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PPS Has Made Progress, But Must Take Further Steps to Reduce Inequities at High-Poverty Schools
Salem, OR—Portland Public Schools (PPS), has made progress since a 2019 audit, but the district’s management and school board still have substantial work to do to improve results in the district’s high-poverty schools and increase equity for students.

“Education pulled my family out of poverty,” said Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. “We must do everything we can to provide the opportunities I received to kids today, and that includes specific policies to support students of color. My journey out of poverty wasn’t easy, but the opportunities I received are not equally shared with Black and Latino students. We need to change that.”

In a recommendation follow-up report issued today, the Oregon Secretary of State’s Audits Division found the district, Oregon’s largest, has fully implemented 2 of the 15 recommendations from our 2019 audit.

The auditors concluded the district has made significant progress, despite substantial complications posed by the pandemic. Positive steps include developing a strategic plan focused on equity, improving contract management, and increasing investment in teacher professional development. PPS also increased support staff at high-poverty schools and contracts providing student and family support.

However, three years after the audit, auditors identified significant gaps in management focus and board oversight.

Remaining areas of concern:

• Despite high principal turnover, the district is not detailing or publicly discussing turnover, teacher experience, and initiative overload at high-poverty schools, all key equity issues. (pg. 4)
• The district needs to address transfer and hiring issues that promote high turnover and lower teacher experience at high-poverty schools. (pg. 7)
• The district’s public analysis of benchmarking and spending is not detailed enough to identify potential savings areas and help shift money to the classroom. (pg. 10)
• Since the audit, the school board has not ensured district management addresses some key equity issues at high-poverty schools (pg. 15), analyzes potential savings areas in depth (pg. 15), or tracks teacher issues with student conduct and classroom disruption. (pg. 16)

Addressing key equity issues in full can help increase the performance of the district’s African-American, Latino, and economically disadvantaged students, an area where the original audit found PPS lagged its peers. The pandemic, the auditors found, has likely led to further setbacks for many of these students.

The original audit also addressed recommendations to the Oregon Department of Education, which were covered in an earlier follow-up report released in September 2021.

PPS Follow-Up:

Original 2019 Audit:

ODE Follow-Up:

Contact Information

Ben Morris