Portland School District selected for program to expand educator diversity


Nov. 20 — Portland Public Schools is one of eight New England school communities to be selected for an eight-month program aimed at expanding the diversity of educators and closing the diversity gap between students and staff.

The Driving Toward Diversity in the Educator Workforce program, managed by the Barr Foundation and the New Teacher Project, provides school districts with support to analyze the current talent systems, practices and needs of the system while taking into account feedback from students. students, teachers, school leaders, families and the community at large until June 2022. It also comes with a grant of $ 25,000.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to take a more informed look at our current state, how we got here and the best next steps to continue to accelerate our staff’s work on diversity,” Barbara Stoddard, Executive Director of human resources for Portland Public Schools, said in a press release from the Barr Foundation.

“The research clearly shows that all students benefit from a staff that looks like them. Responding to this call to action is essential to the success of our students (black, native, people of color) and is essential to the retention and engagement of our BIPOC. Staff.”

Nationally, about 53% of students in the United States identify as people of color, while 80% of teachers are white and 40% of school districts do not have a single teacher of color, according to the National Center for Education Statistics and the Barr Foundation. .

In Portland public schools, about 49% of the 6,500 students identify as people of color and about 11% of staff, the statement said. The district has made staff diversification a priority, but Superintendent Xavier Botana told the school board in March that much more work was needed to make the district’s workforce better reflect student demographics.

As part of this effort, the district included $ 400,000 in this year’s budget to create a human resources position to operationalize the recruitment and support of educators of color, pay diverse staff for language and identity work, and create career development paths for diverse staff.

Botana did not respond to a phone message or email regarding the new program on Friday afternoon, and a district spokesperson also did not respond to an email.

Research shows that students of color who learn from teachers of color are more likely to finish high school, go to college, face fewer suspensions and disciplinary action, and be referred to gifted and talented programs. But hiring and recruiting more educators of color can be a challenge.

There are barriers to teacher certification processes. Implicit biases in recruiting, hiring and management can interfere. College and university teacher preparation programs often lack diversity in their student body and have a range of outcomes to help students of color succeed in the licensing process, the statement said.

As part of the Driving Toward Diversity program, fellows will participate in planning, analysis and data collection sessions and receive recommendations from the New Teacher Project. Other school systems to choose from include the districts of Stamford, Connecticut; Winooski, Vermont; and several in Massachusetts, including the communities of Salem, Fitchburg and Lowell.

“We have over 20 years of experience working with school districts and educators to close achievement gaps, improve classroom instruction, and develop talented and diverse teachers,” said Arlene Sukran, Vice President of the New Teacher Project in the northeast. “We hope this new effort will go a long way in delivering much-needed improvements for both students and educators. It’s exciting to be part of the solution.”


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