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Report says PPS high school changes are paying dividends

Graduation rate, achievement gap movement shows progress


by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - High school students in Portland Public Schools are meeting several performance targets under a high school system change implemented a year ago, according to  a new ECONorthwest report.Just a year after Portland Public Schools’ controversial high school redesign effort, district leaders are lauding the successes while still noting the challenges ahead.

PPS leaders are highlighting a new 100-page EcoNorthwest report that cites increased graduation rates, a smaller achievement gap and more equitable access to the core curriculum.

The biggest changes to the system included the closure of the Marshall Campus, conversion of Jefferson into a “middle college,” and reconsolidation of Roosevelt’s three small schools into one.

The district also clamped down on the enrollment and transfer policy to encourage students to attend their neighborhood high school, which resulted in more balanced numbers of students, teachers and programs offered.

According to the study, high school data shows that the new framework is on track to meet 17 of the district’s identified 22 goals and measures: the on-time graduation rate has increased 9 percentage points, the achievement gap has narrowed and the portion of families who choose to send their students to PPS high schools is stable and growing.

There are also goals set for the full implementation time, in the 2014-15 school year.

Specifically, the report says, PPS is: “exceeding” four high school system design performance targets, “meeting” four targets, “on track” to achieve nine performance targets and “not on track” to achieve five targets.

Some of those measures include:

n Graduation rate: The four-year graduation rate has increased 9 percentage points since 2008-09. At this rate, PPS high schools are projected to exceed the high school system design’s 2014-15 target to improve the on-time graduation rate by 10 percentage points.

n Achievement gap: The achievement in on-time graduation narrowed 11 points (between white and Hispanic students).

n Equitable core program: across the system, high schools now have in place 90 percent of a defined core program that is designed to offer every PPS student access to a well-rounded array of course offerings, which provide both opportunities for Advanced Placement, International Bacculareate or college-credit classes, as well as supports.

n Enrollment parity: PPS’ most under-enrolled schools are attracting more students and the gap between PPS’ largest and smallest comprehensive campuses has narrowed by 40 percent.

n Capture rate: PPS high schools remain the schools of choice for families living in the school district boundary.

The school board on Monday took up the 100-page EcoNorthwest report and discussed next steps for the High School System Design. The meeting can be viewed at pps.net or on Comcast Channel 28.

District officials also held a live-stream discussion about PPS high schools (including an ECONorthwest researcher and high school staff), Wednesday afternoon.

To read the report, go to pps.k12.or.us/depts/communications/docs/HSSD-Implementation-Report-V26.pdf