MPBN Story on $175,000 New Schools Venture Fund grant to diversify teaching staff

New Schools Venture Fund has granted $175,000 to the Portland Public Schools to support educational technicians in their process of becoming certified to teach. This grant is part of the Foundation for Portland Public Schools’ (FPPS) Addressing the Opportunity Gap Campaign, a community campaign to accelerate and deepen the school district’s equity work.

The Portland Public Schools is one of a cohort of organizations that is receiving funding and support from New Schools Venture Fund in 2021 to diversify the PreK-12 education workforce.  Julia Hazel, the PPS Director of BIPOC Career Pathways and Leadership Development, will coordinate this work for the district. The grant also provides opportunities for Ms. Hazel to connect with and learn from other educators and organizations around the country that are launching or growing similar initiatives.

Research shows that increased diversity within schools yields better outcomes for all students. Barbara Stoddard, Executive Director of Human Resources for the district, explained, “Studies have linked diverse teaching staff to increased academic achievement, improved graduation rates, and increased preparation for students to live and work in a diverse, collaborative world.  PPS has had limited success in attracting diverse educators from out of state. This is a major part of why we’ve intensified our focus on ‘growing our own’ by creating additional systems of support and advancement for current students and paraprofessionals to become teachers.”

The Portland Public Schools has experienced profound demographic shifts in the last 30 years. In 1989, fewer than 10% of PPS students identified as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). By 2010, that percentage had grown to 35%. This school year, 49% of students identify as BIPOC.  Like many districts in the U.S., the demographics of teachers employed by PPS has not kept pace with its student population.

Many ed techs working in the district are immigrants who were teachers before coming to the U.S.  Often, these paraprofessionals need to have foreign transcripts analyzed in order to determine the coursework or other requirements necessary to become fully credentialed in the U.S.  In other cases, working as ed techs has inspired  interest in becoming certified classroom teachers. This grant from the New Schools Venture Fund will provide services such as foreign transcript analysis; payment for additional coursework towards certification beyond what is normally reimbursed by the district; expanded mentoring by PPS teachers, and other supports.

“When I talk to students they often tell me how important it is to them to have a faculty that more closely reflects their experiences and backgrounds,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “This has been a priority for us as a district for the past five years and while we’ve made gains, we have a great deal more work to do.  I am grateful to the New Schools Venture Fund for their support and partnership in our efforts.”