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

A Future Educator Talks Being an Active Advocate for Her Students (by Guest Blogger Kelsey Robertson)

Kelsey Robertson was a student in my Enhancing Youth Literacy course and is a future educator.  Read her post about how to be active in fighting educational inequity in big and small ways. Before class, I was aware of the … Continue reading

The DREAM Act: Is It Only a Dream? (by Guest Blogger Krista Nuro, Spring 2013)

After watching the short online “Teen DREAM Art Documentary”, I became further at a loss for why we continue to punish well-achieving students and take away their dreams of a higher education. This film touches upon the barriers that many … Continue reading

Grey Clouds Looming Over Education: Is There a Bright Future? (by Guest Blogger Meaghan McHill)

There is a lot of tension hovering over education in regards with Charter schools. They are privately owned, publicly funded schools that require an application to be filled in order to attend the school. If the school receives an abundance … Continue reading

A One-Size Fits All Approach Does Not Work: On Charter Schools & Standardized Testing (by Guest Blogger Kyle Billings)

At what point are we going to realize that the one-size fits all approach does not work? Students should get the option of what school they best fit into. Should it be a situation where schools are inherently better than other schools? I think not, however, there should be schools that focus on math and science, and others that focus on visual and musical arts. Some students want to be scientists, whereas others want to be artists. There should not be a problem here.

I think about this and I recall a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson. He speaks of a young lady who couldn’t sit still in class, (whom at this day of age would have been diagnosed with ADHD), and instead of determining that she was not a good student, she was taken to a school that fit her needs. Instead of trying to fit her into a mold that she does not fit into, she went to dance school. She thrived, grew and now she has been incredibly successful.

With standardized testing, we are trying to mine our youth for only one thing. Measurable results. We punish our teachers and schools if students cannot meet the expectations that are set by a testing board that seem to think that one size does fit all. Students are being stripped of their ability to think divergently and creatively so they can color in bubble ‘a’.

In an editorial piece by Bill Gates, Mr. Gates points out that despite what any common opinion, teachers WANT to be accountable to their students. It is just our way of measuring them that is not working. I also do not believe that monetary compensation is the most important thing to our educators. Do we give them opportunities for professional development? What if our educators received stipends so they also could continue their education? In other parts of the world teachers collaborate and mentor each other, teachers need to grow just as students do. Effective teachers will spread effective measures to other teachers given the opportunity. Do we give them that opportunity?


I do not believe that charter schools are an inherently bad thing. Having schools that have enable our youth to focus on what their interests are in can only boost their potential. We do need to have performance measurements, but their needs to be better ways.


In class evaluations by other educators, review by students, looking at artistic and academic improvement are just a few ways that we can move away from the standardized testing. While I agree that there is a certain breath of knowledge that our youth should have when they finish high school, there just needs to be a better way of delivering that knowledge, and evaluating them on it.


I read that Education Reform is going to be the Civil Rights battle of our generation. With everything that I have read recently I am beginning to believe that is correct.



After watching  ‘Do School Kill Creativity?’ do you agree with Sir Ken Robinson? After reading the editorial by Mr. Gates do you agree? Do you think we need to restructure our school systems to allow our youth to flourish? Is our educational system that hasn’t been revamped since the industrial revolution due for a serious look?



“Achievement” or “Opportunity” Gap? (by Guest Blogger Chelsea Holland)

Why Should We Stop Using the Term “Achievement Gap”?

standardized test“In Beloved, Toni Morrison taught us that usually”definitions belong to the definers—not the defined.”” “To those who are defined—who carry the weight and the scars of inaccurate, malicious words—language matters.” Wow, this quote from the article “Please Stop Using the Phrase ‘Achievement Gap’” really struck me. How often do you stop and think about the meaning of the words we are using, or the phrases we are saying? Not often. “Language counts because it suggests, if not highlights, the thinking underneath the words used.” “Words count because they indicate place, position, and power.” As with so many other things people who hold power are the ones who get to decide things. And at the same time I believe that they are often oblivious to some of the true problems that are happening.
Avoiding Inaccuracy
In this article the author states that the term “achievement gap” is inaccurate because it blames the historically marginalized, under-served victims of poor schooling and holds whiteness and wealth as models of excellence. I’m reminded of the discussion we had in class about another article that said that the gap in testing scores is consistently 8 points. This means that students are learning at the same rate, but some students are starting further behind. The achievement gap is only looking at the outcomes and not what is leading to those outcomes, or how the outcomes are consequences of those conditions.
 After reading this article and considering some of the points the author makes I agree with her and believe that “achievement gap” isn’t the best phrase for what is going on. “Opportunity gap” would be a better phrase. I do see why “Achievement” is being used, simply because it’s about the gap in the scores. However, there is a bigger picture we should be looking at about what is causing the gap and how students opportunities prior to school make a difference. It’s no coincidence that students that are born with certain privileges are getting higher scores, and this is a problem.
Questions for You
How can we close the gap? How can we get to those students who have less opportunities are work on prevention and less on fixing the gap? Do you think there is a problem with the term “Achievement gap”? Why do you think that is the term being used?


