Pattern of Harm in Oregon School District's Quest to Be First at All Costs
The Beaverton School District’s school board held a business meeting last night, and the community showed up to express their growing frustration with radical programs and actions that continue to harm the students, staff, and their families.
The school board has made several changes to the rules regarding public comments since the beginning of the pandemic in their attempts to muzzle parents. Even with their limit of 2 minutes per person, several of us were able to speak and address how harmful their radical approaches are.
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During my 2 minutes, I started off by calling out the violations of Oregon law and Oregon Administrative Rule that the district & school board committed last year when they adopted their new Social Sciences curriculum for grades K-5. The curriculum didn’t exist yet, but the district had a plan to use an outside consultant to build it. The board had no authority within the law to vote to adopt a curriculum that didn’t exist, let alone one that hadn’t been reviewed by parents & citizens.
I then spoke about the Beaverton School District’s quest to be #1. Unfortunately, this isn’t about being #1 in student achievement, staff job satisfaction, fiscal responsibility, or parent & community engagement. No, this is about their quest to be the first to go all-in on risky, unproven approaches to critical areas like curriculum and student discipline (or lack thereof).
I also let them know I would be sending them an email that evening, and that I would be copying the Oregon Department of Education, State Board of Education, legislative committees on education, and others. I also stated I would post that email here, which is what you can find below.
If you want to view some of the Social Sciences curriculum for yourself, I have posted what I have online here. I am in the process to get all of the curriculum so I can share it for all to see. I also posted a copy of the public comments I delivered here.
Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
[Email sent on Tuesday, January 17 2023 at 11:40pm Pacific Time (PDF available here)]
Good evening to you all,
I am a resident of Beaverton, OR and a parent of two children in the Beaverton School District. For the past two years I have been investing a great deal of my “spare time” to better understand our education system, how our schools operate, education funding, relevant laws and policies, and of course the people! I understand and appreciate the diverse viewpoints you all and those in our community represent, and I believe we are at our best when we work together in a fair and just way. I’ll warn you in advance this is a lengthy message, but I hope once you’ve read it you will understand why I provided all this detail.
The Beaverton School District was once a great district with an equally great reputation. I went to the same schools my kids go to now, so I have many years of experience there as a student and now as a parent.
Unfortunately, I am coming to you all for help with a particularly challenging matter. This district has been steadily declining for years, and I’m not just referring to academics. I spoke about this earlier tonight during the 2 minutes they allow for public comments. I attached my comments here so you can see them. You can also watch the recording here. Other parents came and spoke bravely about this topic as well. Erin Herrick and Albert Faizriev.
The Primary Issue: Violation of law/rule on Independent Curriculum Adoption
The specific issue I wish to raise with all of you is this: the Beaverton School District (BSD) violated Oregon law (ORS 337.120) and Oregon Administrative Rule (581-022-2350) when the school board voted to adopt the recommendations put forward by BSD leaders for their Elementary Social Science curriculum (grades K-5).
This is not an accusation I make lightly. I took the time to meet with district staff, including Heather Cordie (Deputy Superintendent – Teaching & Learning) and Kayla Bell (Administrator for Elementary Curriculum). I also reached out to Aujalee Moore at the Oregon Department of Education to be sure I properly understood the details of the rules governing the independent curriculum adoption that BSD should have followed. Here’s what BSD did.
BSD had begun their work on this new curriculum back in 2020, but when they presented their very lengthy report to the school board on May 23, 2022 it was lacking most of the components of a curriculum for grades K-5. BSD had taken the optional 2021 Social Science standards and created student-friendly learning targets for them. They also created draft book lists by grade level. That’s it. That’s all they had done when they presented their final report & recommendations to the school board. And on the June 21, 2022 meeting the school board voted unanimously to approve & adopt the “curriculum” that didn’t really exist.
You can see their full report here (see pages marked 43 – 49 for the Elementary details): BSD Social Sciences Phase Two Report
One thing I didn’t mention yet was that in BSD’s report was some mention of the additional work they intended to do with the help of their outside consultant, Dr. Katy Swalwell, author of Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Educators (https://www.ssfabw.com/). Dr. Swalwell would conduct the professional development with the elementary teachers and also develop the units using the materials selected by BSD. However, the board cannot approve and adopt a curriculum that doesn’t exist yet.
