Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith has a guest column in today’s Oregonian titled “Progress in Portland Public Schools: Community support helps schools aim higher.” Unfortunately, her goals for students are too low and she leaves out part of the community. She writes (in part) (here):
depends on schools to prepare students with the knowledge, skills and
imagination to contribute to a thriving economy and vibrant neighborhoods.
Families, volunteers, civic and faith groups, and employers all play important
In turn, schools must keep aiming higher. To accelerate our progress, Portland's students need to see that all of the adults in our community are committed to every student, every teacher and every school succeeding. That's a message we want our students to both hear and experience every single day.
First, most people agree on the importance of schools both for individual students and our communities. What we disagree about often is the curriculum, just what skills our students will need for a thriving economy in the future. I think, given the rise of Asian economies, that more, different and better foreign language skills will be needed. PPS has been unwilling, in spite of both my pleas and strong parent demand, to expand either the Mandarin or Japanese immersion programs. PPS added a French immersion program only when parents formed a charter school. Think what kind of a message to students from PPS that sends.
Second, there are parents, students, and others in the community who want more foreign language immersion and high school study abroad programs. They understand that globalization has altered and continues to change the economic playing field. But there is another community group, a group of overly zealous neighborhood school advocates, who dislike all magnet, special, and immersion programs and who are a significant component of the political coalition which rules PPS. They are in control of both the superintendent and the Board. They do not permit more immersion programs. They have dumbed down the curriculum but now want us to believe they “are committed to every student, every teacher and every school succeeding.” Baloney! It’s just rhetoric and hypocrisy.