PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- The Portland Public School System is moving forward with the next step of its revamped comprehensive plan, and it's ready to share its goals with the residents of Portland this week.
The Portland Public School district wants all of its students to know where they are headed after high school, whether that be college, work, or something different. The new Portland Public Schools Promise is a rebranding effort based around four goals: achievement, whole student, equity, and people. It’s a formula they hope will lead to post high school success.
While many students have a plan for after graduation, not all do. Superintendent Xavier Botana says a successful post high school plan starts with having a caring support system within the school.
“We're really stepping up our efforts to make sure that our students are connected to a meaningful adult.”
Long-time Portland High School English teacher, David Levasseur, explains the idea as personalizing a student to a staff member that can best relate to and understand them.
“Some need more guidance than others, some just need some support and direction, some just need to talk and bounce questions off.”
But the Portland Promise also has to bolster the district’s weaknesses, one of which is state test scores in mathematics. Between 2016 and 2017, math and science state test scores dropped by up to double digits in two of Portland’s three traditional high schools. Casco Bay High fell more than 14 percentage points in math and more than 11 in science. Portland high dipped more than eight points in both subjects, while Deering High remained flat.
“That's a big focus for us,” Botana said. “we've hired our math coaches to work with our teachers starting in the middle grades.”
Where Botana sees the district's greatest student advantage is in their newcomer and first-generation students, which he says make up 40 percent of the Portland system's student population, many with unique or difficult life experiences.
“They may have spent three years in a refugee camp or they may have been moving from country to country,” explained Botana.
This year, a newcomer center has been set up at king middle school to help fill the gaps in these children's education and focus on what they need to enter the American education system. Botana says a diverse population of students will teach each other even more.
“You see people from Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Portland High School senior Ella Altidor explained about her peers.
“Here we have so much more perspective than other schools do,” said Portland High School senior, Ashley Chadbourne.
Along with encouraging growing diversity in the student body, the Portland School District is currently hiring more teachers and staff of varying ethnicities.
Thanks to a partnership with Unum Insurance, flyers and banners will be visible around Portland after the official launch of the plan on Thursday.