Chief Joseph and Ockley Green: Would Merging Schools Maintain Structure for students? (by Guest Blogger Madison Spray)

MariaSummer2012Over the course of six weeks this class has examined our education system. In this examination, we have considered the possible relationship between education and variables such as racial barriers and socio-economic status. One variable that is often overlooked is maintaining structure and consistency for children.  All children, regardless of race or gender, thrive on structure. In my ideal world, a child can reach their maximum potential when this structure fills in all aspects of their life particularly at home and at school.

Unfortunately, especially for children in the Portland Public School System, this isn’t necessarily the case. Currently the Portland’s School Board is playing with the idea of closing Chief Joseph and merging with Ockley Green next year. In the upcoming school year the students of both Chief Joseph and Okckley Green face multiple disruptions. There is the potential of larger classroom sizes which could decrease the amount of time each teacher spent with any one student. This could create tension and pressure for both students and teachers. If this merger were to happen, some students will have to travel further which could be an obstacle for those students who take the bus.

I have included a few article links on this topic.

Articles on the debate (pre-final decision):

Post final decision:

Questions:

  • Why is Chief Joseph really closing? (Barrier issues? Racial issues) (UPDATE: recent announcement on keeping Chief Joseph open while still merging with a dual campus)
  • Are there any benefits to this merger?
  • Are there ways to avoid the merger all together?

The Enrollment Balancing Conversation Heats Up & The Transfer Policy May Be Reexamined (Finally!)

Like I said in my last post, change is in the air.  The enrollment balancing conversations that have been taking place for the last few months continue to heat up as communities speak out against what many are calling inequitable practices of Portland Public Schools.  While it is certainly inequitable practices in our communities and culture that impact the school’s policies, the schools are often places where change can start to happen and filter back into our neighborhoods and our collective psyche.  For those of you who have been in my classroom, you know that school inequality comes from neighborhood, housing, income, nutrition, racial, economic (and so on) inequality and that schools are showcases for the deeper roots of prejudice and injustice.

For those who are interested in how this conversation is playing out, take a look at these two news items to get started:

If you haven’t read up on what’s going on with the Jefferson cluster currently, take a look at the links and information in these past posts:

If you’re interested in getting involved, check out the Portland Area Social Equality Educators’ website.

PPS Unveils Newest Enrollment Balancing: What’s Next for N & NE Portland Kids and Families?

I am sitting on the sofa next to my sick child; she is asleep for the moment, so I’m taking the opportunity to write a short post.  There’s a lot more that needs to be said about PPS’s latest enrollment balancing plans that were just released, but I’ll keep this short and hope that you will spread the word and join in on the conversations and action that will follow.

  • For information on the actual plan, go to this article from the Oregonian.  The newest plan involves closing either Woodlawn or Vernon and filtering students into other local schools.  I just read through the NE Portland Enrollment Balancing Facebook page comments, and there are a lot of baffled and concerned parents.  Rightly so.  The big questions that we need to be considering?  Who do these changes benefit?  Are the children with the greatest need being served?  Do these plans address the roots of the problem (transfer policy, retention, etc.)?
  • To catch up on what has been going on with enrollment balancing talks in the Jefferson cluster, start here with some of PDXEAN’s older blog posts.
  • After my second day in the classroom with my new group of students studying educational equity, I can’t help but be concerned that these plans are not sending a strong enough message about demanding access and equity for all Portland students.

As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts…especially if you have worked with students at any of these involved schools, attended any of these schools, live in the neighborhoods that are involved, or parent children who attend these schools.

-Zapoura

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!

Words from the Field: Guest Blogger Chrysanthius Lathan Talks PPS Budget Cuts, Humboldt Closure, and PDX

We are fortunate enough this week to have a guest blogger who is right in the middle of experiencing and reflecting on the PPS Superintendent’s proposed budget cuts.  These cuts, if you remember, include a proposal to cut 100+teaching positions, ending the Oregon Outdoor School Program, and closing Humboldt and Harriet Tubman schools.  Take a moment to hear one perspective from the front lines…and please share your thoughts, too!

The writing in teal below is from Boise Eliot teacher Chrysanthius Lathan.  Many thanks for contributing!

I am stuck in the middle of the spectrum as far as whether this [the merging of Humboldt and Boise-Eliot and closure of Harriet Tubman] is a good or bad change. Let’s start with the good. Students in the middle school grades [at ImageHumboldt] were still being taught self-contained classes because there isn’t enough staff to support departmentalized classes or “switching classes.” This is a huge gaping social hole, as they leave middle school unprepared for the rigors of high school. At Boise Eliot they have access to a variety of core and elective teachers, not just one all day. The combination of human and material resources of the two schools makes for more of a comprehensive program that serves all students. Another good thing is that Humboldt made AYP, and the children are doing well in reading, as they are in Boise. Strength in numbers (of staff and students alike). 

The thorn buried deep into my flesh is that Portland Public Schools saw this budget shortfall coming from afar. I remember a couple years ago, the governor said, after the state rejected the sales tax bill, “be prepared for steep cuts in education and social services.” More and more childless people are moving to Portland to establish themselves and move elsewhere. Why should they care about taxes that would help the schools if imposed? 

The other part of this is the gentrification of North and Northeast Portland in particular. I love word study and just realized the root word of “gentrification” is “gentry.”  The attraction of the childless gentry is shrinking the size of neighborhood schools.

Last, but certainly not least, Wilson HS has the second smallest high school population, yet there are continuous talks about closing Jefferson and its cluster schools. Both YWA [Harriet Tubman Young Women’s Academy] and Humboldt are Jefferson cluster schools. Historically, we as a people of color have ALWAYS had to fight for our schools while west side schools have been kept open and thriving. Without the proper information, resources, and opportunities given to our parents and staff, we will never have a fair shot at equity in this district, no matter how many dollars they spend to train every staff member. 

In sum, it’s good for kids, sad for the neighborhood, and could have- SHOULD HAVE- been avoided. I thank God for self-preservation because I have a job next year, but boy, do I have a hell of a job, teaching these kids the truth about what happens in weird-ass Portland.

I hope to hear lots more from Chrysanthius on the blog — to share with readers and with my students.  If there are any other PPS teachers or volunteers or parents in PPS schools who want to chime in, please comment here or email me at zapoura@pdx.edu.  More public discussions about the practices in our districts and in schools can only help push us closer to equitable schools…or at least closer to fighting more efficiently for equity.