more unacceptable ways . This is unselfconscious self-segregation.

By this point, it’s not hard for a non-white reader to read “more balanced, healthy kids that I prefer my kids befriend” as white, middle class kids and “[t]he ones from our neighborhood school are often yelling cusswords, lying, flipping each other off, and don’t seem to be supervised” as describing non-white, economically disadvantaged kids.

This passage is pretty extreme. I’ve never seen anything so blatant here, thankfully. What we see here are generally more frank, direct discussions about race and class, but we still get a failure to acknowledge an unequal starting point — that is, privilege.

Every kind of ism — classism, racism, sexism, etc. —  is a rhetorical match-up between the privileged and the under-privileged.  So if you are white, and you are talking to a black person about race, you speak from a position of privilege. If you don’t acknowledge this to yourself at the outset, or, even worse, if you deny your privilege, you are likely to offend the other person.

If you go further and ask that person to explain your privilege, or argue that you don’t benefit from privilege, things are going to get ugly fast.

Then there are the old political code words for race: gangs, welfare, quotas, crime, state’s rights, “reverse racism”, etc. But more pernicious are the things that come from supposedly well-meaning liberals.

If you’re white, here are some things you don’t want to say when discussing race with somebody who’s not white, with the perceived subtext in parentheses (tip of the hat to Derailing for Dummies, a must-read):

  • You’re being hostile/disruptive/overly sensitive (you are uppity and don’t know your place)
  • If you don’t teach me, how can I learn (it’s your responsibility to demonstrate my privilege)
  • I’ve experienced discrimination, too (so what’s the big deal)
  • Other minorities I know say this isn’t a big deal (so you’re obviously exaggerating and need to prove racism to me)
  • We have a black president (how can you say there is still racism)

Sometimes “compliments” are perceived as insults:

  • You’re really articulate (for a black person)
  • You’re clean/you smell good (considering how dirty you people usually are)
  • Black babies are just cuter than white babies (you know, like puppies)
  • Can I touch your hair (it’s so “exotic”)

This is obviously not a complete list, but it’s a start.

I’m really grateful that so many people have exhibited openness and graciousness in discussing race here, despite occasional frustration and some understandable misgivings. Nobody’s perfect, and nobody can walk in somebody else’s shoes. But if we begin our discussions by acknowledging how privilege (or lack of privilege) frames our points of view, we can get down to some serious business.

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


Universal Design and Modified Curriculum

I have posted before and testified to the school board about the importance of a strong commitment to making schools ADA accessible so the policy that all PPS students have the right to go to their neighborhood school will actually be true.

When the city begins to make these changes it is going to be important to use a universal design approach to updating buildings, classrooms, and communities.

Universal design is a broad solution to accessibility issues where you modify buildings, products, and environments that everyone benefits from; not just people with disabilities. We already have a lot of examples of universal design in our city. The most common example is curb cuts in the sidewalk. People in wheelchairs benefit, cyclists, strollers, people with joint problems, young children, and joggers. Automatic doors are a great help for people with disabilities and nowadays we actually notice when a grocery store does not have an automatic door vs. when they do. Other examples: touch screen tests, closed captioning, books on CD, online classes, choice of languages on electronic equipment, low ramp busses, icons and noises at crosswalks. These things most of us take for granted but they help others a great deal.

