Portland Public Schools Push Poll: Have You Pushed Back?

by Steve, June 25th, 2007

Our School Board, in a rather dismal display of engaging its constituents, is using an unscientific Web-based “poll” to solicit input on community priorities for hiring a new superintendent. (To call this kind of thing a poll is an insult to researchers and statisticians who know something about scientific polling and sampling.) Of course, the ultimate poll in this matter was the recent school board election, in which Vicki Phillips supporters were thrashed (Doug Morgan) and brought down a peg (David Wynde) by community-based, neighborhood schools advocates Ruth Adkins and Michele Schultz, respectively.

The constituents of the School Board spoke loudly and clearly against the corporatist reform style of Vicki Phillips, her supporters on the board, and her patrons at the Broad and Gates foundations. Yet the board still floats a scientifically meaningless “survey” in which market-based school reform buzzwords are dangled tantalizingly before the unwary public. And the results, meaningless as they are, become very useful to these folks when they show that we want “accountability”, “achievement”, “school choice”, “tough decisions” and “performance”. These words and phrases come up repeatedly in the survey, mixed in with a few nods to “neighborhood schools”, “funding” and “diversity”. Art and music get lumped in with P.E. and technology in one item.

If it turns out the survey doesn’t show what they want, who cares! It’s unscientific anyway, and all us loud mouth critics probably stuffed the ballot box anyway. Hint: it’s trivial to “vote” numerous times, hence the absurdity of using such a piece of marketing quackery (what’s next? focus groups?) for such a serious issue. And again: we already voted, and the results were overwhelming: no more of this Gates/Broad reform crap. Give us strong neighborhood schools and adequate, stable, and equitable funding.

Most of the “survey” asks the respondent to rate issues on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Not at all important”, 3 being “Neutral or don’t know” and 5 being “Extremely important”. (They start out with a couple throw-away short answer questions basically asking you to list three strengths and three concerns about PPS. I listed “teachers, students, families” and “Gates, Broad and school closings”. As if they’re even going to read those!)

Then it’s on with the 1-to-5 push polling. Buzzword number one is “achievement”. It comes up in the first question, then comes up six more times. “Accountability” only gets one, but there’s also one on teacher “effectiveness”. (These have always been a code words used to attack the teachers’ professional autonomy — and collective bargaining agreements.) “Performance” or some variant comes up twice. “School choice” comes up three times.

“Neighborhood schools” only comes up twice, but the second mention is a trap: in order to rate it as important, you have to also rate “school choice” the same! Seriously, I’m not making this shit up. Here’s the actual survey question: “Maintaining student enrollment through a variety of approaches including school choice, full-day kindergarten, and strong neighborhood schools.” This is also the only time full-day kindergarten is mentioned. Funding gets two mentions, but there is nothing about “equity” or “equality”.

Finally, the survey ends with the somewhat ominously worded question: “Are you affiliated with any particular community group you would like to name?” I ain’t namin’ names! *Cough*NSA*cough*cough*

Of course this is just another sign of Portland Public Schools, through its board, trying to behave like a corporation. This is not community involvement, folks, this is marketing. With the Portland School Board behaving like a startup corporation at the outset of the superintendent search, what do you think we should expect at the end of the search? Insulting though it is, please take a few minutes to fill out their survey. And don’t forget my little hint earlier. Heh heh heh.

12 Responses to “Portland Public Schools Push Poll: Have You Pushed Back?”

  1. Comment from Terry:

    I filled out that survey and ranked every item with the loaded terms as low as I could. But you’re right. These web polls are meaningless, kinda like the “facilitated community conversations” Phillips and gang concocted to demonstrate how attuned the district is to the feelings of its constituents.

    What a crock!

    Good post, Hockey God!

  2. Comment from megs:

    And you know it doesn’t matter whatever we have to say. At least that’s been the agenda over the last few years. It’s so warming to know that the consultant company that brought us VP is in charge of finding us a new superintendent….probably Broad trained this time…mark my words.

  3. Comment from Himself:

    Terry…. Right. They’ve already done focus groups. Sheesh.

    Meg, I hope you’re wrong, but I fear you’re right. Don’t we have a little glimmer of hope with the new composition of the board? Or do you think they’ll just get buffaloed by the rump of the PSF/Gates/Broad crowd?

  4. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Yeah, I was just handed a survey for a New Harvest Charter School — “It will be opening here in St. Johns!” The woman who gave me the form couldn’t understand my lack of enthusiasm for another charter school, Catholic school, Montessori/Waldorf/hippie school in lieu of decent public schools in my neighborhood.

    I want K-8, or elementary and middle, with a good high school option.

    Too much to ask, it would appear.

  5. Comment from Becky:

    Charters clearly drive middle class upper middle class WHITE parents away from public schools. Three of my daughter’s kindergarten classmates are leaving public school for the Waldorf charter.

  6. Comment from Himself:

    Becky, keep in mind that charter schools are public schools. But they compete with neighborhood public schools for enrollment and money, they hire teachers outside of existing collective bargaining agreements, and their only “accountability” is test scores.

  7. Comment from Hope:

    Next year your school may lose a few more students to a new Montessori charter school that also plans to locate in N/NE Portland (http://www.theivyschool.com).

    Watch for more neighborhood school closures in PPS unless more people wake up to the fact that charter schools can only exist by draining students and funding away from our existing public schools. I don’t think PPS should approve any charter schools during a time when the district is already having to close schools due to declining enrollment.

  8. Comment from becky:

    Oh yeah, I’m aware charters are “public” schools. They’re just not public enough for me!

  9. Comment from megs:

    Hope, closing schools and creating charter schools is all part of the Broad agenda. Create as many seats outside of public schools as possible…this is good for public schools according to Broad, because it makes them COMPETE! The business model that is at work in PPS since VP came to town. But how can a north portland K-8 PPS school compete when they have no art, music, drama or librarian? ?…and down the street the new charters have all of these choices? They can’t…so kids are siphoned out of the neighborhood schools and eventually we have to shut down more existing schools…It goes on and on…. Charters have problems…the first of which is only half of the teachers have to even be certified…(which can be seen as a union busting ploy by Broad et al , in my opinion.) Lack of enrichment classes still persists, even after VP’s promise of restoring these. The money instead was spent on an unwanted and expensive curriculum adoption.

  10. Comment from Himself:

    It’s absolutely a union busting scheme. Eli Broad has long been an enemy of teachers in California. Now he’s using his wealth, in concert with Gates, to bash teachers nation-wide. Charter schools with uncertified teachers, merit pay based on test scores, traditional schools replaced with business academies… These are just a few of the strings attached to all that corporate foundation money.

  11. Comment from megs:

    I just had to add this observation, because I kept thinking about it this week. The word “pushback” seemed to become part of our vocabulary when Phillips came to town. She was always saying she enjoyed the “pushback.” Well, in my mind, in order to have “pushback”, you have to have someone pushing you. So was Phillips admitting to “pushing” us around? Ok. You push me, I push you back.

  12. Comment from Steve Buel:

    I went to one of the focus groups and it was the first time for years where a person could talk and not be limited to 3 minutes. Actually was pretty good because someone had screwed up and hired a pretty good moderator. The problem is when you keep getting more and more data then it allows you to do what you want because there is no clear direction. When Vicki Phillips was hired I was told by a person on one of the “community” committees that the other candidate was unanimously supported by her committee. The Foundation and Stand for Children hand pick the school board (including Ruth Adkins) and their people will pick the superintendent. The real focus group is the upper middle class neighborhood friends who whisper in the school boards’ ears.