Portland Public Schools' Superintendent's Advisory Committee on Enrollment and Transfers is about to recommend to the Superintendent (and the PPS Board) that PPS put an end to neighborhood to neighborhood transfers. One argument for this change is that when a student transfers out resources follow the student, or, as Kelly House writes in there Oregonian article "New data show winners and losers under Portland Public Schools current transfer policy" (here), "Popular schools attract more students from outside the neighborhood, along with the per-pupil funding that accompanies each student,", and that somehow this more-students-means-more-resources and less-students-means-fewer resources creates inequities between schools, with the school with fewer students and fewer resources being disadvantaged.
Is this true in PPS' K-5 schools? Apart from racial and income aspects (and middle school -K-8 and high school issues), does the number of students in a K-5 school make a difference in its programs or offerings? Are there inequities in K-5 schools because of enrollment numbers? It is not obvious to me that within the enrollment range of PPS K-5's that the enrollment numbers make any difference.
(1) There is no one wad of cash that shifts schools when a student transfers. PPS largely allocates various positions as FTE's, not cash, based on enrollment numbers. There are several allocation formulas. I do not know if school principals get a smallish pot of funding based on enrollment or not. Maybe? I also think principals have some small amount of flexibility as to what kind of FTE's they get and how they use them. So, to a small degree, a principal may be able to customize programs at a school, but it is done in the context of doing one thing rather than another and not in the context of having more resources.
(2) More students means more services need to be provided and less students means fewer services need to be provided. Only if there are some economies of scale (while resources come at a flat rate) would there be any advantage to being larger or any disadvantage to being smaller. I do not see any economies of scales in PPS's K-5's.
(3) In the past era of PPS's declining enrollment, keeping students helped maintain the minimum number of students necessary to keep a school open. But now, PPS' enrollment is on the rise and such school closing dynamics should not be in play.
(4) In House's Oregonian article, she posts the following chart from modeling presented to the SACET. The chart shows what the past effect would have been if there were no neighborhood-to-neighborhood school transfers. In blue I have noted that Lewis would have lost the most without neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers. And in red, that Markham would have gained the most without neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers. Is Lewis better off now with neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers than it will be without them? Will Markham be better if neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers end and it has more students? I just do not see that the enrollment numbers matter.
My public comment to the Portland Public Schools Board, 10/14/14, is at 19 minutes and 25 seconds of the above video. The written text follows:
Last week before you I spoke about neighborhood all immersion schools as neighborhood schools without an English-only component, where all neighborhood students are admitted to the immersion program, and where neighborhood students wanting an English-only program attend another school. Tonight, as a possible future example, I want to present enrollment and transfer lottery data from last year, 2013-14, suggesting that Woodstock Elementary could, if neighborhood students were given priority admission to the immersion program (as they should be) and lottery data like that from 2013-14 were to persist, again consider phasing out its English-only component and becoming an all Mandarin immersion neighborhood school.
These issues are complex.
(1) Let us begin with enrollment data. The October 1, 2013, kindergarten enrollment count at Woodstock was 24 in the English only component and 61 in the Mandarin immersion component.
Now, let us look at the transfer lottery data for kindergarten at the Woodstock Mandarin immersion program (and acknowledge that "applicants" includes 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices, although over 80% are probably 1st choices). For the 2013-14 school year, the following were the kindergarten transfer lottery results for Woodstock:
(2) Note that 22 neighborhood ("NH") applicants were either "Wait Listed" (8) or "Denied - No Space" (14) for the Mandarin immersion kindergarten program.
(3) Note that 26 out-of-neighborhood applicants ("TR") were admitted to the immersion program (26 out of 96 were approved for 26 transfer slots). Neighborhood applicants could have filled 22 of these 26 slots.
(4) Note that if all of the 22 neighborhood applicants turned down by the immersion component had been admitted ( instead of the out-of-neighborhood students) there might have been up to 22 less students in the English-only "Neighborhood Program" component, leaving possibly only two students in the English-only kindergarten component. The data does not tell us what happened to those 22 students who were turned down for the immersion program. Some may have found another school, which would mean that there were more than just two students wanting the English-only component.