Universal design in schools provides benefits for all learners and the modifications a student with a disability might need could also benefit a non-disabled student in other ways. The focus of universal design requires you to gather facts about your learners before you teach them. You will look at the content including academic and social goals of the lesson, the process and how the students engage in learning, how the students will demonstrate the learning, and then also within the process of instruction you will need to look at social, physical, and environmental supports. I will stop here for a moment to throw in a sidebar: Currently, what I feel may be more common is that a general education teacher does not have the academic flexibility to gather information about ANY of their learners much less consider how to apply principles of universal design. Special education departments are undertrained and understaffed and it is hard for a general education teacher and a special education teacher to collaborate in meaningful ways. In a perfect world, every classroom would have both a general education and special education teacher in the same room teaching all the students. An unsupported teacher gets between a rock and a hard place and modifying curriculum and environments is backburnered. The child with the disability is usually the one whose needs are considered last in the absence of resources for all. Disclaimer: I feel strongly that teachers are the salt of the earth and we don’t even know the half of what they do to educate our kids creatively with next to nothing in the way of resources. With that said, a few teachers just don’t want a kid with a disability in their class and will either purposely or with ignorant intent sabotage the experience so the child will be removed into a segregated setting more often during the day or completely into a new school or self-contained classroom. Some school are notorious for dumping kids into segregated placement for behavior they would not even blink at in the general education population. Unfortunately, we place above average expectations of behavior on children with disabilities but have low expectation about what we will teach them or allow them to experience.

Universal design encompasses both widespread structural changes but also creative solutions that are right under our nose.
Here are some examples of creative solutions that benefit all kids in the classroom:
Alpha-smarts are mini word processors that have helped a lot of kids who have a hard time with writing or getting homework in. Give the kid in the class that takes the best notes some carbon paper so the child that cannot both listen to the teacher and write at the same time can have notes. Have the kids sit on exercise balls at their desks so the kids with ADHD can wake up their butts and everyone has better posture. Use colored carpet squares so the kids with autism can have a defined space but everyone knows where they need to be. Have the kid with the wheelchair use his tray board as the desk for other kids to dissect their frogs on. Use station learning with different choices about how to convey the concepts based on multiple intelligences. Pair the kid who is best at math with the kid that needs help; the student as teacher will cement the learning in a new way and the student being helped will be able to learn from a peer model. Many teachers have found that the best way to figure out how to modify curriculum is to expose students in general education to students with disabilities and then ask the kids how they think they can help their peers learn the material.

Kids get it when we give them a chance.

Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.


Campaign finance watch: zone 5 race tops $40K

As expected, Pam Knowles has caught up with Scott Bailey in the race for dollars, with both candidates having surpassed the $20,000 mark in fund raising. Bailey leads in spending, with $12,500 spent. Knowles has spent $6,900.

Incumbent Martín González leads off the much saner money race in zone 4, with $2,500 raised. (Neither Rita Moore nor Steve Buel have reported any campaign finance activity to date.)

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

Comments Off on Campaign finance watch: zone 5 race tops $40K

Who gets to choose and who does not

Last week Madison High School received the news of the departure of our principal to a job in the central office. With that news came the announcement of the new appointee as principal. This announcement did not come from the mouth of our Principal as we were to wait for Human Resources personnel to make the announcement.

While we were waiting for HR to show, I posed the question addressing the issue of interviewing candidates for replacement administration given that there was quite an elaborate interview process when our current principal was hired to take the job at Madison. I was told to ask this question of our representative from Human Resources who had not shown to play her role in the flurry of administrative announcements taking place at Madison.

When HR arrived I posed the same question and was told in so many words that our superintendent, Carole Smith, felt that the new appointee was the best fit for Madison teachers, students and community. She became quite coy with all of us in the room and would not tell us the name of the new principal saying that there were others to be told first. We were told that HR would be coming for the express purpose of telling us all who would be leading us next year so there was a degree of confusion and anger in the room. I left to help with a track meet but not before saying to the room in general that I felt manipulated and gamed and would enjoy spending time with the real patrons of this district, the children.

We were also told at this same meeting that the current administrative team asked central office for additional administrative support for next year. Astounded at this announcement given our projected enrollment of 822 + students for next year, I reminded those present that when we started 11 years ago at Madison there were 1392 students, one principal and two vice principals.

Next year we will have two counselors and when I started there were five counselors.

Seeking additional administrative support beyond the one principal and one VP allocated by central office seems beyond unreasonable given the cuts we are expecting in the building for next year. Today I opened an email from saying that the principal staring that we are to receive an additional VP as well as an additional .59 FTE for teachers but that we still will lose 11.25 FTE for next year.

