Really, Greg Goodman? You want us to imagine our school children as the products of a shoe factory?

Dan Petegorsky

Yes, I kid you not. That’s how City Center Parking magnate and downtown Portland developer Greg Goodman kicks off his Oregonian op-ed in opposition to the upcoming Portland Public Schools bond measure.

Imagine that you're an investor in a shoe company….[S]omething is wrong at the business because many shoes are dropping off the assembly line and nearly half of the shoes don't complete the manufacturing process on time…and company policy requires that the first ones fired are the employees most recently hired, even if they're producing higher-quality shoes than employees who've been there longer.

However you may feel about the measure, can we please agree that students are not in fact anything like shoes; that education is not anything like a manufacturing process; and that wave after wave of education reforms driven by a corporate “manage them like businesses” mentality have been driven far more by ideology and hype than by results?

That’s certainly the thrust of the evidence Diane Ravitch has assembled in her recent book about education reform and that Robert Folmer laid out succinctly in an Oregonian op-ed last month, Education reform: Our children are not widgets.

So, no, Mr. Goodman – I really don’t want to imagine that running a school system is like running a shoe factory. We’ve seen what free market fundamentalism has wrought on the economy, and there’s no reason to keep subjecting our educational system to such misguided analogies. Michael Bloomberg is learning that the hard way in New York, as are the residents of DC in the wake of the current testing scandal. It would be good for all of us if we could move beyond such banalities in Portland.

Comments

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    It's amazing how a certain... "Pro-business" shall we say... how this group uses the business metaphor yet has no idea how a business runs.

    A business, when facing a revenue shortfall, does not fire all it's employees and hope things will get better.

    A business, when facing a revenue shortfall, does not give huge discounts to a few customers, in hopes that those few will buy more.

    A business, when finding an employee is underperforming, does not immediately shut down the department.

    ...frankly, I wish some of these politicians WOULD run things like a business, rather then say they do as cover for an ideology.

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      Also ... a good business person would acknowledge that it's more expensive to clean up a collapsed building than it is to make it seismically sound to begin with. Warm fuzzy feelings for the people inside notwithstanding, it just makes sense to protect your assets by investing in cost effective preventative measures.

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        One of the problems with the priorities (or lack there of) of this bond measure is that they talk about safety as being a key driver when in fact only 2 out of 12 schools designated as "very high" likely to collapse are getting any seismic work. So the other 10 schools are going to have to wait a few to several more years.

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          So we should vote no so all schools have to wait even longer?

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          That's awesome, Jeff! That means that you want to pay for it all now..SO generous....Great -- lessee -- $548 million times 6 is around 3.5 billion dollars...okay...and around $1800 per tax payer, now. Oh, wait...

          Wow. Not sure we could swing that. How about we just pay as we go, like the current bond plans for? And fix the schools that are in the worst shape, with plans to fix them all over a more reasonable period of time. Yeah..

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            Seriously..it doesn't make sense if you look at seismic issues as the only safety concern. Science labs with only one sink are safety issues as there is only one place for eye washes. Old boilers are safety issues as they light on fire (which, seriously, they do). Roofing is a safety issue when the ceiling tiles fall on kids heads. Lack of a security system is a safety issue when anyone in the world can walk into our schools. Stage rigging is a safety concern if they are held up by ancient ropes and could fall at any minute.

            All of these issues will be addressed in the vast majority of the schools in the first round -- no waiting.

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      Except the PBA and others like oppose the Levy measure (and the opposed 66 & 67) which ensures 100s of teaching jobs are saved

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        No, this is wrong. The PBA does not oppose the levy, they simply haven't considered whether to endorse or not.

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          By not endorsing the Levy with the Bond they are basically opposing it as they have done with other similar levies

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            If I understand Kristin they have not yet considered it which is not the same as affirmatively deciding not to take a position. It may be irresponsible that they have not yet considered it.

            But even if they are consciously abstaining, that is not the same as opposing at all. When they actively oppose, they have a lot of resources to put into seeking defeat. Ask Voter Owned Elections.

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            Again, completely untrue. PBA endorsed the bond before the levy was even on the ballot, before it was even finalized what the levy would look like. They didn't consider them as a package. The fact that they haven't endorsed the levy is the result of the fact that they simply haven't gotten around to considering it yet.

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            Endorsing orgs either support, oppose, or take no position. No position is not the same as opposing.

