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September 10, 2008

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It's all part of the national trend to gut the public schools, then open charters. This also goes hand-in-hand with the real mission of No Child Left Behind.

I finally posted on this. Thanks, Terry, for getting the word out.

I just took a look at the Emerald Charter proposal. To me, it bears a striking resemblance to the New Harvest Charter proposal of last year--which, as I recall, was rejected by the School Board.

Also, I seem to remember that one of the requirements for a charter to be approved is that they have to offer something significantly different from what a regular school offers. I didn't see that on the Emerald proposal, maybe because the wording looked pretty vague to me.

That being said, there were two things that did leap out at me:

1) Frustration with the "teaching to the test" that seems to have swallowed a balanced elementary curriculum whole.

2) Neglect of teaching science in elementary schools, which is caused by (1), above.

Terry nailed this in his next-to-last paragraph. We won't get anywhere by criticizing parents who see this as a desirable alternative. They just want what we all want: a balanced elementary curriculum. Something other than test-taking or test preparation in their children's day. What we really need here is to hold the superintendent's and school board's collective feet to the fire and demand that they fix all these ailing, "reconfigured" K-8 schools FIRST, before they spend the rest of their careers deciding how to "reconfigure" our high schools.

Or, to put it more simply, they need to fix their old mess before they make a new one!

I, too, was impressed by the sincerity and respect contained in their process and goals:

"A group of parents and educators wanted to create an environment that fosters the connection between school and community, learning from real world experiences, based on the educational interests of the students.

The process first began with the notion of increasing student learning and achievement at our neighborhood schools. We asked ourselves: How can we support the school district and support the needs and interests of children in our community?

We thought the charter model could address our concerns and bigger picture goals.

By looking at how children learn effectively, one must consider current teaching practices. Are we teaching students how to learn, or are we giving them a series of rote exercises to get them through the next series of tests? We feel that we can better serve our children, and they can better serve our community and our world if experiencing the information through hands-on investigations and through expressions of art, such as painting, clay and drawing.

The teacher and the student are co-researchers in the process of learning. By making connections with children-what they know, where they live and what they can contribute-they grasp a deeper understanding of the world and how it works. Learning is at the heart of these connections and the inquiry/community model can foster learning strategies that will last a lifetime."

It appeass that these folks are pursuing a charter as a better alternative than achievinging meaningful change within the current PPS environment.

Their application deserves the respect of a full and considerate hearing

Another thought just struck me: we have been having a discussion, under "Carole Smith's disappointing City Club speech," about the overcrowded schools that have resulted from the closure of Rose City Park. While I doubt that the District would let Emerald have the RCP building, it occurs to me that, if they could find a suitable site within or near the old RCP catchment, they would probably have families banging their doors down to sign up. Especially from Rigler and Scott, whose promised K-8 schools have become K-7s because the overcrowding is so bad!

But Howard, like Wacky, I don't like charter schools any more than charter school parents like neighborhood schools.

Like Wacky said, charter schools are for

"children dressed in stripedy clothes and cunning hats. Their parents, patting themselves on the backs. 'She is an artist!' 'He is a scientist!' "

Plus they steal money from the real public schools, the ones, you know, where real diversity rules.

Thank you.

Marcia and others,
The PPS transfer policy is gutting public schools in certain neighborhoods even more than NCLB. Since PPS parents and teachers can't seem to pull together to put an end to the inequitable transfer system, if a decent charter school opens up in my neighborhood I will send my kids there guilt-free.

I would rather my childrens public education funds go to a charter school in N/NE Portland than transferring them and their public education funds to a magnet or neighborhood school in a wealthier neighborhood. Neighborhood schools in N/NE are in crisis and a handful of altruistic parents can't change things on their own. We've tried. Since there are no efforts to change the transfer policy it seems likely that a charter school could be in our family's future, and we'll encourage as many neighborhood families of all backgrouds to do the same.

What's that old saying about cutting off your nose to spite your face?

JS, I don't want to be pitted against other parents, because it's counter-productive to what I want to see happen. But this topic makes me ready to fight.

