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Saturday, May 17, 2014


I traveled to Springfield Illinois for a meeting yesterday and met a woman named Kristy Gravlin. Kristy worked in the Portland Public School System during the years of 1969 to 1997. She was privileged to participate in a K-5 school under the leadership of Superintendent Robert Blanchard, and Principals Robert Harold and Betty Campbell. The Superintendent came to the conclusion that bussing wasn’t working, so he built took six existing schools in poor neighborhoods and revamped them into Early Childhood Education Centers. Bob Harold wrote the program called “Follow Through,” which was a K-3 program which continued what HeadStart programs did. They were set up to take half the population from the neighborhood and half from people who asked to allow their children to attend. The district sold the program by having meetings, talking it up in the media, and taking questions from any interested parties. The program was so successful that there were always about 50% more requests than openings.

They had a full staff, including teacher and assistant in every room, they had music, gym and computers with support staff who were happy to differentiate materials/activities for each student. The parents wanted their children to attend because they saw the students doing well, they knew the teachers cared and there was a parent program to train parents in educating their children. Parents were encouraged to volunteer in the;postID=1120389847388138709school (sometimes several in a classroom at the same time) and babysitting was provided for siblings.

The program ended when Ms. Campbell retired, the district required the same curriculum throughout the schools, and they lost the impetus to integrate. The state also legislature required a scripted curriculum. So why did this atmosphere of trust and experimenting end? I challenge Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and even Arne Duncan to implement some changes that reduce the re-segregation of U.S. schools.

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