Update on Beaverton School District's Illegal Curriculum Adoption
How voting to approve a non-existent curriculum is poorly defended by this Oregon school district
At the Beaverton School District’s school board meeting on January 17th 2023, I delivered a brief public comment to express concerns about their illegal curriculum adoption the previous year and how this is yet another example of their failure to execute their core duties. The following day I published this story, Pattern of Harm in Oregon School District's Quest to Be First at All Costs, to help raise awareness of the harm being done by the district and its school board. Included at the end of that story is the email and formal complaint I sent to the district, Oregon Department of Education, legislators on education related committees, and more.
Rather than acknowledging their mistakes and makings things right, district and school board leaders have repeatedly tried to delay the process and distract from the core issues. To their credit, the district did hire an outside consultant, George Finch of Finch Consulting LLC, to conduct an investigation. As I’ll explain later, Finch’s final report contained critical flaws that he and the district chose not to address.
Recap: voting to adopt a non-existent curriculum
Let’s step back for a moment to identify the primary issue here. One of a school board’s key responsibilities is to adopt curriculum to be used throughout the district. The board is the last step in an often lengthy process run by district staff, who work with many parties to develop a recommendation for the school board to approve. As the governing body of the district, the school board’s job is to ensure the district followed the right policies, rules, and laws and to be the gatekeeper before the materials get into the classrooms.
School districts have three options when adopting new core curriculum:
Select from the Oregon State Board of Education’s approved list
Select a curriculum from a company/organization that is not on the approved list *
Create their own curriculum *
* If a district chooses to go with options #2 or #3, they must still meet specific criteria established by the Oregon State Board of Education. The curriculum must also meet state standards for the subject area as well as federal requirements for accessibility (i.e. materials are available in formats for students of differing abilities).
As I detailed in my original story about this illegal curriculum adoption, the Beaverton School District decided to go with option #3 - creating their own Social Science curriculum for grades K-5. However, when they approached the school board in May 2022 to provide their recommendations for approval, the district hadn’t yet begun writing the curriculum. Rather than pointing out this huge concern, the school board voted unanimously to adopt the non-existent curriculum in the following meeting in June 2022.
Now three months later, where do things stand?
I received a formal response to my complaint to Beaverton’s board chair Tom Colett on March 20th. He provided a summary of Finch’s (the investigator) findings as well as a copy of the complete report, which you can access here. Somehow the investigator agreed with the district’s stance that adopting a curriculum didn’t require that the curriculum exist yet. I hope that is as confusing to you as it is to me.
For comparison, you can click here to access information on the packaged curriculum from inquirED that the Beaverton School District staff had has their other finalist, but chose not to recommend. More information about inquirED’s curriculum was readily available as well, including their Scope & Sequence (grade level plans by unit) and access to view lessons and other material here (requires free registration to access).
What the Beaverton School District did was like a legislature voting to pass a bill that hadn’t been written yet, with the assumption that some lobbyists would take care of that some time down the road and we should just trust them. Sounds reasonable, right?
Now I understand you may be skeptical. How could I be sure I am correct when an outside consultant had found otherwise? There are two very good reasons I’ll share with you.
The first has to do with a second complaint I filed that isn’t under the district’s control. I filed a complaint with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) after board chair Colett had arbitrarily decided to extend the timeline of my district complaint (note: this was a violation of district policy for him to do so). The investigator from ODE has already acknowledged the district did violate the curriculum adoption rules, but it would likely be months before he could issue a final order given the high number of cases he has on his plate.
The second reason is the investigator made a serious error in one foundational part of his report that ultimately made his findings completely incorrect. Finch asserted that the use of the word “may” in one part of a related adminstrative rule (OAR 581-011-0050) meant a curriculum may or may not have any actual components of a curriculum. Yes, you read that right.
This makes little sense, especially in Beaverton’s situation where none of the curriculum had been written yet. How can the district confirm their new curriculum meets the State Board of Education’s criteria if it doesn’t yet exist? Finch also seemed to ignore the clear interpretation of the rules I had received from Aujalee Moore at the Oregon Department of Education, who oversees the curriculum adoption process. I had shared this him and and discussed it when we spoke prior to his report being writen. You can read the entire email exchange with Aujalee Moore here.
As you can see in this lengthy email exchange, I did point out the mistakes to both Colett and Finch. I also reached out to Finch multiple times prior to publishing this story, but he did not respond.
There are nearly 700 teachers in grades K-5 at the Beaverton School District, and they have all been instructed to use this new, illegally adopted curriculum with the roughly 16,500 students in their classrooms. As I pointed out in a separate story, An Experiment on Kindergarten Students Goes Radically Wrong, the content of this curriculum is also of great concern. Perhaps this is why the district wanted the school board to approve the curriculum before it was written. Doing so allowed the district to bypass the most critical step in the process - giving parents and the community access to review it first.
A follow-up story will be published once I receive a final response from the Oregon Department of Education on the complained filed with them.
Have you given serious consideration to a lawsuit? In progressive Oregon, officialdom is used to skating close to and sometimes right over the line. Sometimes it needs to be pushed back into compliance forcefully.