Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunday O: Beating the crap out of public schools edition

Today's Oregonian has the distinct odor of a periodical droolingly eager to trash the public school system.

First I noticed a headline blaring across the upper left column above the fold:

Middle class losing faith in schools, city, where the article opines a shaken public's faith in the Portland Public school system.

Another piece on page A3 (which doesn't appear to be online), shrieks the news that students in Oregon and Washington are making improvements in the state tests but still garner abyssmal numbers with federal testing. The piece concludes that therefore the state standards are much softer than the federal standards. Students in the Northwest (and around the nation ) are able to skate through on these piece-of-cake tests so the feds had better step in and force states to meat up the testing.

The columnists are weighing in on public schools today, too.

Susan Nielsen tries to polish the apple by cheering us all up with some Portland schools good news. But her column is stacked under a guest column by Whitney Otto, who essentially apologizes for the decision to send her kids to public schools. Unable to generate academic reasons for this choice, Otto tries to quantify the value of "diversity". Ugh.

And the there is a twin bill courtesy of columnists David Reinhard and David Sarasohn.

Sarasohn reports that Mayor Potter is concerned that people are going to be fleeing Portland in droves due to the underfunding and overcrowding in the schools. From Sarasohn's column, it appears that Potter's only alternative is to cobble together a patchwork of unreliable funding sources, since the folks in Salem don't seem to have the intestinal fortitude to fully fund Portland schools.

But the crown jewel in the school trashing crown goes to perennial trasher David Reinhard, who would also get my vote for asking the most stupid rhetorical questions:

W hy does Portland Public Schools spend more for less than other districts? Does the district have a spending problem rather than a funding problem?

Reinhard claims that he "asked these questions more than three years ago, when Portland was in another one of its school funding crises". I'm curious if he only asked them in the birdcage liner that substitutes for his column, or if he actually drug his ass to a funding meeting to get some answers. The piece today doesn't say. But the rhetorical questions get more inane as the column goes on. Its evident that Reinhard doesn't want to have the answers to the questions--he merely frames them and lays them out to further dump on the system. And on teachers--of course. Reinhard thinks they are paid too much. As if $60,000 for a job requiring a Master's Degree (and working 50+ hours a week) is some sort of get rich quick scheme.

Except for Neilsen's column, this tale of woe from the Oregonian is a pretty sad bit of work. Completely absent from the paper is recent research demonstrating that public school students vastly outperform private school students on math tests, for example.

I've been considering cancelling my subscription to the Oregonian. This shoddy effort by the state's paper of record is making that decision a whole lot easier.