“Bridging” the Opportunity Gap in the Bridge City (by Kris, Paige, Clint, Kendall, and Brittany)

Money is causal to academic success. No one wants to admit it, but in order for a student to graduate high school on time, with good grades and a solid future ahead, is expensive. In Portland public school districts alone, … Continue reading

Discussion 1 (Wk. 5): Promise Neighborhoods (by Bethany Kraft, UNST 421)

Bethany Kraft has started her own education blog and posted prompts for the Week 5 Discussion there.  Check out her post, and start a conversation on the good, the bad, and the questionable about this “promise neighborhood” model of reform!   … Continue reading

To Infinity and Beyond!


How can social movements move our society towards educational equity?

How can we as students, use what we have learned to impact the racial/social/economic injustices that hinder our schools and prevent them from moving past mediocrity?

Public policy, classroom discussion, and even grassroots movements can sometimes fall short on action. Everyone knows that something needs to change. Some of us can even agree as to what needs to change, but this week we discuss what that looks like in action, beyond our classroom.

With discussions on how to narrow the achievement/opportunity gap in our minds, there are some challenges our public schools are facing. Here are some things that most movements/individuals can agree are necessary to school success and vitality.

1. Access to quality teachers.

2. Access to safe and equitable resources

3. Equitable and sufficient funding for ALL schools

 4. Reform that creates early intervention and encourages active, hands on learning.

    1. 5. Ensure equal opportunity to high school graduation and college participation to all students regardless of their background.

How can we use what we have learned to support these principles?

Help fund our schools by voting!

Voting and passing legislation that supports school funding is vital.

Tell people why voting is vital for better schools. A friend of mine recently complained that her sons school was really lacking in hands on learning and her son was struggling to stay focused. She doesn’t vote and doesn’t know where our money for schools comes from (I didn’t either!).

Discussion outside of class and our school peers will be important to education movement.


Information on funding through tax dollars here. 

Talk! Talk! Talk!

With your neighbors, your local politicians, your educators, community members, the list goes on! Open a discussion to get people thinking about their values and the future of their community.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some links to give you encouragement!

Get caught up on the latest education news here.

Some more news.

Get involved!

Actively participate in your community. It helps. It is seen by others. The results can be life changing for some.

General volunteer match up.

Volunteer at PPS

More volunteering

Finally, look inward. Are there bias’s, privileges, or other values you hold that could be excluding some the right to equitable education? It’s hard to look at our beliefs in this way, but who knows how valuable it could be!

Are you privileged?

Be aware

I think the key is to keep moving forward. Keep asking questions. Keep expanding your ideas and your tools.

What will you do to move to a more equitable education system?

– Tracy

Overcrowding in the Grant Cluster: What Can Be (and Is Being) Done? (by Kelsey Robertson)

Note:  Kelsey emailed this post to me a few days ago and has been working in the Beverly Cleary Elementary school.  Her post was incredibly timely.  See her thoughts on what led to the most recent decision about the overcrowding … Continue reading

Misuse of funds and its effects on racial inequity in PPS

Greetings Classmates! (I am sorry I am behind on this!)

This week (week 3) our focus is on the barriers to a good education. Obviously a lot has been done with the passing of Brown v. Board case, but as we can see in Portland, one of the whitest major cities in the county, our treatment of students of different races has not improved much beyond desegregation. I can’t help but wonder if there is a socioeconomic prejudice to blame.

Is the spending of $2.5 million dollars on training (called Courageous Conversations) the best way to eradicate this problem?

Sample quote from an outside text;

“According to data provided to WW by the school district, the overall number of students being disciplined has fallen in the past three years, but the inequities between white and black have grown worse. Today, African-American students in Portland schools are nearly five times more likely to be expelled or suspended than whites.

It’s a record that puts Portland’s unequal treatment of black students well above the national average and far worse than districts under federal investigation for civil rights violations.

“We have lost generations of young men because of disparities in the education system,” says Urban League of Portland, President Michael Alexander. “There is no acceptable level of disparate discipline.”

Over the past six years, Portland Public Schools has spent millions of dollars to address a wide range of racial inequities, including graduation rates and reading scores.” ( http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-21197-expel_check.html )

My biggest concern is that this money is being wasted on staff training, when really there is a deeper seeded issue here: the relationship between staff and students can’t possibly be a positive one with such racial inequity, and MANY studies have been done on the effects of overzealous disciplinary action in regards to graduation rates.

Please post your thoughts on;

How can we hold PPS more accountable when it comes to demonstrating a connection between resources and outcomes?

Please read the entire Willamette Weekly article in order to respond effectively.


Thank You!

