“FREE” School Supply Store for Teachers?

School funding is an important issue in the education system and there seems to be little effective initiatives in place to increase the money pot. Instead of tackling the challenging larger approach of finding better ways to increase the overall … Continue reading

Promise Neighborhoods and Harlem Child Zone… to be or not to be? That is the question for these communities.

To be or not to be?  Communities that applied for Obama’s Promise Neighborhood grants in the past have asked this question.  They wanted their communities to be more conducive to learning in order to help their students achieve in their … Continue reading

Beyond November and Measure 85: The Need for Public Action Against a Widening Equity Gap (by Guest Blogger Matthew Price)

Note: This post is Part 4 of a four-part series on Measure 85 written by PSU Capstone student bloggers.  Thank you, guest bloggers, for contributing this material and helping in our campaign to educate local voters on measures that impact … Continue reading

Slip of the Link? Or Helping Readers Connect a Passion for Education with the Presidential Election Battle?

As I was driving to Portland Community College this morning  hold a break-out session on the many benefits of using service-learning as a tool for teaching rich content in college classrooms, I heard a reference to an OPB radio article that would be aired later in the day: “Learning with Less: Keeping the Spotlight on Education,” one report in a series by Rob Manning.  This series is dedicated to keeping readers in touch with the highs and lows of schools dealing with a smaller budget and higher expectations for students. Continue reading

Come to the First Rally of the School Year in PDX: Get Engaged Now!

For K-12 schools, the school year is already in full swing.  For some of us teaching in higher education, the school year starts in a week.  I’m in the thick of final class planning and communicating with my fall term … Continue reading

Back to School: Learning, Knowing, Sharing, Voting, and Acting in Fall 2012

After a few weeks on vacation from blogging, I’m back!  I spent the summer teaching educational equity courses in partnership with Upward Bound, the 9th Grade Counts Program, the CJCC Urban Day Camp, Puentes, and James John SUN School programs.  I also spent a great deal of time at the playground, the library, the community center pool, and the farmer’s market with my family.  I agonized over preschool options for my daughter, strategized changes in my teaching, and thought a lot about what it means to encourage deeper and more local civic engagement.  This season of blog posts is going to be a lot of fun and very focused on (1) providing information that will allow readers to be educated voters on issues that impact kids and schools, (2) showcasing student voices, and (3) keeping us all tapped in to current education happenings in Portland and beyond.  I’ll also be writing about how to get more involved in being an active community member and advocate for local schools and kids.

So, to get things started, let’s talk about what you  need to know to be in the know in Fall 2012:

  • Many Oregon classrooms (read about Beaverton classrooms here) are overcrowded as they start the 2012-2013 school year.  The reason?  Massive system-wide budget cuts have reduced teaching staff.
  • All eyes are on this year’s kindergarten kids.  The new promise of Governor Kitzhaber’s overarching education plan for Oregon is that 100% (yes, 100%) of these kindergarten students will graduate from successful high school experiences.  We’ve got a long way to go.
  • Oregon teachers have a mandate to work harder to teach Oregon students to be strong writers. Writing scores from last year indicate that students are struggling more with writing than other core subjects like math, reading, and science.
  • Schoolhouse Supplies gathered donations to give free backpacks and school supplies to hundreds of low income students.  Wonderful organization!  Check out how to get involved year-round here: http://www.schoolhousesupplies.org/.
  • In case you hadn’t noticed (ha!), we’re in an election season.  The RNC and DNC revealed a few things about each presidential candidate and his views on education.  See ideas for integrating information on the election (and civic engagement in general) here.
  • The Portland State University has a great resource guide on national as well as local issues that will be up for the vote in November. In terms of what will impact local kids and schools, the upcoming PPS bond measure is a major item to become educated about.  I’ll be posting more in the next few weeks on this.  Also important to local kids is a vote for more stable library funding in Multnomah County.  Check out more information here.


