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Our Challenge and Opportunity

High school classroom

We know that despite unstable funding, Portland’s high schools are doing a decent job. In fact, Portland outperforms the state in both writing and math. Our community is highly invested in the success of our high schools and our teachers are highly educated and experienced. But things should be a lot better.

Too many students don’t show up for class regularly and too many drop out. High achievers aren’t challenged as much as they could be. Poor students don’t learn as much as wealthier ones; students of color don’t do as well as white students.

Things have to change. Because if you don’t go to college or acquire specialized skills, you’re likely to wind up in an unskilled job that just doesn’t pay enough to live on.

We need high schools that inspire and challenge all students. We must give every student what they need to prepare for the next step – because the job of high school is preparing students, not just for college or work, but to be responsible, involved citizens. We have to get this job done with the resources we have. And it starts now.

Superintendent endorses high school model 6/24/2009

Superintendent Carole Smith has endorsed the recommendation of the PPS High School System Design Team to move toward a model that includes three types of schools: community high schools based in neighborhoods, with comprehensive and consistent programs; magnet schools open to all students exploring different educational approaches or interest areas; and alternative and charter school options districtwide. The goals of the effort, which has involved more than 4,000 students, parents, school employees and community members are: to increase the graduation rate, make sure all students are inspired and engaged in their schoolwork, to reduce the achievement gap and make sure all high school programs are in high demand.

Big Ideas for better high schools

Rather than pursue campus-by-campus reforms, Portland Public Schools has undertaken a large-scale effort to examine and improve the high school system as a whole.

Throughout the effort, principals, teachers, students, families and the community at large will help develop models for a more effective high school system for Portland’s future. Those models will include: types of schools PPS should offer, the distribution of our high school programs across the district, and how students should be assigned or enrolled in those programs.

Read our full report on The big ideas behind Big Ideas.

For more in-depth information about Big Ideas and High School Redesign, read the latest issue of Extra Credit.

Missed the 3 Big Ideas meetings?

Read summaries of the meetings. The first covers the April 20 meeting at Wilson, attended by parent and school-related organization members. The second covers the April 29 and May 2 meetings at Franklin and Madison respectively, which drew broader audiences. Meeting planning, materials and facilitation were supported by a Gates Foundation grant.

Big Ideas Video Summaries
At our public high school redesign meetings, we are showing four videos. The first is an overview of where our high schools are now and what improvements are needed. The remaining short videos describe possible scenarios of high school redesigns that are being discussed. Open Video Gallery.


Join the conversation on the new high school model

Share your opinions on the 3 Big Ideas. Please watch the video summaries or read the background materials below as you complete our survey. Be sure to open the survey link in a separate tab in your browser. (If you close the survey without completing and submitting it, your answers will be lost.)

Access materials on High School System Design below:

Community-Stakeholder Engagement Findings Report
From April 20 to May 16th, Pyramid and PPS held a series of large, public community meetings and smaller stakeholder engagement sessions. Read the findings from these meetings.

Big Ideas Overview and Feedback
An overview of the Big Ideas for high school redesign and the feedback we have received to date that has helped inform the development of these ideas. To download a PDF document of the presentation, click here.

High School Redesign Information
Portland Public Schools wants to know what you think of three “Big Ideas” that could shape our future high school system - and you can share your thoughts online or at meetings April 29 and May 2. For a PDF of the Redesign brochure, please click here.
En Español, click here.

Board and Community Presentations
2/19/2009 : An outline of the challenges and opportunities facing Portland Public Schools.
1/12/2009: Proposals on Increasing student engagement, achievement and graduation.

High School Demographic Information
PPS has charted its analysis of High School enrollment trends for 2007-2008, including demographics of sub-groups (General Ed, ELL, Special Ed, Free and Reduced Lunch, etc...) To download a PDF document of the data, click here.

Community and Staff Survey
Provides an overview of a survey conducted to both the community and PPS staff To download a PDF of their findings, click here.

Superintendent's City Club Speech
September 5, 2008: Portland Public Schools Superintendant Carole Smith's spoke to members of the City Club of Portland. Much of her speech was devoted to outlining the High School System Design. To download a PDF transcript of her speech, click here.

Career Pathways and Career Technical Education Strategic Plan
Career Pathways and CTE Strategic Plan as developed by a task force consisting of 19 individuals, including business and post-secondary partners, a labor union leader, teachers, students, and senior leadership at PPS. To download a PDF of their findings, click here.