My complaint to Supt. Phillips concerning the PPS High School Mathematics Adoption Process
December 8, 2005
Superintendent Vicki Phillips
Portland Public Schools
501 North Dixon Street
Portland, Oregon · 97227-1804
Dear Superintendent Phillips:
I am a resident of the Portland Public School District and I am writing to complain of the procedure that resulted in the decision of the Board of Directors of the District to adopt a new High School Mathematics curriculum.
The two issues that concern me are:
(1) I testified to the Board during the adoption process on Monday night (December 5 th.) that there had not been an adequate opportunity for parent and community involvement and requested a delay in the adoption decision to allow time for such input before the decision was reached. The Board and the mathematics committee members who attended acknowledged the problem but voted to go ahead with immediate adoption anyway.
(2) The Board asked its General Counsel, Jollee Patterson, whether the minimum requirements of the law had been met. Ms. Patterson responded that the process had been lawful.
Oregon Administrative Rule 581-022-1640 states that:
"For each program and course in grades K12, each school district, on a cycle established by the State Board of Education, shall select and provide students with free appropriate instructional and resource materials. The school district process for selecting and adopting instructional materials shall include opportunities for citizen and parent involvement.…"
I read this law to the board that evening, and another speaker quoted the corresponding ORS [ORS 337.120].
There are few policy issues of greater concern to parents and community members than the curriculum being presented to our children every day in every classroom. Ms. Patterson’s advice and the Board’s decision may set a precedent for PPS and for other Oregon School Districts that Districts can postpone consulting with parents and community members about an adoption decision until after the decision has already been made. This certainly does not respect the spirit of the law and I do not feel it respects the letter of the law. The OAR speaks of the “process for selecting…. instructional materials.” Information provided after the fact does not permit parents and community members to be involved in the selection of the materials.
According to the testimony of Mr. Andy Clark, the Teacher on Special Assignment who presented the adoption information to the Board, the committee in charge of evaluating the adoption consisted entirely of teachers and administrators with no parent or community involvement. This committee met regularly for a year or longer. As far as I have been able to determine, there were no public meetings for parent or community input until after the decision to adopt these particular materials had already been reached.
No information concerning this adoption committee was posted to the PPS website even though this website has an entire mathematics area including a section for “family resources.” There were no entries on the PPS High School mathematics “professional development and events” calendar http://22.214.171.124/teachers.pps.k12.or.us/math/hsmath/hsmath_rss_calendar.html
nor on the High School mathematics “announcements” pages http://126.96.36.199/.docs/pg/887 nor under the “District Initiatives” section of the main PPS homepage—all places where one might expect to find this information.
A poorly-advertised community forum was held just three business days before the board vote, but it was for the purpose of presenting the decision of the committee after the fact to parents and community members.[i] The announcement of this forum makes it clear that parents and community members are being allowed to learn more about a decision that has already been made. No information about the adoption committee was provided to the group Community and Parents for Public Schools, an obvious way to include community members. (I forwarded the forum announcement to CPPS myself).
After the Board received complaints about the lack of opportunities for parent and community participation, members of the Board acknowledged the problem by apologizing to those who had pointed it out. The Board also rewrote its the adoption resolution to reflect the lack of public participation and Board members promised that they would improve the adoption process for the future.[ii]
However, this is not the first time such promises have been made and broken. In 1999, Portland Public Schools adopted elementary and middle school materials. At that time, I raised serious questions about the legality of the adoption process. In a large and stormy public forum that was very well-reported by the Oregonian, I commented that
“A committee of teachers recommended the adoption without any opportunity for parent or community input. This is in accord with the district's written policies and procedures, but not in accord with state law. OAR 581-022-1640 states that "The school district process for selecting and adopting instructional material shall include opportunities for citizen and parent involvement." The Superintendent has already informed us that he intends to recommend the adoption of this book to the School Board on Monday--before parents/community members had any opportunity to review the material or to comment on it the decision has been made.”
Those comments are still available to the public on the Internet.
Last night, some Board members stated that they had not been around in 1999 to hear about the law. However, Mr. Clark, a convener of the current committee, was also chair of the adoption committee in 1999. Following my testimony at that meeting, Lew Frederick, who was in the PPS Department of Public Relations, requested a copy and forwarded it to Mr. Clark.[iii] Mr. Clark apologized for his mistake in failing to involve parents and community members in 1999 and promised it wouldn’t happen again. I relied on his promises in deciding not to file a complaint with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction at that time.