            Generally speaking, most orgs have a policy requiring a supermajority vote to take a support or oppose position.

            No position means either that opinion is split, they haven't considered it, or they've actively decided to take no position.

            Regardless, no position is no position, not an oppose position.

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              So, if I see someone drowning in a river, and I stand on the shore and watch, that is somehow better then if I pushed that person in?

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    No doubt, Greg, there is more than one problem at PPS. As there is in all organizations and businesses. To let one get substantially worse while you wait for the others to be solved is an odd approach. If your parking lots need repaving, your employees are stealing from you, and a competitor is innovating across the street (adding electric car chargers, say), should you only work to stop the stealing and repave when you have caught up (or surpassed) your neighbor, or maybe repave but let the stealing go on? I doubt it.

    More to the point, PPS has crafted a long-range plan to maintain and upgrade our buildings. If they hadn't, then you could be critical. And I'm sure you could agree that if they did nothing, and the buildings burned or crumbled or just became every-so-slightly less safe every day, we'd criticize that, too. It's human nature.

    I, for one, am glad PPS is stepping up to the plate NOW, which is honestly long overdue, to protect our investment. Yes, there are other changes to be made. For sure. But to put this off until we fix the others? I don't have that kinda time, Greg, nor do my children. And nor, frankly, does Portland.

    I'll be voting an enthusiastic YES on both measures. And as a realistic human being, I won't be expecting perfection. As they say, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Especially when it comes to tax increases.

    And please, try and understand the whole shoe-kid thing: our PPS elem school handles 505 very different "shoes," no two of which could even be molded on the same machine. And, go figure, the kids just show up all year, brand new in February, some of them, speaking no English. Schools aren't businesses, Greg, and thank goodness. They are living, breathing, inspiring, caring, teaching places that welcome all who walk in their doors. However hard it is to make a salable shoe out of them. Glad to know that my YES votes will cancel out your no's.

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    My husband said it best in a David Sarasohn column,June 15, 2008 column, "Oregon invests in fixing potholes, not in changing paradigms. If you think about it, Oregon is West Virginia with a beach. It's a pretty scary future we have."

    Sorasohn wrote in his book FAILING GRADE, ""When a young Oregonian becomes a nurse or a welder, or goes on to university instead setting on a career in fast food, the state will be taking higher income-tax revenues from him or her for the next four generations. The idea is something like urban renewal, except that instead of investing in a piece of geography to produce future tax returns,they would invest in education."

    "We don't do big any more. We're too busy admiring the pictures of us with Tom McCall to remember the last time we tried to do something big to change the nature of the state."

    We need better education in Oregon at every level. Democrats and Republicans should be competing with each other to better support Oregon's future generations.

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    The thing that peeves me the most is how many people don't have perspective on WHY we need to pass bonds like these: because PPS/the city/state can't save money to make regular repairs(due to the whole 90s measure 5 thing). Maybe the bond/levy is an inefficient way to spend money (which is arguable), but the repairs have to happen somehow, and until we amend measure 5 to allow certain public sectors to save money, we'll never be able to effectively prepare for the unexpected,and in this case - the inevitable.

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      Absolutely! And, if we wait on these repairs, the costs of materials/labor/gas are only going to go up.

      Want to save money on essential repairs? Vote YES, NOW, on the bond!

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    Additionally - innovation and renovation can exist side by side, and Greg can push for innovation while understanding the need for renovation: Greg voting "no" to repair the schools because he want's them to innovate is like a man cutting off an ear to spite his face.

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    Goodman fails to note that while PPS is not part of the CLASS initiative, we are making significant strides in the right direction, including:

    The PPS-PAT contract settled in March puts a new teacher evaluation system in place this fall. A collaborative district/union workgroup is developing the new evaluation rubric and will continue to work on refining it to include evidence of student growth as part of the evaluation. There is a very promising program in place at Roosevelt piloting this approach.

    Last year, a new "academic priority zone" was established to ensure mutual consent hiring at the highest-need schools.

    The hiring, mentoring, and performance management of teachers and principals are moving in the right direction under Supt. Carole Smith's leadership.

    PPS Board resolution 4419 describes in some detail our goals and directives to increase student achievement.

    Yes, PPS still has a long ways to go to increase the graduation rate and meet the needs of all kids, particularly our kids of color. We know that teacher quality (and the quality of principal leadership) is absolutely crucial and this will continue to be our central focus no matter what happens in the election. At the same time, we as a community cannot any longer delay investment in our school buildings. It does not make sense to subsidize capital needs out of scarce operating dollars.