Segregation remains illegal, but in Portland we help it along in so many ways, every day. Go read Ruby Bridges' story (New Orleans, 1960) and tell me how this is any different. There are no white parents cursing and spitting now outside the "black" schools (and it's not so much a race war as it is a class war), but when you're pulling your kid out of your neighborhood school, you're contributing to segregation.

The kids who are poor, or on IEPs, will not be at your charter school in significant numbers. Existing charter schools (who promised diversity) do not have 1) diversity 2) free breakfast or lunch 3) transportation 4) free or affordable afterschool programs.

You do not hear people say, "We're not going there because it's black," (or brown, or poor) but they use code words galore. As in, "It seems so... sad there." "The kids seem so... rough there." "Their parents don't care the way we do. We care," etc.

Parents who pull their kids out of their neighborhood schools because they "deserve better"? What about the kids left behind? No Child Left Behind my foot.

And please don't insult those of us who are making an effort by fighting this fight. We are making a big difference. Some years I have been the only parent volunteer in my kids' classrooms. That counted -- to the teachers, to my kids, to their friends. It counted. Within the greater society, charter schools are a socially-regressive movement. And you are wanting to be part of that?

Wacky Mommy,
All kids deserve better. Charter schools are no more socially regressive than the current PPS transfer system. Fight to change the corrupt system or accept that families will leave it.

JS, hold your ground. Your duty is not to some vague concept of "neighborhood schools." Your duty is to get your kid the best education you can now. If a charter school is better than the neighborhood school, you can't sacrifice your kid to these vague ideals. And the implied charges of racism are simply beyond the pale. I won't dignify that divisive nonsense with a response. If the public schools can't provide quality education, more power to parents and community members with the energy and vision to provide an alternative.

Sad but true story: One of my parents was babysitting a four year old this afternoon when she picked up her own kids at our north portland school. The four year old told me she wouldn't be coming to my class next year because she was going to the Village school...(charter)..because all the other kids in the neighborhood were going there. This is a little girl I would love to see in my classroom next year. I wouldn't say our school is in crisis. It is actually rated as an exceptional school and has been for several years. I think it has always been a wonderful place for kids to learn, and probably always will be. But when people are always talking down the schools, pretty soon people starte to believe the hype....I also think that people don't realize the whole agenda behind the charter school movement...that there is a definite agenda to privatize schools. You should read the Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein if you want a good account of what went down in New Orleans....My advice to you js is to do a little research on how this whole charter school/privatization thing started, ask yourself if you want to be part of that, and then decide not to be a puppet.

I'd like to see more specifics on how this charter, unlike all the other charters, will deliver on the diversity promise. There is a lot of feel-good pap in their proposal but nothing substantive on exactly how they will achieve diversity.

Look at the other local charter schools, from Ivy to Trillium. All promised diversity and none have delivered. Trillium deserves credit for trying, but compared to the public school three blocks away, you might as well be living in the deep south for the racial divide. The neighborhood charters are nearly all white and the public schools are majority black and Hispanic.

I don't see how any charter can really make good on the diversity promise, because none meet the needs of poor and minority students, which include the need for free lunch, free afterschool care (like SUN), transportation and ESL.

Another thing that goes undiscussed is how foster parents cannot access these schools for foster children because of the advance application process. So there is another needy population that goes unhelped.

If this particular charter hopes to honestly have a diverse population, they need to offer specifics on how they will actually serve poor and minority students.

"I don't see how any charter can really make good on the diversity promise, because none meet the needs of poor and minority students, which include the need for free lunch, free afterschool care (like SUN), transportation and ESL. "
You've got that right. But you forgot free breakfast, too.

Marcia, I agree parents should not be sucked in by hype about problems with schools--though I credit parents with enough intelligence to make the right decisions most of the time. Example of a successful and diverse charter school? The Opal school in the children's museum. Wonderful school. PPS has fallen down badly and children need other options. Charter schools are a critical part of the education spectrum, notwithstanding the party line on this blog.

I agree the district is being privatized, and the free market transfer policy and magnet schools are a big, big, REALLY big part of it. PPS parents and teachers are allowing the privatization to happen because most people will fight only for what helps their school, their child, or their job. Divide and Conquer is already at work, even without new charter school proposals. Sure, lots of people will talk about how the transfer system and other PPS policies are unfair, but how many people actually do something to change it?

