My Letter to Andrea Morgan, Interim TAG specialist, Oregon Department of Education concerning Portland's compliance with the Oregon TAG mandate,  October 11, 2009

Dear Andrea:

As the Department is considering its options with respect to the Portland compliance process by October 15, we would like to draw your attention to documents prepared by the Portland Public Schools staff in preparation for a High School redesign process.

These include the
presentation made to the Portland School Board on Monday, and the staff analysis of high school programs, inequities and how they might be addressed.

[If these links don't come through, go to
scroll down to the bottom of the page and they are the first two links on the list: "Board Presentation" and "High School Design Program Analysis"]

These documents make it clear that Portland is not even close to providing "Access for all TAG students to accelerated programs including programs that may not be available in a student's own school" as required by the compliance plan. Furthermore, it is not evident that the High School redesign will address this problem as it may place additional limits on student transfers. Any improvements resulting from the High School redesign are at least one to two years away if they happen at all. Nor do these plans address similar inequities for students below the level of High Schools.

It is also our view that dismembering of the central TAG office and sending the TAG Teachers on Special Assignment out to regional offices has resulted in a loss of information and access to services for families. Many outside organizations that used to offer services through the central TAG office now have to call every region or even every school. Families and teachers inside the district are also confused. There is now no district-wide listserv for PPS families, and many don't know where to go for information on programs and services. For example:

--The last parent newsletter was sent out in October 2007.
-- The High School newsletter hasn't been updated since 2008-9 and all the staff contact information is out of date.
--The TAG website
hasn't been updated since last year (including the Calendar) and many of the links are broken. The last Parent meeting is listed as May 2009 although one has already taken place this fall.
--School websites don't include any TAG information for example:
--The Calendar of events at PPS under "Calendar of TAG Events" leads to the PPS TAG website which has not been updated.
Thus even though many schools are holding parent TAG meetings this month, the information cannot be found on the PPS website.
--The former Teachers on Special Assignment for TAG now have their titles and job descriptions changed. They are now apparently being called "achievement coordinators" and there is no requirement for special TAG training or experience in their job descriptions.
--Both the ESL and Special Education departments have staff directories on their pages but TAG does not.
--Even the names of the (half-time) TAG administrator does not appear on the TAG Department home page or any of the pages included in the homepage directory.

This situation leaves families confused and disenfranchised and creates a sense that TAG is a low priority for PPS.

We also believe that the very long time lags between nomination of a student for TAG and actual testing amount to a denial of services. This situation has grown steadily worse over the past five years. Parents who nominate their children often have to wait until the following school year to receive services.

Because of all these changes, we request that the Department return to PPS and carry out classroom observations and interviews with parents, students and teachers before reaching any conclusions on whether the district as a whole is in compliance with the Oregon TAG mandate or whether the compliance steps the District reported have actually resulted in a real and lasting improvement in services to children. We believe that this process is needed to ensure that the district makes the necessary changes where they are needed, within the classrooms themselves, not on paper.

Thank you,

Sincerely yours,

Margaret DeLacy

October 11, 2009