Save the Oregon Historical Society’s Research Library

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Today a fly fishing friend of mine who volunteered at the OHS museum and research library from 1979 to 2000 clued me in that the research library may be shut down for lack of funding. That would be a disaster.

Please visit the petition site to weigh in on the matter, and then let everyone you know about the opportunity to keep Oregon history available.

This resource must remain accessible to keep Oregon history alive. One of the first steps to obliterating a culture or a people is to cut them off from their history. We can’t have that happening in Oregon. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Anyone else have any ideas on how to get the word around? Please comment here and I’ll do my share to spread the word.

As of tonight, only 20 people had signed the online petition. Surely more of us must care.

Board Takes Official Position on Four Measures of Significance to Oregon Education

Oregon is the state of initiatives. I think Iowa was the first state to use popular influence to get measures on the ballot, but the initiative phenomenon became known long ago as The Oregon System.

To our embarrassment, The Oregon System has become a source of riches for Bill Sizemore, a convicted felon (thanks in large part to the Oregon Education Association) who has made a business of pimping initiatives and gathering signatures for whomever is willing to pay him. Sizemore was recently in the news for siphoning funds for personal use from a foundation he controls.

The three initiatives we oppose are Sizemore’s. Some of them, people here believe, are attempted revenge against teachers who belong to the union (OEA) that helped nail his pitiful butt to the judicial wall.

It’s not often that I can speak for the entire Board, but this is one of those times, because we voted this way in an official meeting that was attached to our work session on Tuesday, October 14, 2008.

Of the many measures that will appear on the November ballot (Oregon), four, in the opinion of the Hillsboro School District’s Board of Directors, merit not only our attention, but our active participation to defeat three of them, and pass the fourth.

The initiative we support is Measure 56, which calls for the restoration of the simple majority voting requirement.

The three we oppose are Measures 58 (prohibition of teaching public school students in language other than English for more than 1-2 years); 59 (proposing full federal income tax deductibility from Oregon tax liability); and 60 (creating a state-wide teacher merit pay mandate).

Here are our resolutions in measure numerical order:

Measure 56:

WHEREAS, the 2007 Oregon Legislature adopted HJR 15, which refers a constitutional amendment proposal to Oregon voters at the November 4, 2008 General Election that would modify a portion of the double-majority requirement, restoring simple majority voting; and

WHEREAS, under the so-called ‘double-majority’ requirement, to get voter approval of a finance measure, 50 percent of all registered voters must vote, along with “50 percent plus one vote”, with the exception of General Elections in even-numbered years; and

WHEREAS, this requirement places more election power in the hands of citizens who do not vote, rather than those who have decided to exercise this right; and

WHEREAS, the so-called ‘double-majority’ requirement has resulted in many jurisdictions crowding the even-numbered General Election ballots with many competing taxing interests; and

WHEREAS, the so-called ‘double majority’ requirement has resulted in the failure of several finance measures, despite the measures receiving a majority “yes” vote; and

WHEREAS, the 2007 Legislature created a very workable compromise, restoring the simple majority voting requirement for local bond and levy measures on all November and May ballots;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors support the Oregon Legislature’s passage of HJR 15 to restore the simple majority voting requirement to all May and November elections.

Measure 58:

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 58 and its resulting ballot measure would establish a statewide policy that English is the “language of opportunity” and mandate that non-English speaking students shall be immersed in English so they can be mainstreamed as quickly as possible; and

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 58 proposes to place non-English speaking students in English immersion classes for state-specified, limited time periods based on grade level (a maximum of 1 year for K-4 students; 1.5 years for grades 5-8; and 2 years for grades 9-12); and

WHEREAS, current, district-specified courses being taught to assist non-English speaking students who are unable to benefit from classes taught in English would effectively be eliminated,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District Board of Directors strongly opposes Ballot Measure 58 because it severely reduces our authority and ability to meet the unique needs of our students w2ho must learn English – while also learning academic skills.

Measure 59:

WHEREAS, K-12 public education receives the majority of its funding through a direct appropriation from the state legislature in the form of the State School Fund, generally comprising over 40% of the total state general fund; and

WHEREAS, the state relies on personal income taxes for almost 90% of all state revenues, making public services, including public education, highly sensitive to any changes in personal income tax collections; and

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 59 proposes to increase the amount of federal income taxes paid that can be deducted from an individual taxpayer’s Oregon taxable income from a limit of about $5,500 to the entire amount of federal taxes paid; and

WHEREAS, the changes proposed in Ballot Measure 59 are estimated by the Legislative Revenue Office to result in a $1.244 billion loss of state revenue in the 2009-11 biennium and a $2.268 billion reduction in the 2011-13 biennium; and

WHEREAS, such a dramatic reduction and instability in state revenues would likely result in a direct reduction in revenues for public education.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors strongly opposes the passage of Ballot Measure 59 and its efforts to destabilize and dramatically reduce revenues available for public services.

