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Audit: Progress made, but PPS must take further steps to reduce inequities

Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 12:52 PM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan released a progress report Wednesday on the effort to make Portland Public Schools more equitable. Fagan said the district has made progress, but the board and administrators still have substantial work to do.

In 2019, the Secretary of State’s Office released an audit looking into PPS. It found the district does not do a good enough job helping African-American, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students. It also found high turnover and absences, as well as low experience among teachers made things even worse.

As a result of the audit, the Secretary of State’s Office issued 15 recommendations. Wednesday’s report shows the district has only fully implemented two of them, but has made progress on 13 in total.

The Secretary of State’s Office said that PPS management needs to do more in key areas, including:

  • Focusing on high principal and teacher turnover and low teacher experience at high-poverty schools.
  • Addressing transfer and hiring issues that promote high turnover and lower teacher experience at high-poverty schools.
  • Establishing a clear and candid feedback loop on student conduct issues and classroom disruption at high-poverty schools.
  • Conducting in-depth and public benchmarking of spending against comparable peers.

Fagan calls the improvements significant, especially in light of all the complications that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m grateful to the Portland Public Schools district for the work it has done toward improving outcomes for students of color, in particular the district’s efforts to improve support for high-poverty schools is commendable,” Fagan said. “They added training, student and family support and staff, such as counselors and assistant principals. The district prioritization of racial equity is important and must be highlighted, and because of the district’s priority for racial equity, the district should take immediate steps to implement the remaining recommendations of this audit.”

The audit manager said typically they try to follow-up on audits a year later, but gave more time after the 2019 report due to the pandemic. He also said there isn’t a tight deadline for PPS to meet the recommendations, nor can the Secretary of State’s Office force their implementation, it’s up to the school board and administrators to make any changes.

The full audit report can be viewed here.