What other issues are impacting schools in your neighborhood?  What kinds of volunteer work are you plotting for the 2012-2013 school year?  How will you become a more engaged community member as kids head back to school?

As always, I welcome your thoughts and look forward to an exciting fall!


Paying for Public Education? (by Guest Student Blogger Kelsey Robertson)

NOTE: Kelsey is a student in the Portland State University Capstone titled “Enhancing Youth Literacy.”  This summer, she supported Upward Bound staff and students in nutrition and literature courses.  She has already made a plan to continue her work with Upward Bound in the fall!  Her questions on families having to pay for public education are extremely relevant to local discussions on limited access to free day-long kindergarten programs and school budgets that are so tight that  teachers and families have to bring basic supplies to class that should be provided (paper for photocopying, for example).  Read Kelsey’s words here:

In elementary school, my school always asked families to pay for bits and pieces of our education throughout the school year. Between field trips, extra books, transportation, and school gear, we ended up paying a large amount. I was lucky enough to have parents who could handle the extra costs, but for families already struggling to get by this can be a huge source of stress. Schools argue that the funding isn’t coming from elsewhere, so families should contribute. We have a right to a free, public education. Should K-12 schools be allowed to charge students for some of these ‘extras’ to make up for budget deficits?

The ACLU says no, and has filed a lawsuit against the state of California. Parents are coming out and telling horror stories of amounts contributed, teachers who denounce children whose families are unable to pay, and students falling behind because of the inability to pay for textbooks. Educational inequity is rampant in California, and the expectation that families contribute financially is increasing the gap.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced having to pay for K-12? What about the students you were working with in your capstone placement? What do you think will come of the ACLU lawsuit?


The Status Quo in Education: Limiting Student Potential & Using Empty Words? (by Guest Student Bloggers Jeffery Fockler & Camille Rushanaedy)

If you haven’t read Jonathan Kozol’s Shame of the Nation, let these reflections from the incredible mentors/tutors in UNST 421 convince you.  Here are their reflections after reading an excerpt, experiencing their field placements, and becoming incredibly knowledgeable about education in Portland and the U.S.  Both students question the status quo in education today and the way they feel that education structures are limiting student (and overall human) potential. The kind of thinking, discussing, and acting that happens in these courses is powerful stuff.  Grappling with these complex issues is not easy in any sense, but with increased awareness, spreading of information, and action, we will be able to make change.

From Guest Student Blogger Jeffery Fockler

I think Fortino (and Jonathon Kozol in giving Fortino the last word) is implying that the segregated state of the nation’s schools is the result of some implicit desire of the wealthy to protect the status quo by keeping the poor, poor.  For our economic system to function, some people must do menial, manual labor, while others can do more fulfilling jobs that require a quality education and, consequently, money.  By keeping poor people poor with poor education, they can continue to do the menial jobs so rich people don’t have to.

Although I think most Americans would be disturbed by the idea that this is intentionally maintained by the wealthy class, I can’t help but think it is implicitly promoted by our society.  It seems there is a trend for poor, minority schools to focus curriculum on technical programs where students are encouraged to pursue more “practical” careers like mechanics, construction, or sewing.  This trend is apparent in Portland Public Schools, and it seems it would only further contribute to segregation.  I wonder to what extent these programs are inspired by the implicit desire to maintain whatever stability is left in our economic system.  In my opinion, an economic system is a failure if we must limit the potential of any human in order to maintain the economy.

From Guest Student Blogger Camille Rushanaedy

Camille quoted Jonathan Kozol from shame of the nation as the context for her response:

“Linguistic sweeteners, semantic somersaults, and surrogate vocabularies are repeatedly employed.  Schools in which as few as 3 or 4 percent of students may be white or Southeast Asian or of Middle Easter origin, for instance — and where every other child in the building is black or Hispanic — are referred to as ‘diverse.'”

