Monday, December 31, 2012

Positive results from a comprehensive reform of Portland’s high school system

This report provides an update on the implementation of Portland Public Schools’ High School System Design (HSSD), a comprehensive reform of Portland’s high school system that was approved by the Portland School Board beginning in the fall of 2010, following an extensive two year public input process. HSSD changes were formally launched at the start the 2011-12 school year and will take full effect by the end of the 2014-15 school year. (High schools had already begun implementing a core program as early as 2010-11, and making other changes even earlier.)

The high school reforms instituted in 2010 were challenging, controversial and necessary steps.

- For the first time in nearly 30 years a high school campus was closed

- High school boundaries, and transfer policies were changed

- Programs were overhauled at every high school.

Theses changes were made because the high school system was failing to serve too many students. Intolerable inequities across our high school system were a major cause of unacceptably poor results: in 2008-°09, PPS had a 53 percent on-time graduation rate and a 30 percent achievement gap in graduation rates (between white and Hispanic students). The status quo was unacceptable.

HSSD is on track to meet the major goals and most measures established in 2010:
• The 4-year graduation rate has increased 9 percentage points since 2008-09. At this rate, PPS high schools are projected to exceed HSSD’s 2014-15 target to improve the on-time graduation rate by 10 percentage points.
• The achievement (or educational opportunity) gap is narrowing. Graduation rates for students of all races and ethnicities have increased and the largest gap in graduation rates has narrowed from 30 percentage points to 19 percentage points between white and Hispanic students. (The largest gap is now 23 points between white and Native American students.)
• The most under-°enrolled schools are attracting more students.
• All comprehensive high schools are on track in offering the core program and there are gains in the percentage of students who are college ready.
• A growing percentage of students who live in the Portland district are attending Portland public high schools.

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