Report Details Decades of Failure at Jefferson High School

Critics Charge Portland Public Schools with Sub-Standard Education

This report was recently covered by both the Oregonian and the Portland Tribune.


(Portland, OR) — Low test scores and a shocking lack of academic progress in the Jefferson Cluster (Portland’s Jefferson High School and the middle schools and elementary schools that feed into Jefferson) point to necessary educational reforms, according to a report released today by Portland members of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and the Cascade Policy Institute.

The stinging report, “Leaving Most Children Behind: Thirty Years of Education Reform at Jefferson,” cites numerous examples of a school system failing despite numerous reforms and expensive educational experiments designed to improve the quality of learning in the cluster.

“There are at least two generations of young people for whom it is already too late. They are already paying a price because they are unable to reach their full potential as citizens,” said Portland parent, Al Bangura.

The so-called achievement gap is most apparent in this part of Portland where most high school students’ test scores, nearly eighty percent of all 10th graders, consistently test below state standards in reading or math.

“There are no excuses for any public school failing to teach children to read, write and do math at a level that will allow them to thrive in American society,” said local Black Alliance for Educational Options member, Michael Harper.

The report states that money for the besieged Jefferson Cluster is apparently not the problem. Schools in the system, which include Humboldt Elementary, Whitaker Middle School and Harriet Tubman Middle School, received more funding from Portland Public Schools and enjoyed smaller class sizes than other District schools.

In 1995-96, Humboldt received about 33 percent more money per student than the District average for elementary schools. In 1997-98, Jefferson received about $1,300 more per student than the District average for high schools and had the smallest class sizes. That year, the report states, 93 percent of Jefferson’s 10th graders failed state math and reading tests.

The report points out that the total revenue available to the Portland Public School District has grown almost six-fold over the past 30 years. “At the same time, the number of students served has dropped by 27 percent. This dramatic increase in funding has had no impact on overall test scores in the Jefferson Cluster,” according to Matt Wingard of the Cascade Policy Institute.

The report seeks to end the experiments and teaching fads foisted upon the children attending school in the Jefferson Cluster by exposing the failures of the past, failures sending thousands of young people into the community without the basic skills one needs to compete and succeed in the 21st century.

“It’s impossible to read the report and not conclude that the continuing lack of progress on academic achievement for poor and minority students is unconscionable,” said professional researcher and the report’s author, Matt Evans.

The Cascade Policy Institute vows to work with the Jefferson Community to find possible solutions. Interested citizens are invited and encouraged to participate in the process. To find out more about BAEO visit To read the report, visit the CPI website at

Contact: Matt Wingard / 503-351-2955

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