(5) Parents do move to the Woodstock neighborhood in order to get their children into the Mandarin immersion program just as parents move to the Buckman neighborhood to get into Buckman or move to the Alameda neighborhood to get into Alameda. PPS should encourage this, getting students to live in the neighborhood of the school they want to attend is good.
If PPS wants to encourage, or even force, students to attend their neighborhood school, PPS should not turn neighborhood applicants away from neighborhood immersion programs. Neighborhood applicants should get priority admission to immersion programs.
(6) So what could Woodstock do with a English-only kindergarten class of 2, or even 10. They could let English-only students transfer in, although SACET is soon to recommend ending neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers. Or they could blend the kindergarteners in with first graders. Or, if low English only enrollment persists over several years, they could phase out the English-only strand year by year. If kindergarten students (and, eventually, students above first grade moving into the neighborhood) do not want to, or cannot appropriately, be in a Mandarin immersion program, give them priority transfer rights into neighboring schools with transportation if needed (this is what Hillsboro School District does with its three all Spanish immersion schools).
(7) On the other hand, recall that PPS held a community meeting on 10/16/14 at Woodstock and considered, among other options, a proposal to "Expand the current DLI program at Woodstock by creating an all school two-way DLI program with preference given to neighborhood families." This was not a popular option at the meeting as there was substantial vocal support for continuing the English-only component.
(8) Recall also that, for the 2014-15 Woodstock Mandarin kindergarten lottery, the neighborhood slots were increased to 31 (from 26, with 5 for native Chinese speakers, 26 for native English speakers), 18 slots for transfer native Chinese speakers were added, and the slots for transfer native English speakers were reduced to 7 (from 26). No data have yet been released on this lottery, so we do not know if strong neighborhood demand for the kindergarten immersion program continued and what the level of demand for the English-only component was. We do not yet know if neighborhood applicants for the immersion program were again turned away.
PPS Superintendent Carole Smith announced at the 10/14/14 PPS Board meeting that, to date, PPS had hired 497 new teachers with 22% of them being teachers of color. At the PPS Board meeting, there was much applause, as if this was a great accomplishment. It was not.
PPS is now 55.8% White, leaving about 44% for students of color. In the document "Portland Public Schools Affirmative Action Plan 2014-16, Office of Equity & Partnerships, July 16, 2014" (in Board material for 7/22/14 here), PPS sets a goal of having 44% of its teachers as teachers of color. With the addition of these new teachers, PPS will increase its teachers of color from 16.5% to 17.3%. This is not adequate, especially since it is a key component of PPS' racial equity strategy. And, with the large number of new teachers hired, this was PPS' big chance to make a difference. They flubbed it. What will PPS do about it? I know PPS made out-of-state recruiting efforts, but they were not enough. Who will be accountable?
Here the chart from page 16 of the Board materials showing both the current numbers of teachers of color and the 44% goal.
Here is my summary of the teacher data (not including substitute teachers) from the above chart plus the addition of the new teachers announced by Superintendent Smith.
Superintendent Smith's announcement of the new hires is at 5 minutes and 10 seconds of the following video.
Huiwen Liu (or, in Chinese with the family name first, Liu Huiwen, or Tom Liu as his adopted English name) has been in Portland and beginning to teach at Harrison Park K-8 and Creative Sciences K-8 (including the co-located head start program) schools in SE Portland for only the last week or so. He is provided through the Confucius Institute at Portland State University. He was selected because he was the only one of more than a thousand Hanban Chinese teachers who can teach both Mandarin and Cantonese. Portland Public Schools is trying to figure out what combinations of Mandarin and Cantonese instruction would best fit students in these SE schools. Liu is helping them do this. So far Liu has been meeting with the Chinese community, meeting with parents, and assessing individual student's Chinese language abilities.
Liu himself will soon turn forty years old. He has taught all K-12 grades over 17 years of teaching in China. He was recently teaching Chinese at the university level in Kenya for two and a half years.
He is from Guangdong and speaks four Chinese languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, Sichuanese, and Hakka ( or Hakka/Kejia).
I delivered a public comment at the Portland Public School Board's 10/6/14 meeting. My full text is below and I am on at 8 minutes 20 seconds of the video above.
