Left Behind: Portland’s Black and Latino students shortchanged from the earliest grades

What this investigation discovered wasn’t new. But it is measured, by the numbers. And it happens where you could think it won’t, in Portland Public Schools. A similar picture appears in most school districts in the country, including in Los Angeles.

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero told The Oregonian/OregonLive “there’s no doubt” the state’s largest district must do more to bolster academic outcomes for students of color. In 2019, Guerrero and the district said they would try to double those students’ reading and math proficiency rates by 2022.

Stephanie Yao Long/Staff

On the evening of Aug. 14, 2019, the Portland school board made a pledge: Our schools will drastically boost Black and Latino student achievement by 2022. Yet more than two years after school board members and Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero promised to make progress for Black and Latino students their “north star,” Portland Public Schools has largely failed to fix the systemic problems that hurt students of color, an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive has found.

Low expectations, poor teacher training, outdated curricula and a revolving door of leadership all continue to doom the vast majority of the district’s Black and brown children to a lifetime of diminished opportunities, starting when they are just 6 and 7 years old.

To get a sense of where students were in the fall of 2021, Portland used a well-regarded national test. It uncovered yawning racial gaps.

The results showed the staggering racial divide in Portland’s public school system. The test showed Black and Latino elementary and middle school students were consistently at least a full year, and in some cases three or four years, behind grade-level expectations. Scores on the test revealed that white students were the only racial or ethnic student group […]

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