This quote stood out to me as a linguistics major, as it is highlighting the way in which language is couched to hide the plain realities we live in.  While it is plain to the students and educators in these schools (and to those of us reading about them) that these are minority schools that are receiving funding and support that reflects their status as minorities, those in power would rather label them as “diverse” and ignore the problems that those working and learning in the school face on a daily basis.  This is a very dangerous and problematic stance to take, for the children being directly affected as well as the society as a larger whole.  If we were to plainly label everything as it was, would the likelihood of changes being made increase?  What would it take for everyone to speak plainly about inequalities in our education system?

I absolutely believe that the general public is not well informed on education funding or even what needs to be funded.  Most middle class groups (not necessarily white) don’t even realize the amount of need in education funding because in their experiences schools are adequately funded and while there may be a shortage of school supplies or a large class size, they don’t have to deal with a dilapidated building or lack of school nurses or any of the other issues facing schools which serve populations in poverty.  Countless times, I have heard people harping on the need for more money towards education and yet any mention of increased taxes or reform and they suddenly become reluctant to give.

How to Fix Education? Four Perspectives from Recent Education News

Usually during the middle of the term, the students in my education-focused Capstone courses start to feel overwhelmed by all of the challenges to education that we discuss in class and see within our community partner sites.  I’ve realized how important it is to not only discuss the problems but to propose solutions — both large and small scale.  This prevents despair and encourages action.  Here are four different moments from this week’s education news that highlight the ways that people (from those in national organizations to those in a single school district or city) are working to fix education.  Read and let me know what you think!

  1. In the Huffington Post, author and education reformer Kevin Chavous writes “If You Want Our Economy Fixed, Fix Education.”  He details a recent report’s findings on FOUR (not one, but four) achievement gaps that U. S. students face: the international achievement gap, the racial achievement gap, the income achievement gap, and the system-based achievement gap.  His recommendations for how to fix education?  Give schools equitable and stable funding, employ and support strong teachers, and come together as a community to demand better education and to work toward it.
  2. In Marian Wright Edelman’s latest blog posts on education (she is the director of the Children’s Defense Fund and one of the most prominent advocates and activists for children’s rights in the U.S.), she talks about the privilege and importance of voting to support kids and education and looks at one of the big issues in education conversations right now — the inequity in discipline and the way schools push out students and then blame them for failing.  The short story: Support kids and education by keeping them in school rather than pushing them out and educating the whole child (emotional, intellectual, etc.).  And push for voter registration, voter education, and voter turnout in the fal
  3. In Portland youth-related news, the youth bus pass program has been saved (although it has also brought up a bunch of complicated issues about balancing the strained budgets of our schools, Metro, etc.).  This is good news for students who will still be able to take public transportation to and from school and school events for free.  The fix? Give students access to resources, and they will use them.  They will also feel like the community wants them to succeed.
  4. Also, in Portland Public School news, tonight, there is a conversation being held about enrollment balancing options for the Jefferson cluster.  If this is your neighborhood and your school district, please attend and add your voice.  The Jefferson area certainly needs stability and lots of support right now after the closing of Humboldt and Harriet Tubman in addition to years of inequity for students in the area.  Lots of hope for these schools as they go forward! The fix? Figure out how to stabilize enrollment so that Jefferson-area students can settle in and feel supported, heard, and pushed intellectually. It also seems like a discussion about the transfer policy and how to encourage attendance in neighborhood schools should also be on the table.

As always, being an informed community member is one of the first and most important steps to being a more engaged community member.  Keep up, ask questions, and keep me posted on other local issues that are important to you!

Take the Multnomah County Library Survey: Add Your Voice & Love Your Library

As you may have read here or elsewhere, the library levy that voters passed within the last year was not enough to fully fund libraries in order to
keep their doors open 7 days a week or to keep all programming available.  Because of this, there are conversations taking place about how to create more stability in library funding in the future.  Take this survey from the Multnomah County Library to add your voice to the mix: https://www.research.net/s.aspx?sm=mIKhUNCW297X%2bwJPVyST7YfCqDJ7zxi5QqI8Y75tDbw%3d.