Why isn't the teachers union demanding changes to the transfer system? And why haven't they proposed incentives or other ways to help get more experienced teachers into the lower income schools? The union has a lot more clout than a few active parents in the low income schools that are being shafted. If the union would call for changes to the transfer system parents who value equity would join in.

The union's website says,
"The PAT is an advocate for public education and for responsible and sensible policies and practices in education."

Rose,
So far most of the charter schools have failed at attracting a diverse student body because they don't really care enough about it to do what is needed. When parents who DO care about all kids start leaving for charter schools I think it will happen. There are plenty of grants, community partners, and existing after-school programs to tap into, and there will be more if McCain OR Obama get elected. Eventually transportation won't be an issue either. For many N and NE families it's closer to walk to a charter school than a neighborhood school after all the school closures. Sometimes it feels like the easiest way to accomplish the ideal of a neighborhood school that serves the educational needs of all kids is to create a charter school that would do it.

I believe that unless the teachers union steps up to demand reforms to the transfer system and other PPS policies to better support low income students and schools, the district and the union are going down.

??! I agree that unless subpar schools get better, parents will demand--and get--private or public options that offer a better education. Its because they love their kids. So, fix the bad schools and parents will want their kids to go to them. In the meantime, don't expect many people to sacrifice their kids for this greater good you suggest. They would be bad parents if they did.

What party line does this blog follow, trueblue?

Certainly not the pro-voucher Republican Party line. Nor the pro-charter "democrat" party line. (Tell me, do you get the daily GOP talking points instructing you to turn an adjective into a noun in describing the party of Jefferson?)

And please tell me what's so "vague" about the concept of a neighborhood school? The phrase "neighborhood school" consists of two words each of which is easily defined. Or perhaps you believe --along with the libertarians-- that neighborhoods are passe.

I'm not referring to any political party; I'm referring to the orthodoxy advanced by most posters to this site that kids should be stuck in underperforming schools to make those schools stronger at some unspecified future date. The basic premise is so obviously flawed, I believe you and others need to rethink it. I'm sorry if this makes you angry to the point of making silly accusations about republican talking points. I respect the views of you and the other posters, but disagree with them vis a vis the charter school issue. Where our schools are failing, students and parents deserve alternatives. Kids in subpar schools deserve the right to transfer to better schools, or to go to successful, diverse charter schools like Opal.

Terry:

Your post: "But Howard, like Wacky, I don't like charter schools any more than charter (or focus-option?) school parents like neighborhood schools.

Like Wacky said, charter (or focus-option?) schools are for

"children dressed in stripedy clothes and cunning hats. Their parents, patting themselves on the backs. 'She is an artist!' 'He is a scientist!' "

Plus they steal money from the real public schools, the ones, you know, where real diversity rules."

Your and wm's cognitive dissonance and institutional bigotry are showing.

And in how many PPS neighborhood buildings does real diversity rule?


It saddens me that we are tearing each other apart on this issue. I think most of the people who read this blog and who post here are passionate about doing positive things for our kids and for our schools. I also think that most of us are committed to the goals of public education. At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, I wonder if we could tone down the ad hominems and the hype and focus on the issues.

Here's what I see: (1) charters are sucky because they are only open to a limited few, (2) charters are great because they offer alternative educational approaches that are usually not found in mainstream schools. Both statements are true.

Obama is promoting charter schools. He said parents need more choice when it comes to picking a school, and he vowed to double the funding for "responsible" charter schools.

One of the major reasons charters are so loved by conservatives is the belief that they force mainstream schools (i.e., non-charters) to compete.

Whether this is "rat-race" competition or not is moot. It shows that Obama has swallowed one of the major ideological/strategic positions of conservative policy makers, revealing his own neo-liberal stripe and his beliefs that (1) market forces can fix schools, and (2) schools are solely responsible for closing the achievement gap.

What Obama fails to recognize is that "responsible" charter schools are only a short-term solution. And, because only a select few can gain admission to them, there will always be losers. This is the dark side of competition.

