What Fits in Your Pocket & Makes You Smarter? Thursday’s Tiny Reading Collection & Inspiration for a More Active 2012

Dear All:

I’ve been caught up in the hustle and bustle of prepping classes for winter term and making gifts for Christmas.  While I’ve been reading about education issues in between feeding my 8-month-old and playing blocks with my 2-year-old, I haven’t been posting, and it’s time to share this information with you:

  1. Oregon did not receive a federal Race to the Top grant but did come closer than with its first application.  This seems to be a sign that Oregon is doing more research and asking the community for more feedback, but we’re clearly still lacking in some areas that are required to receive this grant money.
  2. There are changes afoot in Oregon’s open enrollment law for schools.
  3. More and more children are slipping below the poverty line in Oregon, and many are going hungry.  Think about donating some time to an organization that fights hunger.
  4. Great News! Gustavo Alvarez gets a reprieve and is not deported — thank you to all of you who signed the petition, called in, and supported the ideas behind the DREAM Act.
  5. Superintendent Carol Smith released her recommendations for boundary changes for PPS.  What are your reactions?  How do you think the Alameda Neighborhood Association will respond?  Attend a hearing on January 9 to get more details and to provide feedback.  What do you think about Smith’s process to arrive at these recommendations?  Are you satisfied with the level of community involvement?

What’s really important to think about as we end this year and begin another?  How we can live and participate in our communities in ways that support kids and families.  Here are some ideas to get you thinking and acting in simple but important ways:

  • Oregon is seeking feedback on the state’s NCLB waiver application.  You can send in your feedback now and be part of the process of opting out of NCLB’s oppressive regulations.  If you are fed up with NCLB or just want to see more innovative ways of teaching and assessing, your feedback is needed!
  • If you’re interested in being part of conversations about the achievement gap and how to support policies and actions that help narrow the gap, join with Stand for Children, the Black Parent Initiative, REAP, and the Oregon Chamber of Commerce to get involved.  Send Emily Nazarov an email at enazarov@stand.or.
  • Join the Chalkboard Project’s Citizen Corp, join the upcoming virtual brown bag on the importance of educator assessment, or just subscribe to their informative blog on local education issues to stay informed.
  • Register for the MLK day of service here.
  • Find a more long-term or several short-term community-based projects to dedicate some time to in 2012 by visiting Hands on Portland.
  • Make an end-of-the-year donation to an organization like Donors Choose, which allows educators to fundraise for class projects and supplies.
  • Spend quality time with the children in your life!

I’ll be posting more after the Christmas holiday as we head toward the New Year and the opportunity to envision a 2012 of community involvement!

Happy Winter,



PPS School Boundary Talks: Objections (and Equity Issues) Surface

In the last few months, I’ve been posting articles on the PPS boundary talks, discussions around the community about changes that will take place in order to relieve schools that are too full and to shift students into schools with smaller student bodies.  These changes would also possibly move some schools from one model to another (a K-8 to a K-5, for example).  While discussions thus far have been amazingly calm and seemingly neutral, last year’s tense boundary talks between Alameda and Sabin schools has resurfaced with a letter from the Alameda Neighborhood Association.

What do you think about the letter?  And what do you think about ways boundary shifts may impact educational equity in Portland?  As always, I’d love to hear your opinions…

Thursday’s Tiny Reading Collection: Building Blocks, School Boundaries, Class Size, and Rising Poverty

I’m starting a new Thursday post called the “Tiny Reading Collection.”  This will feature a collection of short, thought provoking articles that serve as a sampler of highlight articles that will help keep you informed.  This week’s articles are as follows:

  • An article on a return to using wooden building blocks in teaching and learning and creating more space for creative play in classrooms (“With Blocks, Educators Go Back to Basics,” New York Times)
  • An article on increasing class sizes in the Metro area and the impact on kids and teachers (“Students Lose Individual Attention...,” Oregonian
  • The proposal for new Portland school boundaries was released…with more community discussions to follow.
  • Census data released reports that 50% of black children in Oregon live in poverty. This really speaks to the way that the economic downturn is impacting communities of color and needs to lead to more discussions about the ways that systemic barriers impact kids and families in our community.
  • A beautiful article (with lots of links) called “To Teachers: How to Stay Hopeful and Inspired” (written by educator Elena Aguilar) from Edutopia is a perfect way to end this collection.  Even in the light of major challenges, we must stay hopeful and active.

Happy reading…

“Make It Happen” Monday: Walk-Outs, Teacher Assessment, and Boundaries, Oh My!

If you’re feeling inspired by the many social movements that have been happening as part of the Occupy protests, think about taking on one of these small actions that will help support education in your community.

  1. November 16, 12:00 p.m.: Participate in the PSU student walk-out.  Here’s a link to the Portland Coalition to Defend Education website with information on the walk-out.   Here’s a link to some commentary on the walk-out from a PSU student.
  2. November 15: Email the State Board of Education your thoughts on the proposed teacher and administrator assessment.  If you know how important teacher quality is to the education of each student, you will want to take a look and weigh in.
  3. November 15: Go to the Rigler School meeting on possible boundary changes in PPS (6:00).
  4. November 16: Go to the Scott School meeting on possible boundary changes in PPS (4:00).
  5. Read about the previous boundary meetings, parent feedback, and proposed solutions here.
These are all little things that can make a big difference.  Make it happen!

Action Monday: Attend an Upcoming School Boundary Meeting and Write a Guest Blog Post!

School enrollment boundaries may be shifting in Portland.  As we know, these boundaries (and their possible shifting) are not apolitical.  Boundaries can reflect a lot about a city and impact the mix of students in a big way.  They can also impact property values and force communities to think about economic status, race, cultural capital, and educational equity in some major ways. Last year, when possible boundary changes were discussed between the Sabin and Alameda schools, tensions abounded.

While you may not have time set aside each week to get involved with schools and youth in your community, you probably have two hours to attend a community meeting to become more informed and to add to the conversation on possible boundary shifts.  Check out this schedule of neighborhood meetings, and please comment if you attend or email me to write a guest post!  Meetings in North Portland are upcoming, so do show up if that’s your neighborhood or if you’ve worked in N or NE Portland schools.  This is an easy way to see what it’s like to be a more involved community member!


Weekend Catch Up: Boundaries, Charter Schools, and Teacher of the Year, Oh My!

While my 6-month-old son sleeps in the next room, I’ve decided to compile some local highlights from the week.  There’s been a lot going on in Oregon education, and my two kids and a big pile of WR 122 essays to grade prevented me from updating until now!  A teacher/parent’s work is never done…


As you may have read or heard about, Oregon is facing another round of cuts to things to state-funded organizations, like schools, Parks and Recreation, etc.  What will the impact be on schools?  Read some of the following, and think about attending or listening in on some future school board meetings. Continue reading

Future PPS School Closures or Boundary Changes?

Some of our oldest neighborhood schools are facing school closure or major boundary changes due to dwindling student populations.  Why are these neighborhood schools losing students? This is something to discuss further.  And what happens when boundary changes are proposed?  Often, some of the deeper societal issues at play with inequity of schools come to the surface.  Check out PPS to Consider Boundary Changes for more information. Continue reading