Nora Burke

nburke@pdx.edu or 971-340-9504

The Importance of Showing Up: National Day of Solidarity with Garfield Teachers Protesting the MAP

11942_10152540892445297_457837529_n(1)Today, I am wearing red to show my support for teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, WA.  Read here for more details on the MAP standardized test boycott.  While I can’t drive up to Seattle with my two little ones in tow and I won’t be able to make it to the Portland Student Union’s meeting on opting out from Portland’s own standardized tests, (it’s right at baby bed time), I do want to spread the information about what’s happening at Garfield and to show my solidarity.

I am a teacher.  I am a parent.  I am the daughter of a teacher.  I am the wife of a teacher.  I trust teachers to make decisions that are good for students.  I want my children to have teachers who advocate for their best learning opportunities.

I happen to be in a bit of an ebb when it comes to being physically present at a lot of community meetings and rallies.  My children are 3 and almost 2.  I teach full time +.   I work as a service learning coordinator at Rock Creek.  I volunteer to be part of committees that talk about how to get students more socially engaged.  I am at my limit.

Luckily, in this age of social media, I can still show up.  I sign petitions; I share information; I talk to my kids about social activism; I wear red in solidarity.  And in a few years, once the littles sleep through the night , I will be back out there doing what it takes to make my voice even more present.

This is a small life lesson.  There are many ways of “showing up.”  Even if we have barriers or are busy, we can still find ways to show up.  There’s no one right way to be an advocate or to seek social change.  The only bad decision you can make is to do nothing at all.


School Budget, Graduation Rates: School Board Meeting, 01/28/13 (by Guest Blogger Nicole Lipton)

Note 1: In UNST 421: Enhancing Youth Literacy, students are required to independently seek out and attend/participate in one other civic engagement opportunity beyond their assigned volunteer positions in the course.  They will be reporting out on the community meetings, discussions, and rallies they attend here in the “Civic Engagement Chronicles.”

Note 2: Do a little pre-reading about the recent report on PPS high school graduation rates.  

Nicole1For my Independent Act of Civic Engagement I went to a PPS school board meeting. It was on Monday January 28 from 6 to 9:30pm. First they introduced everyone on the board and then went right into it. After the student testimony and student representative’s report they went into the first reading which talked about uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage and personal injury protection coverage policy. Then the board went on to capital bond overview, the compact report.  Next, they talked about the budget for this school year as well as the Jefferson PK-8 Enrollment Balancing Discussion. This was particularly interesting.  They talked about the graduation rates and which schools need to be focused on to get the rates back up.

This is what the school board said: “As a state and a district we have put our stake in the ground around three key targets. This team proposes the following ambitious goals for these three key metrics:

  1. PPS is fully committed to Oregon’s goal that 100% of students have completed high school by 2025. This committee recommends that we accelerate that target and have 100% of this year’s 8th graders completing high school or the equivalent in 5 years. The State’s 40/40/20 goal is that:
  • 40% of adult Oregonians have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • 40% of adult Oregonians have earned an associate’s degree or postsecondary credential as their highest level of educational attainment; and
  • 20 percent of all adult Oregonians have earned at least a high school diploma, an extended or modified high school diploma, or the equivalent of a high school diploma as their highest level of educational attainment.

2.  9th Grade Credits Earned: previously the PPS “10th Grade on Track to Graduate” milestone. As the Connected by 25 research demonstrated, students who were able to earn a quarter of their grades by the time they entered 10th grade were more likely to graduate. This important metric has been a key milestone focus for the last four years. This committee recommends that we continue emphasizing this important target with a 5% point increase and 5% point narrowing of the achievement/opportunity gap.

3.  Third grade reading to learn. This committee recommends aligning with the current district goal of having 100% this year’s Kindergartners (the class of 2025) reading to learn by third grade, the 2015‐16 school year.”

“Our graduation rate has increased by 9 percentage points in 3 years (from 53% to 62%) and the largest gap between white students and students of color decreased by 11% points. Last year in reading, we increased from 71% to 77% of all third graders reading to learn and the gap decreased by 4% points.”
Nicole2Then they talked about the recommendations for achievement compact targets. They talked about college and readiness outcomes, about the 3rd grade reading proficiency and that their goal for 2015 is to have 100% of all third graders reading to learn.  They also mentioned 5th and 8th grade math proficiency and the methods to go about helping to decrease the students who aren’t proficient.

Here is a site that has a great amount of information on the Portland Public Schools Multilingual & Multicultural Center

After attending the school board meeting I was really excited and enthusiastic about the changes and predictions that were being talked about. I felt like, as a past student, that a lot of the ideas they were coming up with were on track. They didn’t talk about budgets in this meeting but I wish they had because I always have an opinion on that. 🙂 However, I always feel a little apprehensive when it comes to “goals” set out by the school board. Goals are always a good idea at the start but things always seem to fall by the wayside… especially when it comes to graduation rates. That is a very hard thing to manage and it isn’t always a problem with attending school/many absences. A lot of times there are problems at home, etc. I don’t want to be negative, but I wouldn’t want people to get over-excited for something that doesn’t happen.