The solution? Make every school a choice school, i.e., a school that parents want to send their kids to.

How do you make every school a choice school? You start by recognizing what the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education -- http://www.boldapproach.org/ -- makes clear:

---snip--

Evidence demonstrates . . . that achievement gaps based on socioeconomic status are present before children even begin formal schooling. Despite impressive academic gains registered by some schools serving disadvantaged students, there is no evidence that school improvement strategies by themselves can substantially, consistently, and sustainably close these gaps.

Nevertheless, there is solid evidence that policies aimed directly at education-related social and economic disadvantages can improve school performance and student achievement. The persistent failure of policymakers to act on that evidence — in tandem with a schools-only approach — is a major reason why the association between disadvantage and low student achievement remains so strong.

One clarification about charters and whether or not they offer free/reduced lunch:

Trillium offers free or reduced price lunch to all students that qualify.

Trillium also offer reduced price breakfast.

"Its because they love their kids. So, fix the bad schools and parents will want their kids to go to them. In the meantime, don't expect many people to sacrifice their kids for this greater good you suggest. They would be bad parents if they did."

Awww, I think Trueblue just called me a bad mommy! Here, add what I always add after I read the fortune from the cookies: "...between the sheets..."

And from Howard... "Your and wm's cognitive dissonance and institutional bigotry are showing."

THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID! Heh heh heh.

Peter, I'm just scrapping. You know I don't really want my kids to go to school with the stripedy crowd, anyway. We hate vegan cookies.

Peter is right, Trillium began offering free and reduced lunch. He can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe this change happened only this year, and was because of a grant. What I found striking was that Trillium got a grant that is supposed to be aimed at benefiting the minority and low income people of the area. This seems ironic when most the low income and black students don't attend Trillium, they attend Ockley Green. But I agree that providing lunch is a good thing, and I applaud Trillium for their clear efforts to improve diversity.

I wonder if charters by their nature, however, can ever be as open to assimilating diversity in children and families. Many charters have a definite political mindset and attract likeminded people. Part of the public school mandate is to separate religion from education, leaving them open to families from Mormons to Baptists to athiests and Muslim. Charters may also avoid prayer, but some practice a near religious fervor in their political leanings which might be off-putting to many families.

Rose is absolutely correct: charter schools, unlike traditional neighborhood schools, do "attract like-minded people."

That's why they're established and that's why I oppose them.

Terry wrote: "In some respects the district has only itself to blame for the charter school onslaught in North and Northeast Portland by failing to provide programs for low income schools attractive to concerned parents."

I have to disagree with this part. Schools like Ockley are providing everything the charters promise, and more: arts, music, dance, diversity, and community.

On my street there are four families besides mine. Three send their kids to MLC. The other sends their kid to Village charter. None actually stepped foot inside Ockley Green to see what it was like before they made their choice.

I think many parents assume their neighborhood school is much worse than it is, especially newer parents in North and NE. Most of these new parents are white, and I cannot count the number of times I have heard them say disparaging things about Ockley purely on the basis of the students they see, and much of this is in racial code. One commented to me that she didn't want her son to go to a school with so many "inner city" kids. There are a number of studies that show that white parents will practice white flight on any school above 15 or so percent black, regardless of how good the school is.

I can't see this as a failing of the district, except in providing the "choice" policy which allows unspoken racial and class biases to play out into segregation and inequity.

Both Emerson and Portland Village School offer free and reduced lunch options and have since they opened.

You'd do better to let people like Peter Campbell be a voice for equity in PPS Schools. He seems to understand that being nasty and vile and completely openly bigoted does nothing but drive away people that support the whole crux of your generally good fight. I am starting to wonder if you just relish in the attention to internet big mouth draws you, Wacky. Keep up the nice work and name calling.

I wonder why Emerson and Portland Village School don't advertise that they offer free & reduced lunch on their websites.

"...if you just relish in the attention to internet big mouth draws you, Wacky."

...between the sheets!

I think it's something of a canard to criticize charters for being mostly white when PPS as a whole is mostly white: according to the 2006 enrollment data, 17 schools in PPS were more than 80% white. There were others that were close to 80%. I suspect the most recent data have not changed. This doesn't excuse the charters for being mostly white. It simply underscores the fact that the charters are a lot like other schools in PPS.