Madison, in the years that I have been a counselor here, has seen a very steep decline in enrollment. The demographics have gone from primarily middle class to predominantly working class and immigrant families.

We have become a minority majority school with the usual plethora of problems that comes with poverty-affected, drug-affected, gang-affected families. The resilient children that come out of this milieu make Madison a place that is full of challenge as well as enormous reward for those of us who love the children and everything else that comes along with them.

Good teaching and lots of it is making a difference in the lives of these kids. Many are succeeding and they are succeeding because of the tenaciousness and the talents of the staff who care deeply for their students and expect more with less after being asked to do more with less. Teachers will have more students and there will be fewer elective offerings next year.

Madison does not need another vice-principal. Madison needs to keep as many of our teachers as possible so that class size does not explode. We have a thriving and amazing art and music program but when those are the only electives and art is cut by 1.5 teachers, class size grows and teaching becomes only about management, safety, and containment. There is not a lot of enrichment in an art class filled with 40 students and only half of them are there for the interest or the love of art. The rest are there because they have to be somewhere and there is no shop, automotive, metals, or business.

Madison. A poor school. Not a district powerhouse like Grant or Lincoln or Cleveland. No rich parents. No doctors in the house. No attorneys. We do have a new principal and she was chosen for us. Is she the best fit? Questionable when her reputation proceeds her. The word on the street is not good and her placement does not bode well for the year ahead. Is the staff being punished for our vote of no confidence for the outgoing principal? Did the expensive consultant hired to fix the discontent at Madison address the issue of leadership? Not once? Side stepping issues of leadership and leading us to the decision we had come to in the library the year before appeared to be a lesson in redundancy. Precious time spent for precious little only getting us to where we started: small schools are not working and we need to go back to a comprehensive model that shelters our 9th graders.

The new principal is not a principal from a successful comprehensive high school but a small school administrator. Her administrative background has been in elementary schools and possibly some time as a VP in a high school. Carole Smith owes it to Madison to explain to us how this particular administrator is the best fit for Madison.

Would Lincoln High School ever experience the indignities of a Madison? Would Carole Smith drop a principal on the heads of those West Side parents and students, especially one who comes with little experience in bringing schools together, working collaboratively, sharing governance? Never! How about Grant or Cleveland or any of the other schools where there is a collective body of parents who are fortunate enough to have the luxury of time, money, and privilege to assert their basic rights as parents and patrons of the district. Madison deserves better as there is a lot of potential out here on the East side of this city.

There were at least two capable and qualified administrators that could have moved into the principal’s position with proven track records for being people who respect and care about teachers and the contributions they make to student success.

My lament is for the waste at the top and the loss of the potential for empowering a staff that has felt neglected for years. Moving bad leaders from one building to the other or to central office has a ripple effect on students and when those students are damaged by the hand they have been dealt in life the ripples become tidal waves. I am grateful for the tremendous teachers on this staff who stay in spite of how hard it gets year after year. I am grateful for the students who show up, graduate, win scholarships and awards in spite of their circumstances.

We all deserve better and sending us a stranger and tacking on an additional administrator deserves only scorn and shame to those who make decisions without knowing the real heart and soul of what a school like Madison was, is and could be. I am not alone in saying no thanks for the extra administrator and no thanks for another schools reject.

David Colton is a high school counselor and a former English and drama teacher.


Getting High Schools Right

In the models for high schools, I see two things that are not being addressed: (1) race/class differences that drive people apart and send some families fleeing from their neighborhood schools, and (2) the reasons why kids drop out of high school. If the design does not address one of the major reasons why families flee, and if it does not address why kids drop out, then the unintended consequences of the current enrollment and transfer policy will be worsened, not improved.

Let me start with race/class differences.

