Carole Smith's speech to the City Club on Friday quickly revealed her priorities for improving Portland's high schools: Better test scores.
• More than 70-percent of our schools met all standards under the No Child Left
Behind Law — higher than the typical Oregon district.
• Our seniors’ SAT scores are rising, and once again exceeded both state and
• Over the last few years, more of our students are meeting state achievement
benchmarks in reading, math and writing. Our gains have been consistently
strong in our elementary and middle grades."
In short, Smith's vision for equity --yes, she did mention equity later on in her speech-- is limited to narrowly defined student outcomes. All students should be on track with adequate reading and writing skills --as measured by standardized tests-- to graduate from high school on time, and prepared to go on to college.
No Child Left Behind still plays a prominent role in her thinking.
Contrast that with PPS Equity founder Steve Rawley's alternative vision* for reaching educational equity --an equity based on "opportunity" rather than "crudely" measured outcomes:
Nowhere in Smith's speech is a blueprint for expanding curricular offerings --an "input" over which the district does have complete control-- at Portland's poorest high schools.
The one big surprise in Superintendent Smith's speech was her refusal to consider closing any of the district's ten high schools. Demographic projections, a coming "baby bulge", if you will, rule that out.
One wonders whether Smith regrets the closure of so many elementary schools.
Smith also notes the large population of high school-aged students --at least 1400-- living in each of the attendance areas of the four high schools with the smallest enrollments, a fact frequently pointed out by critics of PPS' transfer policy. She then adds what may be the beginning of a "blueprint" to attract more students to those schools:
Come to think of it, Smith may be closer to Steve Rawley's vision of equity than she cares to admit.
*(On Friday I sent a copy of Steve's post to the Portland School Board.)