According to recent data, Trillium is 64.97% white and 29.3% free or reduced price lunch. This actually reflects greater socio-economic diversity than a large number of PPS schools.

That said, we need to figure out ways that charters can increase their diversity. Over on PPS Equity, I called for the board to develop an affirmative action plan RE: charter enrollment so that the charters are mandated to accept a certain number of low-income families, minorities, and low-income minorities. I also proposed that PPS hire an independent researcher to determine why the charters appeal mostly to white, middle to upper-middle-class families and what can be done to broaden their appeal.

Peter wrote: "I think it's something of a canard to criticize charters for being mostly white when PPS as a whole is mostly white: according to the 2006 enrollment data, 17 schools in PPS were more than 80% white."

But we are specifically discussing charters in N and NE, neighborhoods where the schools are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, and the charter schools overwhelmingly white: a stark and troubling development.

Trillium has only a handful of blacks. Only 3 blocks away Ockley has a majority black. This sort of segregation, no matter what the causes, deserves serious consideration, not blithe dismissals that it is a canard.

Race segregation in PPS is a painful, longstanding historical problem. It existed before charter schools, yes. But in the least charter schools are not helping, and they may be making it worse.

Instead of looking at ways charter schools can broaden their appeal, perhaps we can discuss how neighborhood schools can and should serve all students. In the least we need an honest assessment if charter schools can truly serve all. How will Trillium serve ESL? Contained classrooms? Foster kids? Homeless kids? Those who take the bus? Need a free afterschool program?

It is misguded to see this as an issue of "appeal." It is demographic, economic and political. Public education is supposed to be public education for all. That is where the word public comes from. Charter schools do not serve all and will probably never serve all. We need to address that.

Rose - I agree with you. Charters are fraught with lots of problems. I wrote about them here and here. They ultimately serve as an escape hatch for parents who are dissatisfied with the system, serving to defang what might otherwise be a very powerful voice of opposition. They also attract a disproportionately large percentage of white, middle to upper-middle-class families.

But we chose to enroll my daughter at Trillium because we believed that the educational approach of the school was better for our daughter. She started Kindergarten there this week. My wife and I entered the charter school lottery process because we were concerned about the educational approach at our neighborhood school, Chief Joseph. At Chief Jo, Kindergarten children get exactly 20 minutes of recess during a six-and-a-half hour school day. To assess their literacy development, teachers at Chief Jo use a screening test called the DIBELS, an assessment that -- according to reading experts like Richard Allington, Gerald Coles, and Kenneth Goodman -- and often leads to false or meaningless data RE: kids' abilities to read. Since so much emphasis is placed on getting all PPS kids to read by the end of first grade, these assessments are extremely high-stakes. Kids that are labeled as "slow" or "behind" or "at risk" read different kinds of books than kids who are labeled as "fast" or "advanced" or "gifted." This means that these "slow" kids have a qualitatively different educational experience than their "fast" peers. It just so happens that a disproportionately large percentage of low-income minority children are labeled "slow." So that means that a disproportionately large percentage of low-income minority children are getting a qualitatively inferior education based on these diagnostic tests. It would be one thing if these tests were both reliable and valid. But recent research indicates that they are not.

In addition, kids at Chief Jo get a smattering of art, PE, and music here and there.

My wife and I were looking for a school that did not rely so heavily on qualitative measures of reading fluency, that offered lots of free, unstructured time for play or for students to follow their own interests, and for meaningful engagement in art, music, etc. The only schools we knew about that did these things were all charters: Portland Village, Emerson, Trillium, and Opal. We heard about some other schools, but these schools were far away and would have required us entering the lottery.

So we chose to enter the charter lottery, since 2 of the 4 schools were actually quite near our house (PVS and Trillium). As it turned out, we did not get in to any of the 4 schools we applied to. As a result, we decided to homeschool our daughter. Then, at the last minute, we got a call from Trillium, saying a spot had opened.

