The Daily Struggles of Oregon Public Schools (by Jessica Rodriguez)

 

The Teacher and Class I've been Volunteering With!

The Teacher and Class I’ve been Volunteering With! 

I have been doing my topic on education, and the effects of the constant budget cuts, and how they are affecting the students and staff. Before I started gathering any research, I had it in my head that the government was carelessly misspending the funds that were supposed to be set aside for our kids. I received some great feedback from my peer, and my professor that caused me to take a closer look into the problem, and to get some hard facts.  At first, I was unsure of where to start, but decided to start with a personal discussion with three different teachers. I then went on to research specific issues, such as how the funding crisis has affected some students. According to the article www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/11/15/fed-up-with-their-kids-failing they have noticed that some of the student’s grades and effectiveness of learning has decreased.  Class sizes are too big due to staff getting smaller, teaching to the test is becoming more common, which does not seem to be a “one size fits all” solution, thus causing increasing academic problems.  www.oregonedorg/action-center/class-size discusses some of the problems that their classrooms are facing due to the overcrowding.  Apparently Oregon has the third largest class sizes in the nation.

Fewer programs being available to the students also seem unfair.  In several schools, programs such as p.e., art, music, foreign languages, and shop classes have been removed. Last year at Banks Elementary School, they were actually considering closing down the school library. Fortunately it hasn’t happened yet. So who is to blame for this increasing problem, and how can we overcome it?

While reading a short story by Arthur Waskow titled The Sukkah of Shalom, there was some parts of the story that caused me to re-think the severity of the budget crisis. I realize that is not the point of that story, but something in there caused me to connect the two.  In our country, going to school seems like a right.  In other countries, going to school might be a luxury or a privilege.  We complain about needing newer materials, to where they might be sharing a shred of a book. Despite both situations, there are still those who choose to further their education and obtain a career. That causes me to question how much are we really struggling? Are we struggling or are we just spoiled?

My one on one interview’s with the three school teachers were my favorite source of information.  Going directly to the source, and being able to ask follow up questions proved to be most useful to me. It’s not in my head that the increased class sizes are a problem. It’s not in my head that there are more students struggling to effectively learn the required materials due to decreased days in schools, and kids are getting bored with not having any type of extracurricular programs such as p.e., art, music, etc. The teacher’s also expressed great interested and appreciation in getting parents to volunteer their time to help out. I have found the time that I’ve been able to spend with the students has been very rewarding, and hopefully effective.

I do feel like I’ve found a pretty good variety of research to back up my topic, and I have learned a lot from it as well. I also plan on continuing to volunteer my time at the school, as long as the staff will have me. Oh and I also came up with a brilliant idea, and wrote to Ron Wyden at www.wyden.senate.gov/contact to present it. I don’t know if he’s the right person, or if he will even read it, but it seems like it could be a great solution to the cut out programs. So you know how nurses and Dr.’s do a portion of their college by hands on in person interaction as part of their hours? I proposed that music, art, language and fitness majors could sign up with the public schools to do three or six month contracts to teach the students the mentioned activities. It will be beneficial to both parties. The student will get hands on experience, and college credit, and the students will get those programs back. Best of all, it won’t cost the schools much to do this. Supplies could possible come from donations and fundraisers if needed. It seems like a very budget friendly solution, but statistically I don’t know if it’s a real possibility. I am hoping to get a reply from Ron, even if it’s a denial, maybe someday it can be a reality.

The Research Collection

Personal 

  • Danny Harris 5th grade teacher at Banks Elementary School
  • Cindy Simonsen Kindergarten teacher at Banks Elementary School
  • Christy Cabrera Beaverton School District.  She divides her days between teaching at Beaverton, Aloha and Southridge High Schools.

Books

The Impossible will take awhile (The Sukkah of Shalom) by Arthur Waskow

Websites

The Public Writing

Letter sent to Ron Wyden

www.wyden.senate.gov/contact

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3 comments

  1. Kelly

    Hi Jessica,

    I volunteered at our local elementary school too for our community service this term. So your topic and research question immediately grabbed my attention! I enjoyed reading your thought process through reading “Sukkah of Shalom” and your research. Interviewing teachers was an excellent idea! I would have loved to seen the notes of what the teachers expressed in those interviews.
    I also think that writing to Senator Wyden is an effective way to advocate for Oregon schools. I love that you included an actual idea of how to address the issues and not just complain that the issues are there! I would have been very interested in reading your letter to the Senator. I clicked on the links you provided regarding you letter but it just took me to the site where you can contact Senator Wyden. I want to know what you said to him and how you proposed your idea! 🙂
    Stand for Children is an organization fighting for schools in Oregon. Supporting and volunteering with Stand for Children would be another great way to advocate for our schools!
    Thanks for sharing your research and writing. Have fun continuing to volunteer at Banks Elementary!

    -Kelly

    • jossica

      Hi, thank you for your reply, I can send you a copy of my letter to him in our pcc email if you’d like. The teachers were so great to talk to as well. The high school teacher said that the staff is actually taking pay cuts annually instead of pay raises as part of the budget cuts, and that as a high school they actually have way less volunteers than in the grade schools, but they’d be so grateful for the help. The kindergarten teacher often chooses to stay after school to get caught up on side projects for her class, and I’ve seen here there as late as 6:30pm. She feels fortunate to have her job though since several staff have been let go over the years, and they went from four kinder classes to two. Same has happened for the second and forth grade classes. They went from 3-4 classrooms to just two or three which has lead to overcrowding. There was much more that was discussed, but those are the surface of what I can remember right off the top of my head. I wish that link would have led to the actual message that I sent to Wyden. It talked about how the budget crisis is a problem, and I brought up the idea of having college students getting credit hours in the k-12 grades, and if he wasn’t able to do anything about it, then to lead me in the right direction. It was of course written in a very respectful way lol.

  2. Hi Jessica,
    I really appreciated your background about your interest in and struggle with this topic. The question that you ask about whether or not we are struggling or spoiled is a very honest one that I think has a lot of good insight into the blessings that we do have in this country compared to so many others- so thanks for that reminder and perspective. This is also what makes me glad to hear that you chose to talk to several people in person about this topic, which I think really helps to bring the issue to life for you, as well as your readers.
    I hope that you do end up receiving a response from Ron Wyden, whatever it ends up saying, so that you will know that your writing has been received and considered. This is definitely an ongoing battle that lots of people are involved in, but sometimes I think it is even more powerful coming from a student themself.
    Thanks again for all of your hard work that went into this topic!
    Veronica

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