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Portland Public Schools will tell the state this month that it is not in compliance with state standards in two significant areas: curriculum and talented and gifted accommodations.

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - A young girl looks out of Rose City Park School in 2010. The building is currently home to the ACCESS Academy for advanced learners. Portland Public Schools will tell the state this month that it is not in compliance with state standards in two significant areas: curriculum and talented and gifted accommodations.

This follows years of advocacy from parents on the district's Talented and Gifted Advisory Council, as well as a complaint filed last year alleging the district denied admission to the ACCESS Academy school for the highly gifted because a student had a disability.

Chris Russo, assistant superintendent for Teaching and Learning, said the complaint, which has now elevated to a federal civil rights complaint, was serendipitous to the district's own movement toward designing a spectrum of TAG services. Russo said that while he appreciates parent advocacy, it was not the cause of announcing that the district was not in compliance with state rules.

"This kind of came on the heels of our discussion of being in compliance with TAG," Russo said.

Parents have been complaining since at least 1997 that the district is out of compliance with state requirements that they meet TAG-identified students' "rate and level" of academic performance.

ACCESS Academy, created in 2003 in response to a lawsuit, serves those who test very high but uses a slightly different standard than TAG. The new plan will place ACCESS on a continuum of services which will include in-school supports and the TAG Scholars program.

Russo said when plans for services change — because those plans have not yet been implemented — the district must mark that it is not in compliance. The new plan for TAG services has not yet been implemented, therefore the district had to mark that it is not in compliance, he said. Russo added that part of implementing the new TAG plan will include a request to the school board for more money to implement it — somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million to $5 million, Russo estimated.

"Because we're doing all that work, we're basically redoing the program, so we marked noncompliance," he said. "Any time you're retooling your curriculum, you mark 'no.'"

It is the same story with the district's science, social studies and health/PE curricula. There are updated standards that the district is working to implement, he said.

"Is the entire program (implemented)? No. Is articulated throughout the entire district? No," Russo said.

The annual compliance review falls under Division 22 of the Oregon Administrative Rules. Districts self-assess whether or not they are in compliance.

PPS will have to complete its plan for getting back into compliance by next September.

If they don't, the state could pull the district's funding. But, Oregon Department of Education specialist Andrea Morgan says that's unlikely.

"I think in the 17 years I've been here at ODE, I've only seen it happen four times," Morgan said, adding: "When it did happen, it was amazing how quickly they did come into compliance."


Shasta Kearns Moore
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