Today, kids in Jefferson are disproportionately low-income and black, whereas in Roosevelt they are disproportionately low-income black and Hispanic. Kids in Lincoln are disproportionately affluent and white. So if we support Model A or B, won’t Lincoln continue to be an affluent white school, Jefferson a low-income black school, and Roosevelt a low-income black and Hispanic school? Since the demographics of the schools are largely reflective of the neighborhoods, then you are likely going to promote racially and economically segregated schools. Is this OK as long as all the schools are high quality?

But given the challenges that schools face that have high concentrations of poverty, can they really be equal in terms of teaching and learning outcomes and produce environments that promote educational excellence? Schools with high concentrations of poverty will need more assistance (e.g., more funding to create smaller class sizes and more guidance counselors), and they may face more challenges. If the additional assistance is not provided and the challenges not met, my concern is that students will want to flee these schools, no matter what their offerings are.

As you recall, not so long ago there were comprehensive high schools and middle schools in low-income areas in PPS. What happened to them?

Students fleeing their low-income neighborhood schools: we all know this has been the unintended consequence of the enrollment and transfer policy. So what are the new models going to do to prevent this from happening?

I would recommend that a program at all of the schools be established that deals explicitly with the issues of racism, poverty, and multiculturalism. If we take the idea of student academies included in the Model A design, these groups of students could be racially and economically diverse. Part of their work together would involve periodic guided conversations with a teacher/facilitator in which the students would discuss racism and poverty and inter-cultural communication. An example of this sort of program is Anytown, sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice.

The design would acknowledge the challenge of nurturing and sustaining a diverse learning community and would take the challenge head on. The design would also acknowledge that “white flight” has happened before and can just as easily happen again. So it must take this phenomenon into consideration and deal with it explicitly.

In this way, the high schools will lead the way in promoting larger conversations about how we can nurture and sustain diversity in the larger Portland community. In the end, our high school students would become community role models.

Finally, let me turn to why kids drop out of school.

According to a 2006 Gates Foundation study (1.1 MB PDF) on why kids drop out, nearly half of the kids surveyed said a major reason for dropping out was that classes were not interesting. These young people reported being bored and disengaged from high school. So do the designs increase or decrease interest and engagement? Part of the challenge here is that state law requires that core requirements be met in 9th and 10th grade, with very little room for students to choose classes of interest. Even if the new designs offer everything from anthropology to zoology, the students will not benefit from these diverse offerings until later. So can they wait that long to learn about what interests them? I would recommend an examination of the state law and push for fewer core requirements in 9th and 10th grade.

Another one of the other major reasons cited for why kids drop out is the feeling that no one cared about them. So how do these models promote caring? How do these models allow for teachers to get to know kids and to care for them and care about them? High school teachers currently have 130 to 150 students each. How much can be expected of them in this model? We know that a great teacher is often the critical difference for why kids succeed. So how do these models promote great teachers and great teaching?

If you went with Model A or B, you’d have to hire a lot more teachers to reduce class size and you’d have to budget and schedule for team-based professional development. These are the sorts of critical success factors that a teacher colleague of mine mentioned. As he said, this is not just about “effective structures,” the focus the district has chosen to take. You really do have to consider “Effective People” and “Effective Teaching and Supports” at the same time, the two other areas the district mentioned but has not focused on. Understood that you start with one, but once an “Effective Structure” has been chosen, then these other factors need equal if not more time and consideration.

So I’d like to to slow down the process and take the time to get this done right. We’ve already been through one very hurried, very unplanned redesign process with the K-8 reconfiguration. Let’s not have another. If we don’t redesign our high schools to solve the problems that are inherent in them, then what’s the point?

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.


Knowles on K8s

This is Pam Knowles’ contribution to the K8 conversation that we started with Scott Bailey last month. Thank you Pam for offering your take on the issue.

Thanks for contacting me and providing the opportunity to join the discussion about K-8 and middle schools. I attended the CPPS Conference and workshop on K-8s and listened carefully to the comments and concerns of parents whose children are currently in K-8 schools. We had a great discussion about the hasty transition to K-8s for certain schools in PPS. It would have been helpful to have someone there from the district who was intimately involved in the transition to provide an update on the identification of issues and what solutions are being proposed to solve the problems our new K-8s face.

