Is the PPS Equity Glacier Starting to Move?

by Steve, December 31st, 2007

At the risk of sounding naive or overly optimistic, signs continue to appear that some Portland Public Schools administrators (if not the school board — yet) are starting to “get it” on issues of equity.

We’re going to look through the equity lens on what we’re offering. And we’re going to stay focused on what kids need. Is every school one where you would send your niece or nephew? Is every classroom a place you would put your own kid? If the answer isn’t yes, we have work to do.

— Judy Elliot, Portland Public Schools Office of Teaching and Learning. (Melton, Kimberly. “IB and AP not as easy as ABC” The Oregonian, Monday, January 31.)

Hey, that’s what I’ve been saying for almost a year now! And what my friends at the NSA have been saying for much longer!

Of course actions speak louder than words. The proving ground for the district’s intent on equity issues is Jefferson High School, the poster child for PPS inequity.

District administrators are clearly getting out ahead of the school board on this. Board members continue to insist that we need to increase enrollment at Jefferson before we can increase the program offerings there.

But with Jefferson administrators receptive to the community consensus of “if you build it, we will come,” and administrators sounding like concerned parents instead of ideologues, the school board will eventually have no choice but to fall in line behind us. (Honestly, who could think “come and we will build it” has any hope of success after all the broken promises at Jefferson?)

Another district administrator who’s saying the right things is Zeke Smith, Superintendent Carole Smith’s chief of staff, who asked parents at a recent Jefferson meeting for “proof points” that the district could implement by fall 2008 as signs that the district is serious about making Jefferson work. You mean the district wants to not only listen to parents, but actually implement their suggestions?

Now that’s a breath of fresh air. Let’s make sure that wind continues to blow and brings real change and real equity for the children and young adults of Portland.