Here's the bottom line: my wife and I believe that giving 5-year-olds 20 minutes of recess is a bad idea. It deprives them of the experience of being little kids. We also believe that an over-emphasis on academic skills like reading and math to the exclusion of non-tested subjects like art and music is also a bad idea. We also believe that an over-reliance on norm-based, standardized tests is a bad idea. So there's no way we could have sent our daughter to Chief Jo, since the school's approach ran directly counter to some of our most important ideas about what school should be.

Just to be clear: I want all schools in PPS not to rely so heavily on qualitative measures of reading fluency, to offer lots of free, unstructured time for play or for students to follow their own interests, and for meaningful engagement in art, music, etc.

This is possible. But it is not possible under the current test and punish regime of NCLB.

That's why I think it's crucial that we not get torn apart on this issue of charters, but to look at the larger enemies: NCLB and poverty. We can all work together to address the real source of the achievement gap. Let's not forget the common cause that unites us.

Oops - meant to say "I want all schools in PPS not to rely so heavily on quantitative measures of reading fluency." I want them to use more qualitative measures and not be so captive to numbers.

As Einstein said, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

Peter, thank you for your comments. My three attend Ockley, which is also in the Chief Joseph area. I am curious why you didn't choose this school, since it has everything you are looking for: art, music, diversity and community.

The kids are encouraged to play and get exercise. They have electives with jazz, dance, music, and even at early grades entire class periods are dedicated to the arts. My 6th grader has an entire class on jazz composition. And there is a refreshing refusal to teach to the test.

I think this issue is more than NCLB and poverty. I grew up here, and I can remember fifteen years ago when Ockley had students ranging from wealthy white Overlook kids to very poor blacks. Everyone sent their kids there because it was what you did back then and there was no choice. It was a truly diverse school, and everyone benefited. I knew students that went to Barnard and Brown. My siblings went on to get Master's Degrees. White students mixed with blacks and everyone learned to work and play together.

Then came school choice, and in the years since Ockley has been bled dry of the white middle class kids of the neighborhood. Now the school is over 70 free and reduced lunch and majority black. It is still a great school, but the impact of the charters and school choice is obvious.

A lot of charter talk is about community, but the truth is the creation of schools which by their nature cannot be accessed by everyone is not about community at all. Every time a parent chooses Trillium or Opal or another charter instead of Ockley, that means the loss of thousands of dollars for the school, not to mention the resources their parents could bring to the table and benefit not just likeminded parents, but other kids as well.

This is not a personal judgement against you (I have friends who send their kids to Trillium) but I do think we all need to have a frank discussion about the realities of school choice and the charters.

Wow, lots of acrimony here. Do I get 60 pages to respond?

1) I know Wacky Mommy. She cares immensely about the education of children and trying to do what is best for them. End of story. I, being a school teacher personally really like those prim, neat, perfectly polite kids. But you have to understand that many of us have fought for years the takeover of the Portland School Board and thus the decision making power by the upper middle class parents who have a track record through their main organizations(Stand for Children and The Portland School's Foundation) of not caring the least about schools in lower economic neighborhoods. So keep that in mind when you attack back.

2) Full choice in a big city has no history of working for schools in poor neighborhoods anyplace in America that I have seen. Same thing happens everywhere. Let's get over to the schools in the more well to do neighborhoods. And this starts a downward spiral in the poorer neighborhoods. Now, if the school districts would spend lots of extra money and incredible effort to offset this movement then the argument for educational choice might make sense. Until that happens the choice argument will always be flawed. (Note, every school district surrounding Portland has equal offerings in every neighborhood school.)

3) A secondary effect of Portland's transfer policy is more racial segregation. I don't think you can argue against that.

4) In general schools in poorer neighborhoods have more students who misbehave in school. This makes it tough on some parents to send their kids to these schools even if race is not an issue for them. Add in less offerings and more test prep then these schools become very unattractive to a lot of parents.This becomes more apparent in middle school. The school district does almost nothing to address this critical problem. So, why not send your own child down the street to a charter with less behavior problems and a more open philosophy about letting children be children?

