Portland Public Schools (PPS) is plowing ahead with its plan to overhaul the city's high school system. Tonight Superintendent Carole Smith revealed the general plan: Marshall High School will become a magnet-style "focus option" school. The rest will get a makeover, becoming "community comprehensive" schools with a wide range of offerings. The new plan will do away with the current liberal transfer policy, opting instead for a neighborhood-focused approach.
After the school board voted 5-2 last month to allow Superintendent Smith to develop specific recommendations, the details have been hashed out largely in secret over the past six weeks. Here are the basics:
Community Comprehensives: Cleveland, Franklin, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, Roosevelt, Wilson.
Focus Option: Marshall (currently a campus housing three "small schools," which has seen its share of No Child Left Behind sanctions). There's no word yet on what the "focus" will be (Arts? Science?). That will be worked out in the future, with input from teachers and parents. I'll be putting in my vote for Animal Husbandry or Brazilian Fighting Arts.
On March 18, PPS announced that it had applied for federal School Improvement Grants for its three other small schools, housed on the Roosevelt campus. That money can only be awarded under a few circumstances, one of which involves replacing staff and implementing a "new and revised instructional program." The move to a community comprehensive would likely fit that bill, so Roosevelt's transition could be federally funded.
The focus option program at Marshall will be open to students from David Douglas school district (serving far eastern Portland) as well as PPS. Smith says this will open the program to more opportunities.
Plus, "we will build a Benson High School for the 21st century," says Smith. The school will serve 800 students, all of whom will be half-time and co-enrolled at their neighborhood community comprehensive schools. Benson is currently a science and technology academy open to students from across the district by lottery.
Now that the cat's a little further out of the bag, we'll have more details in this week's paper on what lies ahead. "There are risks inherent in this model," Smith told the school board, "but the success of the plan does not rest on the school district alone."
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