    Rather than compare our kids to shoes and pretend that crumbling classrooms have nothing to do with the quality of teaching and learning, it would be great if local business executives (including newspaper publishers) would acknowledge that our public schools are a precious community asset that we must invest in if we wish to have a strong economy, let alone a thriving society and healthy, successful children.

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      Ruth: Using the PPS-PAT contract is not a great example since it was rushed and negotiated with no public access. Then again, PAT gave $100k to the campaign so all is good there and no coincidence in those two events, right?

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        Jeff, contract negotiations are not a public process. The public elected board members to do this work on their behalf. This compromise settlement avoids prolonged and divisive contract negotiations and puts in place a new teacher evaluation system starting this fall.

        Why would teachers not want to support the bond and levy, and what is the problem with them doing so?

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          Actually there are teachers who are very dismayed with PPS and PAT about the heavy focus on the Bond and not nearly enough on the Levy.

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    I’m with Greg, and campaigning “No” on both school levies (here). Greg is right: we are not getting the innovations and changes we need in our educational system. We are not, IMHO, going to get needed changes so long as we enable the status quo by funding it. Why defend a second-rate, outdated educational system. More money will not change it. It will remain second-rate, and outdated. Our next generations need much better to survive. As the saying goes “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” I think defenders and enablers of the status-quo are part of the problem. Change the educational system first.

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      A lot of empty hyperbole there David.

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        If what I write stikes you as "empty hyperbole" so be it. We see the world differently. Perhaps, you see the existing educational model as ok, lacking only more funding. With changing technology and the rise of China (and others), I think our next generations need different skills to survive and we can use different technologies to teach. And that the existing educational system is very resistant to such changes.

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          I agree we need to change the way we manage our educators and change the methods we use to educate our children. But innovation, safety, and security need not exist separately from each-other.

          If you had a child in these schools, and you saw the amount of asbestos in these walls/tiles/etc. you would agree.

          Start working on the bill to help teachers learn new education methods, streamline administration, etc. Don't shoot down another useful one just because you want something separate to happen.

          Cutting off the nose to spite the face gets one nowhere per my statement above.

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        My point, and I understand you may not agree, is that buying roof tiles does not get me Mandarin classes. And I'm not for investing in schools that do not have more Mandarin programs. We are not preparing enough students for what's happening in the world.

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          Again, you miss the point entirely. It is UNSAFE to teach kids Mandarin (or anything else) when the roof is falling on their heads.

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            And Mitchell is not pushing the hyperbole. Just walk into any school and you'll see holes in the ceiling, mismatched tiles, and a host of other issues NO ONE would put up with in their house. NO ONE.

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              It might help you understand my position if I explain the following: I see the rise of China to be as threatening to the lives of today's students as the holes in the roof you see. As I wrote to Democrats in the Oregon Senate in 2007 (here): "Expanding Mandarin programs is the most significant action for peace this legislature could take." It still is. It is not a new issue for me.

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                You still don't get it do you?

                You have to have SAFE BUILDINGS to teach anything (including mandarin language programs).

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            I can agree that the roofs are unsafe (I've not seen them) and still oppose paying more for roof tiles. The district can use existing funds to fix serious safety problems. If they want my vote for more money (and I'm trying to convince other to vote the same), then they need to do some of the things I think seriously important and not just what others (who I label "enabler of the status-quo) think seriously important.

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              Would you please locate specifically where in the PPS budget there are funds to provide earthquake retrofitting and repair roofs so my children are at risk of dying when they go to school? Where are the funds? Specifically, please?

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              David, you state that "the district can use existing funds to fix serious safety problems" - in theory yes, but without a dedicated capital bond (as the surrounding districts have), we would need to cut significantly into operating dollars to do so. Central administration is already at 4% (with more cuts coming). Even if the levy passes, class sizes will be too high and we are making painful cuts. Using general operating dollars to rebuild Marysville, fix leaking roofs, replace ancient boilers, make seismic upgrades, etc. is not economically sustainable.

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                Ruth, last year I submitted proposals to the budget committee (whatever it is called) asking the district to expand the Mandarin and Japanese immersion programs, create a pilot high school study abroad program, and to offer online Mandarin to all PPS high school students. My priorities were not funded and I got no feedback. Consider this a protest vote about the existing PPS budget priorities. You do have choices.