The District should rescind its adoption resolution. If this does not happen, I intend to pursue my complaint to the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction under OAR 581-022-1940 in the hope that the laws and rules concerning public participation in adoption decisions will be clarified. In addition, the District should draft, and the School District Board of Directors should adopt, an adoption procedure that honors the spirit, as well as the letter of the law.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Thank you for your time,
[i] Text of the notice for the November 30th. public meeting [my emphasis]:
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2005 11:22:38 -0800
Subject: HS Math Textbook Adoption - Community Meeting - Nov 30
Portland Public Schools
Professional Development Academy
6433 NE Tillamook, Portland, OR 97213
Ph: 503 916-5404 Fax: 503 916-2795
Parent Information Meeting
Please attend the parent information meeting regarding the new high
school math adoption recommendations.
At this meeting parents and community members will have the opportunity
to view copies of the materials recommended for Algebra, Geometry, and
The presentation will include the rationale of the recommendation and a
description of the materials.
We value your input on what you need in order to best support your
children as we design a math program that encourages all students to
participate in higher levels of math.
Date: Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Place: BESC Boardroom - 501 N. Dixon
Time: 6:30 - 8:00 pm
For more information contact:
Margaret Calvert or Andy Clark
503/916-5404 ext 1038 503/916-5404 ext 1037
[ii] The first clause of the resolution for High School Mathematics Curriculum Adoption 3386 which had read “WHEREAS, Teachers and administrators, with feedback from the community and parents, have reviewed and recommended the mathematics programs listed below” was altered to omit the clause “with feedback from the community and parents.” The board adopted this latter version.
[iii] Excerpt from an e-mail from Andy Clark, Friday, April 23, 1999:
Lew Frederick forwarded to me a copy of your comments from last night. I appreciate the time you took in reviewing the material, though I don’t share your views on the material. I think many of the concerns you raise [about the material] require addressing however, and plan to do so ….”
and my second try.....
Dear Dr. Noor:
Thank you for your letter confirming that my complaint concerning a violation of Oregon Administrative Rule 581-022-1640 relating to the adoption of instructional materials by school districts will be investigated. However, I feel the nature of my original complaint has been misconstrued. The Rule requires that parents and community members be involved in the "SELECTION and adoption" of instructional materials.
Your letter states that "If indeed the opportunity to [view the proposed curriculum after it was chosen] was given before the Portland School Board officially adopted the materials, the district has met the requirements of the law. However, if the opportunity to view the materials was after the board adopted the materials, the district might not have met the requirements of the law."
I agree that parents and community members had an opportunity, though a very perfunctory one, to object to the ADOPTION of the materials before the School Board actually voted, although I do not feel that the nature of the opportunity really addressed the spirit of the law. It was evident to all who participated that the decision had already been made before the Board met and that opportunities to object at the Board meeting were mere window-dressing.
However, I do not agree that parents and community members had an opportunity to participate in the SELECTION of those materials.
SELECTION means choosing a single item from among several. It does not mean accepting a "take it or leave it" proposition when just a single item is offered. You cannot SELECT something when there is only one of them. You either accept it or reject it.
IN this case, the committee charged with the SELECTION of the mathematics materials reached its decision without any opportunity for parent and community input. The committee considered several possible textbooks and voted to recommend only one set before giving public notice. It presented only a single option to the community after the actual selection process had taken place within the committee. That single choice was then proposed to the School Board, and was displayed only at a poorly advertised and attended forum three business days before the School Board voted.
Parents and community members did not have an opportunity to participate in the SELECTION process which is really the most important part of the adoption process. This is evidenced both by the announcement of the public forum which make it clear that a single set of books had already been chosen and was being "recommended" by the committee and also by the alteration of the Board's adoption resolution to reflect the lack of community and parent participation in the selection process.
If the intent of the OAR was merely to permit families and community members to object to an adoption decision after it had been made, the Rule would not state that they have a right to participate in the SELECTION AND adoption process. This right was not extended in this case.
Thank you very much,
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