District Dossier

Portland Teachers Petition District

Move to common curriculum seen as usurping roles.

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Hundreds of teachers in Portland, Ore., have signed a petition opposing the school district’s work to forge a common curriculum in core subjects.

Presented to the seven-member board of education at its Dec. 11 meeting, the petition was signed by 250 of the district’s 2,200 teachers.

It says they “oppose mandated, one-size-fits-all common course sequences” in English and social studies, and want to continue a long-standing practice of having teachers themselves design curricula.

Pamela Hall, a Lincoln High School social studies teacher who organized the petition, said teachers have worked for years, at each school and in districtwide groups, to design curricula, and now feel as if that valuable work is being disregarded.

“They really should consider the work we’ve done,” she said. “Instead, they just impose stuff from the outside.”

The petition marks the most recent round of opposition to Superintendent Vicki Phillips’ effort to institute a more uniform curriculum in the 44,000-student district.

Last spring, some teachers objected when Ms. Phillips introduced three yearly interdisciplinary “anchor” assignments for students in grades 6-12. The district also has adopted new course sequences in high school mathematics and science.

It is now discussing which textbooks and other materials to use in English, social studies, and science.

Portland is one of a growing number of districts taking steps to centralize their curricula. ("Getting Down to the Core," Nov. 29, 2006.)

District spokeswoman Brenda Gustafson said Ms. Phillips is “seeking equity” by trying to ensure that high-level coursework is taught at each school. Adopting common materials will not mean teachers must teach in lock step, she said.

“We’re saying, ‘Here are some basics.’ You can be creative and use best practices from that.’ ”

In choosing new instructional materials, teachers’ views will be well represented because they serve on the committees considering the various choices, she said.

But Ms. Hall said teachers’ views are not being seriously considered: “We just go to meetings. We share our views. And they just do what they were going to do anyway.”

Vol. 26, Issue 16, Page 5

Published in Print: December 20, 2006, as Portland Teachers Petition District
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