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August 08, 2008


In defense of Robb Cowie, his point was about expressing personal opinions when speaking on behalf of the district. It's a reasonable point to make.

But your criticism is still correct... does PPS the district not have a position on NCLB beyond the mealy-mouthed, half-hearted defense of it given on air by Ames? Does PPS not have an expert in the area of standardized testing it could have sent to OPB instead of a PR person with a well-earned reputation for defensiveness?

Peter actually qualifies as an expert on testing, yet his air time was a tiny fraction of that given to the PR people who demonstrated no expertise whatsoever in the topic at hand.

Carole Smith has done little to allay concerns that she is a kinder, gentler version of the incredibly destructive V. Phillips. Smith seems to like to fly under the radar so that she can complete Phillips agenda without catching all the flak that Phillips attracted with her army tank M.O.

I fail to see the distinction between a personal opinion and an official, district-approved stance. Either Carole Smith approves of NCLB or she doesn't.

The district's head honcho ought to be able to speak to that issue without any bobbing or weaving. If she were to express her disapproval, who's going to reprimand her? George W. Bush?

You're right, Terry, Carole Smith's opinion, in many cases, is de facto district policy, and the district has a moral obligation to stand up for its children here.

It would be unfortunate, though, if somebody like Sarah Carlin Ames' personal opinions on the matter were to be interpreted as district policy. I think that's Robb's point.

Like Peter Campbell, my husband and I pulled our child from PPS. Seeing the devastating effects of NCLB on day to day life in the classroom was a major reason. NCLB is designed to dismantle our public school system and privatize it. Consultants, textbook publishers, and testing companies are getting rich, while teachers and students and parents are struggling to salvage some kind of joyful, meaningful learning experiences out of what little time they have left after test prep and testing.
I don't think there is such a thing as being "apolitical" about NCLB. Enforcing it, not speaking out, adopting the language around it are all ways of supporting it. Multiple school boards across the country (including one in Utah, for crying out loud) have taken vocal stands against NCLB. Yet the PPS and our school board still support it, despite teachers and parents saying it is destroying our educational system. I applaud parents who won't succomb to the pressure to test, who refuse to allow their children to be pawns in this game. And my big heroes are teachers who refuse to test like Carl Chew in Seattle Washington. Read his letter in support of another teacher who spoke out at

Seven years into NCLB it has become a political football. The time for education leaders to take stands was in 2002 or 2003 when at least one state told the feds to keep their Title I money and opted out of NCLB. Other states opted to blend NCLB in with existing regimens to avoid duplication.

In my view NCLB will go down as a failed policy because of the Bush administration's ineptitude at choosing people to serve in leadership positions and the passive-aggressive way the public education complexes of most states have implemented it.

Anne T, we want to pull our kids out of PPS but when you live on the east side, there aren't that many choices. We aren't catholic and don't want to subject our kids to religious indoctrination as the price of escape. Catlin Gabel would steal from college funds. Is the price of escaping this PPS death spiral moving to the West side? Notably, PPS machinations tend to leave west side schools untouched. Why would that be? What a mess.

Here's one PPS leader who isn't afraid to take a public stand on NCLB.

Of course, it is clear Ruth Adkins is speaking for herself in this letter to the editor of the New York Times, not on behalf of the district, and I'm not aware of her or anybody else having brought a resolution to the school board that would declare an official PPS position on NCLB.

What would it take to get the full school board to vote for a resolution calling for the repeal of NCLB, or at least an end to its punitive side? How many of the other five board members would be be willing to vote for such a resolution if one of their colleagues were to come forward with it?

It would certainly make it easier for the communications department if the full board had the guts to take a stand on this.

I wish Ruth would "show up" here in Portland too.


Have you given any thought to relocating to a more stable east side public school district? Corbett gets excellent reviews locally and nationally.

With fewer than 800 students districtwide the academics at Corbett are excellent while extracurricular activities are few.

One thing the school board and superintendent could do is de-emphasize NCLB testing in PPS. Tell the community that our focus is no longer going to be testing but educating children for their future and the future of this country. Call a meeting of all the principals and tell them to limit the time spent in test prep to a certain number of hours, or better yet set up a specific district-wide test prep curriculum which teaches kids how to take the test, but tell the principals that is the extent of the test prep they want to see.

Then they need to make sure kids who can't read really learn to read, not just learn to take the reading test. And that kids who are struggling to write well get the needed instruction, not just the singular type of instruction for the reading test. And that kids get real instruction in the fundamentals of math, and not overdo the idea of problem solving as the be all and end all of our math instruction. Then we need to re-emphasize social sciences, science, P.E., health, the arts etc. and make sure we have comprehensive programs.

This would also allow us to use a lot of the money and time spent on the testing to be put to better use. Again, this is not rocket science, just some good, old common sense.

we actually are pretty reluctant to move, but we'll look into Corbett if its commutable. I think PPS knew when they jacked around with the east side a couple years back how few choices east siders have. any ideas why west side schools were unscathed in the "reconfigurations"?

Terry wrote:

The district's head honcho ought to be able to speak to that issue without any bobbing or weaving. If she were to express her disapproval, who's going to reprimand her? George W. Bush?

Great point, Terry. And as I said in a follow-up to Robb Cowie over on PPS Equity, there are dozens and dozens of teachers, administrators, school board members, and state education officials across the country who have taken public positions that are extremely critical of NCLB. Why won't PPS take a stand?

Sarah Carlin Ames spent the vast majority of her air-time talking about how horrendously stupid NCLB is. Of course, she didn't say this. But she can say this if her boss is saying this and telling others to say this.

Carole Smith: it's time for you to take a public stand on NCLB and provide the leadership you were hired to provide.

Trueblue, the answer to your question: The Portland Schools Foundation and Stand for Children and The Oregonian editorial board. That's it.

Because that is where they live and where their children go to school.

I am losing hope about Carole Smith too. Her comment in the O about high school reform made my heart sink.

Zarwen - what did Carole say in the O? I missed it.

The O ran an article last week titled “More Oregon schools stumble behind,” referring to schools that fell short of this year’s federal standard of Adequate Yearly Progress. In response to what the article said about troubled high schools in Portland, especially Roosevelt, Carole Smith was quoted as saying, "These results remind us that the steps we're taking to reform high schools need to remain a top priority.”

I wish the sentence had read, "These results remind us that the steps we're taking to reform high schools aren’t working and we need to do something else.”

Here is the link to the article:


Assuming you live in PPS district, commuting to a neighboring district (Corbett, Riverdale etc,) is not an option without your paying tuition to that district. PPS does not allow its students to bring their state money with them to other districts.

I know that but its still a relative bargain. I looked up Corbett and its too far to drive. I had thought of the LO schools, but my spouse doesn't like the LO snootiness, so we're stuck at the moment. I am not at all happy that my kids are stuck in the PPS mess, and I say this knowing that we have it much better than some others stuck in PPS.

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