Measure 60:

WHEREAS, Measure 60 would impose a statewide mandate requiring all school districts to institute a new teacher compensation program without regard to the existing local collective bargaining process; and

WHEREAS, the measure lacks realistic and comprehensible definitions and clarifications that would enable local boards to thoroughly understand and effectively implement such a statewide mandate; and

WHEREAS, the measure would likely result in discouraging collaboration among teams of teachers in schools and instead foster competition for highest test scores; and

WHEREAS, said competition for high test scores would reduce the quality of Hillsboro’s education offerings because an emphasis on testing and testing rehearsal leaves less time for higher level curriculum exploration, and

WHEREAS, the official state fiscal impact committee has estimated that Measure 60 would require additional spending of between $30 million and $72 million statewide in the first year and between $30 million and $60 million statewide in subsequent years without raising additional revenues to compensate local districts.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors opposes the passage of Ballot Measure 60 and its effort to implement an unfunded statewide mandate overhauling the existing local teacher compensation system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors urges voters to oppose Ballot Measure 60, and that the Board of Directors will work to educate local voters about the negative impact this measure will have on the local control of public schools, employee relations with teachers, funding for the classroom, and, most importantly, the opportunity for students in the Hillsboro school district to enjoy the benefits of a world-class education.

If you got this far reading, let me know, cuz you deserve a high-five!

And think about it. Maybe pray for us here in Oregon. Not only do we have to cope with NCLB, but we have to deal with crooks like Sizemore and the dipsticks he represents! 😦

A Few Problemas With Exit Exams

I don’t let myself get quite worked up enough to need one of these remedies, but I put it up as a courtesy for those who do.

Here, in rough outline form, are a few of my “concerns” about exit exams and their effects on students, teachers, taxpayers, and the education system itself. You may have to wait awhile for the essay with footnotes…

Students

1. Students have differential maturity rates. Fair is not always equal. Schools can assess more effectively, with more and better tools, than can the state with its “one-size fits all” paper & pencil test.

2. As evidenced in other states that have exit exams, drop out rates increase significantly. This results in a huge economic loss for students, and loss of productivity in general for the economy.

3. The added level of bureaucracy leaves less money for the classrooms of Oregon, and the reduction of the student:teacher ratios that are now so high.

4. If kept in school for an additional year, many students will loose out on $20-25K by spending another year in school rather than working.

5. An analysis of California’s situation indicates that algebra is a “trip wire” for predicting failure in high school. I think it’s nice to understand algebra so you can relearn it later if you go into a building trade (construction, for example) where it’s used all the time. But unless the job requires internalization of principles and formulas of algebra, you will lose it if you don’t use it. I’m a retired social studies teacher and I’m sure I couldn’t pass an algebra II test. Outside of using some basic formulas for fence building at two homes, I haven’t given it a thought in 40 years.

Teachers

1. Teachers will be oriented toward pushing students to pass the pencil & paper state test and spending less time on equally valid, but different assessments that may be more appropriate for some students.

2. Teachers and local district administrators should be insulted that the state doesn’t trust them to educate, assess, and evaluate their students for credit. (That honks my horn, for sure.)

3. State tests will contribute to the frustration and anxiety level of teachers amping up the current exodus of new teachers from the profession (how many last more than five years, these days? I’m thinking 50%, if we’re lucky).

Taxpayers

1. The taxpayer gets to foot the bill for the new layer of accountability bureaucracy that will be required to design and administer the exit exams on an ongoing basis. Wonder how much money New York has wasted on those Regents exams all these years?

2. Additional services at the local level, and keeping seniors an additional year, will cost the taxpayer more big bucks.

System

1. We allow education to be driven by big business and chambers of commerce. We permit Oregon’s schools to become worker preparation camps instead of fulfilling our mission of preparing students to learn independently, understand world issues like culture and race, and live the life of their choice in a democratic country.

Businesses that complain about hiring illiterates have lousy hiring practices! And businesses should train their employees for the particular jobs offered. (I actually know business people who agree with me and are offended by other business people who presume to run education.)

2. We pile layer upon layer of accountability on local systems that are not yet whole in terms of instructional effectiveness. Can you get record racetrack runs with an untuned race car?

For example, in our standards-oriented state we still have a hundreds, if not thousands, of different grading systems in effect in our classrooms. Many of these grading systems are punitive, and the results of this punishment are distorted grades, frequent failure, less learning, and a loss of self-efficacy for students that often leads to dropping out. Those grading systems do not accurately indicate what students have learned.

Let’s get the instructional, including grading, part right first, eh? Then stand back and watch achievement soar.

3. Accountability of local districts to the state should be taken care of with the accreditation process. Anything more, like exit exams (and No Child Left Behind) is a flat waste of money. Leave it to the districts, folks, and quit hovering.

Oregon Approves Exit Exams for Seniors

Actually, I’m not a moody person, but yesterday I got the news that Oregon joined the parade of states with intellectually deprived educational leadership (i.e., politicians at the helm) that will require some form of exit exam for students to qualify for a high school diploma.

That is so wrong for so many students, for so many reasons, that I’m going to have to vent now and put forth my arguments to the contrary a little later.

Stay with me. It’s late. I’m tired. I’m [disappointed], and I’m bewildered that people in high places can be so stupid.

As an undergraduate sociology major, I used to be amused that statistics would so often validate common sense. But today I’m appalled that common sense cannot always be found in education statistics.