First Advisor

Sy Adler

Term of Graduation

Fall 2001

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Urban Studies (M.U.S.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Portland Public Schools (Or.), Early childhood education -- Oregon -- Portland, Magnet schools -- Oregon -- Portland, Educational equalization -- Oregon -- Portland



Physical Description

1 online resource (150 pages)


As parents and educators demand more choice programs in their school districts, it is important for district officials to govern issues around equal access. When specialty programs are designed by grassroots groups and school staff without district-level guidance or funding, as it is in Portland, Oregon, equal access provisions can be overlooked resulting in lower ethnic and socio-economic diversity.

The purpose of this study was threefold: to determine if all families in Portland Public School district have equal access to special focus/magnet programs at the elementary grades; to better understand the link between Portland's past desegregation policies and current choice policies; and to project the likelihood that a school or community group will implement a special focus/magnet program in schools located in low-income/minority neighborhoods. This research focused on district and grassroots implementation efforts in two clusters of schools: Early Childhood Education Centers (ECEC), pre-kindergarten through fifth grade schools created during the district's thirty-year effort to desegregate; and magnet/special focus programs and schools ( choice programs), implemented since 1986 by grassroots groups and schools without desegregation-type goals.

Interviews were conducted with four high-level district officials, one former superintendent, two school principals, two staff members, a current and former school board member, and two school activists. Data concluded that a number of financial and political variables restrict equal access to special focus/magnet programs, particularly for low-income students. Those variables controlled by the state or district include Measure 5 ( a state-wide tax initiative), tacit policy and planning, kindergarten grade tuition requirements, location in primarily middle class neighborhoods, and lack of transportation provisions. At the school or program level, a complex application process and kindergarten-only applications further diminish equal access. Language immersion programs _show higher numbers of minority students enrolled. Data suggest low feasibility for implementing a special focus/magnet program in an ECEC unless the district provides financial and technical assistance. These results suggest Portland's approach to special focus/ magnet programs conflict with past desegregation goals of combining integration and equal access with educational opportunities.


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