The Graduation Stats: Oregon in Trouble (by Guest Bloggers — and Parkrose High School Volunteers — Bradley Brown, Oscar Ramirez, and Zach Lubek)

Note: This is the first post in a series from three volunteers in PSU’s Enhancing Youth Literacy Capstone.  These three students worked at Parkrose High School as part of their coursework for the term.  The post series is an in-depth look at the struggles that local high school students go through and the hope for their future.


Local Statistics

Some of my first observations during my time at Parkrose High school were how nice the school looked from the outside and inside the building. The school looked to be a newer school with new technology throughout the classrooms. The classroom where I was positioned seemed to have a new projector for lectures. The teacher would take roll on her tablet and there was a classroom set of tablets for the students. The teacher would use them for some part of the lecture. The classroom honestly felt like a small college classroom in my perspective. The school looked like it had many resources to fulfill students’ needs accordingly.

I took some time to look more in-depth at how Parkrose High school was achieving when compare to the Portland Public School district of Multnomah County in Oregon. I was able look at graduation rates of PHS and comparing them to PPS. I took in consideration the averages and median rates of both districts to perhaps remove any outliers that might affect the average. The results I found for Portland Public Schools were an average percentage of on time PPS graduations was 73.36% in 2012. The median number of on time graduations for PPS was 76. Then the results for Parkrose High school were a bit lower. The percent of graduation in 2012 was a 69%. When comparing to the larger PPS district in Multnomah County, Parkrose seemed to be a bit “under achieving”.

State Statistics

There are 55 high schools in the state of Oregon with an on-time graduation rate below 50%. In addition, there are 27 high schools in the state with an on-time graduation rate of 90% or higher. Clearly there is a distinct line of separation. Out of the 46,724 students in the 2012 class, the state had an average on-time graduation rate of 68%. Of that class, there were 9,780 dropouts and 4,185 students enrolled for a 5th year.

So where does Parkrose High School fall? Of their 271 student class for 2012, there were 50 dropouts, 31 students enrolled for a 5th year, and they were slightly about average with an on-time graduation rate of 69%. Parkrose came out with a Level 3 (Middle tier) Performance Rating. With two rating levels (4 & 5) above them, Parkrose still has room for improvement. However, they are far from the bottom of the pack. Based on their on-time graduation rate and performance rating, it can be inferred that Parkrose High School, in comparison to the rest of the state, is ‘average.’

See the link below for additional state and school specific graduation rates.

National Statistics

Based on data collected from the states for the Class of 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 78% of students across the country earned a diploma within four years of starting high school. The graduation rate was last at that level in 1974.

Students in Maryland and Virginia had higher graduation rates than the national average — 82.2% and 81.2%, respectively.

It is common for major cities to have a higher dropout rate and lower graduation rate than states. One study found the graduation rate for the Class of 2005 in the United States’ 50 largest cities was 53%, compared with 71% in the suburbs.

Boys dropped out of school in higher numbers than girls in every state. The national dropout rate was 3.8 percent for boys and 2.9 percent for girls.

Dropout rates do not combine with graduation rates to total 100 percent because they do not include students who take longer than four years to graduate or those who earn GED certificates.

As for Parkrose, 50 students dropped out, 31 enrolled for a fifth year, and 69% of the students graduated on time in 2012. This puts them at the low end of the national spectrum, significantly below the average of 78%.


What Students at Struggling Schools Face

Students who attend poorly-funded schools are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting into college, especially since they are forced to compete with students who attend safer, better-funded schools. These schools often offer better books and programs.

An even larger problem is the lack of engagement by the students, for which both they and the teachers are to blame. The students are often jaded by the poor quality of their surroundings, which leads to less interest in academic activities. The teachers can also be guilty of apathy, but the main problem is financial. More money means more programs, more supportive adults, and more proactivity in keeping students interested in their educations.