Your frustration and the frustration of parents about the transition is clear from your questions and the responses on the PPS Equity blog. I want to respond to your questions by covering the benefits of the K-8 model, what happened in Portland Public Schools that is different from other cities that experienced successful transitions and what our next steps need to be to fix these problems.

As to why make the change from middle schools to K-8, I believe the District, in its continuing struggle to narrow the achievement gap, turned to the national research on K-8 as a potential solution. The research shows that in K-8s that have been implemented successfully, academic achievement rises. Why?

  • Kids continue to build on established relationships with teachers and other adults (as with looping which has also been shown to increase achievement).
  • Parents continue to be more involved in the schools because they are already involved and do not have to reestablish themselves (sounds like the same reason we use for kids).
  • Behavior is more positive. Kids do not have to establish a new identity, but rather can take the role of mentor and protector of younger students
  • There is opportunity for enhanced teacher coordination and articulation between and among grades
  • There is more personal accountability for teachers as they are not passing a student along to another school.

As a parent, a business leader and board member I want students to be successful. I want to see a decrease in the achievement gap and an increase in our graduation rates. I want all children to have the opportunity for success. So what happened in Portland? Why haven’t all our children and our schools experienced success under this model?

First and foremost, implementation began without thorough planning and buy-in by all stakeholders. Parents, teachers, students and community members all should have been a larger part of the decision-making process.

The district was dealing with several issues at the same time that impacted the transition, including the need to close schools, transfer issues, changing enrollment patterns and magnet/special option schools. Many parents, teachers and principals were skeptical and this skepticism increased as the implementation was rushed. Without strong, effective leadership and good, committed teachers the transition cannot succeed district-wide.

Where do we go from here? We do need an assessment of our K-8s to determine which ones are working and why, and which ones are failing and why. This needs to be completed immediately. We cannot delay. We also cannot assume that if we went back to the K-5, middle school model that students would be more successful. Clearly, there were significant problems with that model as well. And, as we all know there are many issues that effect student achievement and they are all entwined. Many of these issues have been discussed on the PPS Equity blog, including transfer policies that weaken neighborhood schools, teacher evaluation and support, kindergarten, parent involvement, and poverty.

My initial belief, without the benefit of an assessment, is that K-8s that were developed at small elementary schools are struggling because they cannot offer the variety of programs/electives that larger K-8s can. In effect, they are still elementary schools that have simply stretched to include 6-8. In some cases this was achieved by adding portables to the school, which fails to provide opportunities to mix the older students with younger students. The integration of all grades is key component and rationale behind the K-8 transition. As a result they do not have the experiences that lead to better behaviors and increased achievement.

The middle schools that expanded to include elementary students are having more success, but still have a long way to go. In both cases, leadership through collaboration between the principal, the teachers and parents as a team will help with the transition and is the most important factor in achieving success.

I would be interested in hearing more from your readers on ideas for how we decrease the achievement gap and increase graduation rates. Ideas I have been considering include:

  • Expanding programs that help children start school ready to learn.
  • Partnering with the county and the city to stretch scarce dollars that support families, young children and at-risk youth in after school and summer enrichment programs
  • Expanding partnerships with community organizations that provide mentors and programs to increase performance.
  • Involving the business community to engage youth through job shadows, internships and employment, to expand their vision of the opportunities that come when they stay in school.

I have extensive experience developing solutions to problems through collaboration and implementing those solutions. I think it is time we move beyond discussing problems. It is time to pull all stakeholders together and develop and implement system-wide solutions. I will pull together teachers, parents, the administration, and community members to turn the challenges faced by the district into opportunities to improve and make the real, quality changes our children deserve.

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment. I look forward to a continuing dialogue on these important issues.

Pam Knowles was elected to the Portland Public Schools board of education in 2009.


« Previous Entries