The school board received no units, lessons, activities, assessments, scope & sequence, student-facing material, or teacher guides… they had nothing but learning targets and *draft* book lists. Worse yet, parents and citizens (as called out in law/rule) were not given the opportunity to review the curriculum either. BSD may try to argue that they had parents and community members as part of their project team and that they did get the chance in early May to vote whether to finalize their work and put it to the board for approval. Again though, what exactly were those parents and community members basing their votes on? What was anyone basing their votes on when it came to the elementary curriculum that didn’t yet exist?
According to the Oregon law & rule mentioned earlier, BSD should have created the curriculum first, then solicited parents & citizens for feedback, and then taken the final step to request board approval. The district completely failed to follow the laws & rules governing this process as did the school board.
The Next Issue: Unit/lesson content
Up until this point I haven’t addressed the content of the units that BSD has already rolled out to all K-5 classrooms. To my knowledge they have developed two of the three intended units so far. The first was rolled out at the start of the year and the 2nd I believe is intended to roll out soon if not already. I am still trying to collect and review all of the K-5 units, but what I’ve seen so far is pretty bad. For example, the first unit for Kindergarten is not at all developmentally appropriate for that age/grade. That’s not just coming from me, but from teachers inside and outside of the district who have reviewed the material.
On top of this, BSD has for some reason incorporated lessons for the health standards into this Social Science unit. I am specifically referring to lessons/activities regarding “consent” and “gender identity”. I can assure you there is nothing about “consent” in the Social Science standards, let alone for 5 year olds! This is especially troubling as the district is required by law to notify parents ahead of teaching the health curriculum so they can 1) review the curriculum and 2) opt their children out of some or all of the lessons if they so choose. By sneaking some of these lessons into Social Science units, they are likely violating additional laws & rules and potentially opening the door up to lawsuits.
I would also like to point out that Dr. Swalwell is a radical activist. Having read her book, I can assure you she does not try to hide it at all. Her intent is to transform children to take on a particular viewpoint for a “better world”. She doesn’t hide her disgust for things like the constitution, Christianity, the Founding Fathers, White people, capitalism, the police, and so much more. While the district leaders tried to assure me the units are being written to meet their standards and not Dr. Swalwell’s viewpoint, they did fail to point out that Dr. Swalwell’s book mentioned above is part of the recommended professional development readings for BSD teachers. Just go look, it’s in that same report I mentioned above. These optional 2021 Social Science standards are also so radical that only a person like Dr. Swalwell is capable to write material to support them.
Had BSD just adopted the 2018 Social Science standards and selected from the State Board of Education adopted curriculum list, we could have been putting students through a rich set of engaging lessons over the past couple of years. Instead, BSD used the pandemic as an excuse to never implement the 2018 standards and instead wait just long enough for these optional 2021 standards to arrive. And even with all the warnings provided by ODE on using these standards and the complete lack of support provided with them (i.e. ODE created professional development, State Board of Education adopted curriculum options, etc.), BSD still prioritized their crazy desire to be “the first” at the cost of our students’ education and innocence.
My Asks of You
I hope I haven’t lost you by this point. This is yet another terrible mess BSD has created and we now get to deal with. I wanted to be sure to provide enough information to make it clear what the issues were and where things stand today. What I ask if all of you is your assistance in compelling BSD to take several corrective actions. My recommendations are:
Immediately stop the use of all the new Social Science units & materials in grades K-5
Recall all of the material from the teachers to avoid any further exposure to students
Use existing Social Science content from last year to finish this school year
Establish a small project team to select and recommend to the school board a Social Science curriculum from the State Board of Education’s approved list (for the 2018 standards)
To be clear, this also means BSD will adopt the 2018 standards, not 2021
I would like to be part of this team as well, if only to ensure they follow a fair, ethical, and legal process
Hire a 3rd party investigator with no prior connection to BSD or BSD leaders who can conduct an investigation into how the decision was made to violate the law, who is responsible, and provide recommendations for any corrective actions needed
This may sound harsh, but as you’ll see from my public comments this is not a one-off situation. This district has an established pattern of rushing into high-risk approaches with little to no communication and absolutely no accountability. I would be happy to share with any of you the details behind those other examples as well as other past illegal and unethical behavior of leaders there.
I look forward to hearing back from you on how best we can assist BSD in making better choices going forward and putting in the real work necessary to build back trust with their students, families, staff, and community.
Thank you for your time.
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