5) One step forward (I always like to add a resonable solution or two): Portland needs to recreate some elementary schools in neighborhoods which openly say they are not going to be "testing" schools, but "childhood:" schools. Art, music, PE, science, social studies, reading for enjoyment, recesses, good behavior expected and demanded, safe and fun places for kids. Let parents choose between this neighborhood school and the testing atmosphere we have in most of our poorer elementary schools. Right now their only choice for this type of education in many neighborhoods is a charter or transferring across the city.

Let's bring the other feature of charter schools out in the open as well. How many of us are willing to tolerate PPS transfers, focus-options and magnet schools as they come under the collective bargaining agreement and oppose charters since charters' looser rules about certification, seniority, hours, and other employment issues are unacceptable to union members and supporters?

Rose - I was under the impression that Ockley was a middle school. How long have they offered Kindergarten classes? Thanks for letting me know. I'll definitely check it out and share what I find with everyone.

Just a quick note so I dont hog the thread.

Peter, Ockley switched to K-8 over two years ago.

My family attended the school for over 25 years, and I grew up here, so I have watched first hand the impact of school choice on the school.

As Steve noted, another effect of "choice" has been condensing special ed into the community schools. Charters rarely have in-house specialists or resource rooms or special ed departments. I like it that my kids are exposed to a variety of children, including those with handicaps.

I also have fostered so the needs of foster children are important to me, and I find it unacceptable that foster children cannot access schools like Trillium, because of their application procedures.

Howard, you are right that charters can also be viewed as just another union busting ploy.

Howard - charter teachers in PPS are free to organize if they want to. Not the case in lots of other cities. I'm a member of the American Federation of Teachers. I love my union. But it has problems, too (i.e., being unionized is not -- in itself -- necessarily a good thing or a bad thing.) I'd like to know what the teachers at the PPS charters think about organizing as a union and whether they feel they need to. I'll talk to the teachers at Trillium and see what they say.

Rose - just occurred to me: if we like Ockley and want to send our kids there, we'd have to do so via the transfer policy, since Chief Jo is actually my neighborhood school.

So what's worse: supporting the transfer policy or supporting charters?

Wacky Mommy, I'm not calling you a bad mommy. If I recall, you have already fled the Portland Public School system. Some families lack the resources to pick up and move to Beaverton. Doesn't your *choice* really say it all. Rest assured, I'm not attacking your good faith and good motives, but please let's not throw around words like racism to describe those who escape bad schools when you have already set the example of escaping (or, like RoseAnn Rosanadan, do I have to say "never mind"?)

We live in North Portland and our children attend PPS here in the neighborhood.

"Charters rarely have in-house specialists or resource rooms or special ed departments."

Completely incorrect.

I am not sure if the above statement is correct. Maybe so...however...the charter schools can still decide who gets to stay and who has to go if kids are just too difficult to deal with. I know...we see them back in our neighborhood school classrooms when they get kicked out. We don't get to make that choice.

Peter, I wrestled with the transfer policy. Ockley is my neighborhood school for middle years, but transfer-only for K-5. I think it is extremely wierd the district created a K-8 program literally on my block and then made it tranfer only. So I did transfer my K student. For my others it is their regular school.

If the tranfer policy was abolished my K student would attend Chief Joseph, where I have had students before. My personal belief is a key aspect of public education is the exposure to different ideas and methods, including educational methods I may not agree with.

About the special education issue: all the charters I've researched do not provide the level of special education that can be found in neighborhood schools.

At Ockley, for instance, there is a contained behavioral classroom, a resource academic classroom (both staffed with full-time teachers), a part time psychologist, a part time counselor, aides for the physically impaired, and on-call occupational therapists and speech pathologists.

Charters generally rely on specialists who are sent by PPS to help IEP students. I am not aware of any with full-time in house staff or contained classrooms for special education students.

I was curious about this and asked a Trilluim staff member what they would do if I applied for an IEP student. I was told that if the IEP required services that they don't provide that I would be referred back to the district. So I wonder what legal loophole these schools go through to take tax dollars for public education and then refuse to serve all students.

Slightly OT, but, TrueBlue, it was Emily Litella who said "Nevermind"! and Roseanne RoseannaDanna who said "It's always something"! Both were brilliant alter egos of the late Gilda Radner.

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