With both the SACET and the District Wide Boundary Review process coming before you soon, there will be a lot of rhetoric about "neighborhood schools." Tonight I wish to offer a few comments about expanding dual language immersion programs in the context of a system of neighborhood schools. In a district with growing enrollment, I do not think closing schools should be a major worry. But how to increase racial equity and how to expand immersion programs should both attract your attention.
First, recall that immersion programs now (I have not seen enrollment data for 2014-15) enroll about 18% of kindergarteners.
That 18% could and should rise to about 33% over the next five years given the plan I have suggested to you.
Second, think ahead to a system of elementary schools in which one-third of the students are in dual language immersion programs. Do we have students transferring all over the district or do we design and develop those additional immersion programs in a geographic system of neighborhood schools? There is a wide range of options from having one dual language immersion strand out of the usual three at each and every neighborhood elementary school to having every third neighborhood school as a neighborhood dual language immersion school with no English only component, with lots a combinations and mixtures in between possible. We need to rethink enrollment and transfer rules to make immersion programs less disruptive to existing English only neighborhood schools, to make them more supportive of racial equity, to make them more accessible to neighborhood students, and to make them more integral to a system of neighborhood schools.
Third, some current PPS immersion program are now hostile to neighborhood students in limiting neighborhood admissions, and, thus, turning away neighborhood applicants. Here is data from the 2013-14 lottery which turned away 103 neighborhood immersion applicants from their neighborhood immersion school.
Fourth, a "neighborhood school" does not need to be an all English-only school. PPS now has one form of neighborhood dual language immersion schools: schools that enroll primarily neighborhood students, that have one or more strands of Spanish immersion, that have one or more English-only strands, and that do not permit out-of-neighborhood transfers into the immersion program. James John, Rigler, Scott, and Sitton are examples of such neighborhood Spanish dual language immersion schools.
Fifth, a "neighborhood school" could also be an all immersion schools. A neighborhood school does not need to have an English only component. Hillsboro, for example, has three neighborhood all Spanish immersion schools with no English only components. All neighborhood students can attend the neighborhood immersion school. Parents who do not want their children to attend the neighborhood Spanish immersion school can opt out and transportation will be provided to an alternative school. From the Hillsboro School District website.
PPS currently has no such neighborhood all immersion schools. Richmond is an all Japanese immersion school but gives no priority to proximity, or neighborhood, in admissions. It could.
PSU's Population Research Center in August, 2014, released its "Portland Public Schools Enrollment Forecasts 2014-15 to 2028-29" (here). It has arrived just in time for the district-wide enrollment balancing process. It is full of data. In this post I look at whether the proposal I made to add seven additional dual language immersion programs over the next five years made sense. The specific question is whether there will as many new K-5 students in PPS as there will be new dual language immersion slots.
Recall that in a prior post I wrote (here):
3. Enrollment within PPS is growing. There will be fewer schools, perhaps none, with declining enrollment that offer co-location (with English-only strands) possibilities for new dual language immersion programs.
4. Locating a new (non- ESL Spanish) dual language immersion program at a now vacant school is politically easier than locating a new dual language immersion program at an existing English only neighborhood school and displacing some or all of the English only neighborhood students. As vacant schools become occupied, locating new immersion programs will become more difficult politically.
5. PPS has six vacant or rented for other purposes schools that could be reopened as dual language immersion programs: Edwards, Humboldt, Kellogg, Smith, Terwilliger, and Tubman. PPS needs to commit to adding dual language immersion programs at these locations and not to reopening them for other purposes. All vacant PPS classroom buildings should be earmarked for future dual language immersion expansions.
These are the seven new immersion programs I proposed. With 50 students in each grade (two classes, each K-5 program would have 300 students.
The PSU Population Research Center report does forecast K-5 enrollment. This is a visual graphic of their low, medium and high estimates:
Here are their specific estimates:
Here is my chart of the K-5 estimates from the previous chart:
While I have proposed phasing in the immersion start-ups over five years, they start with just two grades, kindergarten and first, and add an additional grade per year, so comparing immersion enrollment growth over ten years with the increase in K-5 enrollment over ten years makes sense. So, for an immersion increase of 2,100 students, PPS is forecast to have K-5 enrollment increases of 142 (low), 1,154 (medium), or 2,184 (high).
Only the high estimate of 2,184 would be more than the additional immersion slots added.