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PPS wins a $500,000 Barr Foundation Grant

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PPS wins a $500,000 Barr Foundation Grant
Posted on 08/18/2021
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The Portland Public Schools has won a $500,000 award from the Barr Foundation. The investment from Barr will allow the district to continue its work of helping more students graduate prepared and empowered by focusing on the factors that prevent some students from reaching that goal and by providing strong transitions, high expectations, and targeted supports for those off track along the way.

The award will support the third phase of the district’s Planning for Postsecondary Success for All Students project. The award is intended to help the district achieve the following key outcomes by the end of the three-year time span the grant covers:

        The creation of a district data dashboard so administrators and teachers can understand the earliest warning signs that a student may be falling off track and needs support.

        The creation of a Portrait of a Graduate for each grade-level transition, designed to serve as benchmarks throughout the district for successful student outcomes at the fifth-, eighth- and 12th-grade levels.

        Improve the support for students during transitions between schools, particularly from eighth to ninth grade, by utilizing data to determine where added supports are needed and addressing disparities between some student groups.

Throughout the grant period, the district will receive additional support through its participation in a regional cohort of Barr Foundation grantees.

This grant follows two awards the district has received from the Barr Foundation of $150,000 in 2018, and $150,000 in 2019.

These grants launched the district’s Postsecondary Success project, enabling PPS to complete a comprehensive  analysis to better understand the academic experiences of the district’s students from middle schools all the way to their postsecondary outcomes. This analysis taught the district a great deal about the characteristics of what makes for a high school experience that leads to postsecondary success.  The next level of work, funded through this grant, will help the Portland Public Schools ensure that high school experience becomes the norm for all of its students.

“The Portland Public Schools is very grateful to receive this third Barr Foundation award, which allows us to continue with the important Postsecondary Success project work we began three years ago,” Superintendent Xavier Botana said. “This work will help us in achieving the Equity goal in our Portland Promise. The more we understand about what students need to be successful at each stage in their education, and which students need extra support to achieve that, that will enable us to better prepare all our students for success in college and career.”

“We are proud to continue our partnership with the Portland Public Schools to support a thoughtful, data-informed transformation of the high school experience,” said Jenny Curtin, Barr’s Senior Program Officer for Education. “At Barr, we believe that every student is capable of success in and after high school. Portland’s educators have engaged deeply with issues of equity and outcomes to turn that shared belief into reality for all of their learners.”

Based in Boston, the Barr Foundation has a regional focus. It works in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts and creative expression, to advance solutions for climate change, and to connect all students to success in high school and beyond.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.