By William MacKenzie,
I posted a story recently that showed how much money Portland Public Schools is really spending per student.
When I sought clarification from Portland Public Schools, the District said its per pupil expenditure is actually closer to $11,000.
“If you include services like transportation, nutrition, SpEd, English as a Second Language Programs (ESL), other central office supports and operations, from a whole system perspective the budgeted per pupil expenditure number doubles and is closer to $22,000, including both GenFund and Special Revenue, but not bond dollars,” the District said.
But that’s not really the whole story, either.
In fact, considering all funds available to the District in the 2022-23 school year, totaling $1.9 billion, per student expenditures came out to $45,533.
That’s right, an astounding $45,533 per student for what can only be described as abysmal academic performance by the District’s students.
Where’s the anger?
Look at the situation with all that spending in the 2021-2022 school year:
- 3rd grade students who failed to meet state grade-level expectations in English Language Arts: 44%
- 8th grade students who failed to meet state grade-level expectations in mathematics: 62%
- Students failing to earn a high school diploma within 4 years: 16%
- Students with chronic absenteeism (in attendance less than 90% of school days): 33.5%
– African Americans chronically absent: 55%
-Hispanic Latino students chronically absent: 48.1%
-American Indian/Alaska Native students chronically absent: 68.8%
-White students chronically absent: 27.1%
-English learners chronically absent: 42.5%
-Grade 12 students chronically absent: 64.7%
And these numbers are for the Portland Public Schools System as a whole. Some individual schools did appreciably worse.
At Cesar Chavez K-8 School, for example, only 17% met state grade level expectations in English Language Arts and only 11% met state grade level expectations in mathematics and science. At Kellogg Middle School, 34% of students met grade level expectations in English Language Arts, 25% met state grade level expectations in mathematics and 18% met state grade level expectations in science.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card, provides additional information about student achievement and learning experiences in various subjects by state and 27 urban districts. Although the district-specific analyses do not separate out Portland Public Schools, the state reports are illuminating as a supplement to the data noted above.
NAEP is a congressionally mandated program that is overseen and administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences.
NCES reports results at the state level, most often in grades 4 and 8, in four subjects—mathematics, reading, science, and writing.
In 1922, NAES tested in mathematics, reading and writing. Oregon students performed poorly in all three areas:
- Just 28.61% of Oregon 4th graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in mathematics, lower than in 2019.
- Just 27.99% of Oregon 4th graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in reading, lower than in 2019.
- Just 22.31% of Oregon 4th graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in writing.
- Just 22.03% of Oregon 8th graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in mathematics, lower than in 2019.
- Just 27.79% of Oregon 8th graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in reading, lower than in 2019.
- Just 33.15% of Oregon 8th graders performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level in writing.
I raise all this not as an act of self-flagellation by a disenchanted Oregonian, but as a concerned citizen. Oregons political and business leaders say they want the state to be a magnet for investment, particularly in technology. With this kind of academic malfeasance, it’s not going to happen. More broadly, we cannot sustain American freedom and prosperity if the abysmal academic performance of our children, including low-income communities and communities of color, is not righted.
“…gaps between the highest and lowest scoring students, already growing before the pandemic, are widening into chasms,” warns the Brookings Institution, —. “At the pace of recovery we are seeing today, too many students of all races and income levels will graduate in the coming years without the skills and knowledge needed for college and careers.”
And Oregon and America will pay the price.