Important 8th Grade Japan Research Residency News

From the President

I’m writing with some very important information regarding the 8th Grade Japan Research Residency, and I encourage you to read this important ADVOCACY NEWSLETTER.

The 8th Grade Japan Research Residency capstone of Portland Public Schools’ Japanese Dual Language Immersion (JDLI) program has recently come under PPS District scrutiny. The district re-assessment was initiated by a formal complaint from a Mt. Tabor parent. If these concerns are not adequately addressed, as determined by PPS, the JRR may be eliminated completely or be moved to the summer, which fundamentally changes the nature and purpose of the trip. This week, there is a very serious risk that the JRR may be eliminated completely or be moved to the summer, which fundamentally changes the nature and purpose of the trip.

In order to actively monitor, engage, and prepare responses within the process PPS has created, Oya No Kai (ONK) has formed an Advocacy Committee comprised of representatives from all three JDLI schools (Richmond, MTMS, and Grant). The committee is actively working to minimize major changes to the JRR – either in substance or timing.

March 1, 2017 was the original deadline for recommendations to be presented to Superintendent McKean about any changes to be made to the trip. As a result of the advocacy team’s efforts, this deadline has been pushed back to March 13, 2017. However, given the potential disruption to the year-long curriculum and overall JDLI program, it is still an unacceptable timeline.

Accordingly, the JRR Advocacy Committee is working to ensure that any decisions related to the JRR are appropriately informed by rigorous analysis and input from all affected parties (i.e. students and other DLI Programs) and employs a process that is fair, transparent, and considerate.

Following is a brief summary of the JRR Advocacy Committee’s efforts to date, ONK’s strategy for moving forward, and recommendations to our community members who wish to get more involved:

December 2016 – ONK JRR Advocacy Committee formed to respond to the District’s inquiry. The inquiry was initiated by a non-JDLI parent who expressed concerns over academic equity – specifically, concerns that MTMS students who are not in the JDLI do not have a comparable capstone educational experience in the 8th grade, and further, that the JRR negatively impacts non-JDLI MTMS students during the trip. The Advocacy committee set its goal to ensure there is a fair, transparent, inclusive and adequately informed process being followed by PPS in making their evaluation.

January 2017 – Three “Listening and Brainstorming Sessions” were scheduled, to “discuss concerns and their solutions” as listed above. ONK president Jeff Hopper, MTMS JDLI teacher Matt Bacon-Brenes, and two MTMS parents from each of the three co-located programs of the school community (Japanese & Spanish Immersion and Neighborhood) were selected to participate, by Interim Principal Anh Nguyen-Johnson. These meetings were also attended by the Franklin Area Cluster Director and the Sr. Director of the Office of Equity and Partnership, however not by the key decision-maker, Asst. Superintendent Chris Russo or the Interim Superintendent Bob McKean.

Based on what was said in these “listening sessions”, it is ONK’s belief that the JRR is at real risk of being eliminated. The PPS process for making recommendations that will alter the JRR is rushed and lacks transparency, and that the the District does not comprehend that the JRR is much more than a “trip to Japan to celebrate the end of the year” but is the core of the 8th grade JDLI Social Studies curriculum. We do not feel the District has evaluated how altering the JRR in any way would impact the need for the creation of an entirely new 8th grade JDLI curriculum, what resources would be required to implement wholesale changes to the 8th grade curriculum, the impact to the overall JDLI program from K through 12, or how other existing and developing DLI program Research Residencies may be impacted (i.e. Chinese, Spanish).

A more aggressive ONK advocacy effort is required.

We are seeking 100 JMP students and supporters of every age to be present and support and reinforce the testimony of students testifying at this Tuesday’s Portland Public Schools Board meeting:

This Tuesday 2/28 at 6:00 pm
Blanchard Education Center
501 N. Dixon – Portland, OR 97227

Please learn more about this important issue by reading our full advocacy bulletin HERE.