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                  So, my kids, along with hundreds and hundreds of others, should go to school to get rained on and perhaps get hit by ceiling tiles 'cause one guy is mad. Makes perfect sense.

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                  Dave's plan makes sense to me. The school board will have little choice but to send the surviving students to China after all of our schools have crumbled to the ground here.

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                  Dave,

                  How do you say "watch me cut off my nose to spite my face" in Chinese?

                  If the building aren't repaired, they will collapse. If they collapse the school district will have no money EVER for what you or anyone wants because it will all go to paying wrongful and negligent death lawsuits.

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              So kick the can down the road again and/or take money out of the operational budget to make the needed upgrades.

              Your "thinking" on this matter has been what the status quo has been for decades now, and is exactly what has caused this mess.

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          David - I didn't start this thread to argue about the bond measure per se - but I really can't understand how you put together your desire to have Mandarin taught in the schools with support for a reform agenda that has emphasized as its primary strategy high stakes testing exclusively in math and reading. If anything, it seems to me that has only further marginalized social science, history, foreign language and other curricula.

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            Dan, while I primarily want more Mandarin and a high school study abroad program (I consider myself a peace not an educational activist), I am sympathetic to giving school board more control over teachers. I think such reforms are needed for equity (more and better resources to under-performing schools) and general quality (evaluations, tenure, merit pay). That does not mean I support as a "primary strategy high stakes testing exclusively in math and science." I don't.

            But, as I've said on my blog here, I would be voting for the levies if PPS had expanded the Mandarin immersion program and created a high school study abroad program.

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            As an official crank, I've replied a bit in responding to the Oregonian op-ed by three PPS board members (here). I am, in part, dedicating my "No" votes to you and anyone who liked this comment of yours. I say:

            "So, I’m voting “No” on both levies and dedicating those “No” votes to neighborhood school activists opposed to expanding the Mandarin immersion programs, to the teachers unions opposed to sending high school student to study abroad and to their status-quo supporters and enablers on the PPS Board and in the community."

            As for being "allies," I am a Democrat. I know we agree on many other issues.

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          Buying Mandarin classes doesn't get you new roof tiles, either.

          Perhaps we can agree that both are important.

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    Its time we take another look at the way we teach! The following is an 11 minute video that is well worth watching! Cheers, Dan

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

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    There is a way in which one can appreciate Goodman's point of view. What is the origin of this approach? Well, in the nineteenth century an economist named Taylor did a time and motion study of textile workers in North Carolina in an attempt to increase productivity. That is to say profits. So how does treating people like inanimate cogs in a machine apply here? Painfully obvious isn't it.

    The way that Goodman's point of view is consistant with other political philosophy is that it represents a repeal of the twentieth century and a return to the Golden Age lusted after by the Owning Class. Workers be damned. Sick leave? Retirement? Vacations? Forget it. So why is this so popular with a few when there are so many more of us?

    I agree that if Eric Holder is not going to begin prosecution of the robber barons at Goldman-Sachs he should resign. Obama needs to man up.

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      Actually increasing productivity isn't inherently increasing profits. It all depends on how the fruits of productivity are distributed. When, as in the U.S. in the past 30-40 years productivity grows dramatically while wages remain flat or decline except for top & upper middle management, rising productivity = rising rate of exploitation.

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        In the end, higher productivity from workers leads to less workers needed, which leads to less living wage jobs which ultimately leads to customer spending.

        This is the ugly reality that most in the business community want to face.

        Expectations of ever increasing aggregate year-over-year profit margins are simply unsustainable in the long run.

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    I heard a report on the local news this morning that Intel is making noise about moving out of the area because of a lack of sufficient technical people in the local area. Where do those people come from? The education system.

    This is what happens when you treat schools as shoe factories.

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      Chris: Intel is not moving out of the area, especially after they announced just a few months ago that they are going to invest billions in new plants http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2010/10/intel_confirms_itll_invest_bil.html This is what you heard http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/2011/04/intel-looks-outside-oregon-for-workers.html

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    Dan, it is worth mentioning that Diane Ravitch's current views come after 15-20 years on the other side of the "reform" debates and seeing that what she had been advocating didn't work.

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    FYI, the op-ed this article links to in the Oregonian last month was not penned by Diane Ravitch, but rather by Robert Folmer, who is an associate professor of medicine at OHSU.

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