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Equity policy squanders resources

Readers' Letters
by: Christopher Onstott Sixth-grader Sophia Sloan waits to be picked up after school at the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women, a successful Jefferson High School spin-off. After years of struggles, Jefferson becomes a Middle College for Advanced Studies this fall. District leaders cite equity as the reason for the change.

The idea of squandering valuable time and resources on such a foolish proposal as a 'racial educational equity policy' simply confirms the bankrupt and naive thinking within Portland Public Schools ('Racial equity' next for schools, May 26).

Teachers and other educators will be held responsible for being surrogate parents to kids who either don't want to be in school, or have no business in an educational setting. Students who wish to excel will be compromised and standards of performance reduced in order to show positive 'results.'

All of this nonsense will be promoted under the inane notion that a homogenized student body is superior to one that allows for initiative, excellence and good habits.

It also is promulgated on totally flawed logic.

There is no basis for suggesting that 'people of color' or other minorities are disadvantaged, or do poorly when compared to white students. How will the school district account for the Pakistani, Asian-Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Somali students that routinely do better than their peers? Will these 'people of color' be forced to reduce their academic achievement to allow more white students to become 'equal' to them? When these students excel at nuclear and electronic engineering, science, math, computer science and advanced accounting, will they be required to 'dumb down' their progress in order to ensure a race-neutral student body?

And how will PPS explain the fact that these 'people of color' are often statistically light years in advance of other students, when they seldom have teachers who reflect their skin color, language or culture?

By focusing on a problem that doesn't exist in the schools, we waste time, money and our kids' futures. It's the students' home life that most often molds his/her future, and there's little that a school can do to alter that. To make teachers and taxpayers responsible for conditions beyond their control is an exercise in futility and will accomplish nothing.

It also flies in the face of common sense and demonstrable logic. School were not intended or designed to be holding pens or day care centers. Educators are trained to teach - not monkey with imaginary numbers.

Jim Speirs

North Portland

'Equity' targets suburban school

The same is happening in Forest Grove ('Racial equity' next for schools, May 26). Under the guise of 'equity,' the reverse racism targeting a successful but 'too-white' school for closure is just as ugly, just as divisive and just as unacceptable.

Jodi Giddings

Forest Grove

Race is not only factor in gap

Someone from the paper should look at the materials this group hands out ('Racial equity' next for schools, May 26). There are some pretty wild assertions.

The contract between PPS and Glenn Singleton's group is for just under $500,000 per year and will continue at least through next year. While I think the achievement gap is a sad fact, race is not the only factor and PPS cannot afford the price tag of this training.

Barb Andrews

Vancouver, Wash.

Equity policy should be justified

I am no fan of educational research - no real control groups and you can't control the variables - which is not very scientific, if at all ('Racial equity' next for schools, May 26).

But if the idea is to get into dueling studies, there will be some that will show that racial factors are not alone in creating the high dropout rates for certain minorities, but rates are pretty consistent for all groups when you control as best you can the socioeconomic and family factors, etc.

That means you can't really justify educational differences in dropouts, achievement, etc., on race factors. Does that make this equity policy a bad idea? No, it just means the necessity for it should be justified in an honest way.

I have tried for years to get PPS to do a better job hiring more good teachers who are black, Latino or speak a language other than English, which is spoken by lots of PPS students with no success. They weren't interested.

I have tried to get PPS to recognize they need a different discipline structure within many of their schools so that the suspension and expulsion rates could be decreased and learning would by increased. With no success. They weren't interested.

I have tried for years to help PPS understand how they have limited the paths to success for kids based on socioeconomic conditions, which translates into limited paths for huge numbers of minority children. They came back with the high school redesign, and it was a mess and continued the limiting of paths for poor kids and therefore huge numbers of minority children. Obviously, they weren't interested.

So, I wonder if this is all words to look good or there is some real teeth to the policy. There has been incredible PPS apathy concerning this type of thing for the last 20 years. So, we will see.

Steve Buel

North Portland

PPS must understand culture of poverty

If PPS would focus on closing the achievement gap by providing extra support for ANY student who is low income and whose parent(s) do(es) not have a BA/BS or higher, they would get at helping the same populations without perpetuating racial divides ('Racial equity' next for schools, May 26).

Focusing on 'race' (or what is really a culture: African-American culture) alone really just succeeds in providing additional resources for the 36 percent who are already on track and who know how to use their status to access resources.

We do need to have cultural competency. But that also includes understanding the culture of poverty as a whole and recognizing that even white people can experience significant barriers because of their socioeconomic status, and even their cultural backgrounds.

Cora Lee Potter

Southeast Portland

Status is better success predictor

Focusing on race as an explanation for educational inequity is a waste of valuable resources and a diversion from the real problem that not only faces our public schools but also affects 98 percent of American students: erosion of the middle class and decreasing employment opportunities ('Racial equity' next for schools, May 26).

Most sensible people will acknowledge that race can play a role in student self-image, cultural bias, educational achievement and career selection. But to burn up time, money and resources on so-called 'equity issues' when there are so many tangible and urgent issues facing Portland and PPS is arrogant and irresponsible.

In today's world, the economic status of a child's parents is a far better predictor of educational achievement than race. Is there some contest between Sam Adams, the City Council and the PPS School Board to see who can come up with the silliest and fastest ways to waste public money and alienate the citizenry?

Paul Knight

Southeast Portland