Portland schools awarded $50K to expand, study pre-kindergarten in the city

Two students in Portland’s pre-kindergarten program (courtesy Portland Public Schools).

Portland Public Schools announced today that the Sam L. Cohen Foundation has awarded the district $50,000 to put toward its efforts to expand early childhood education in the city.

Here’s some more about what that money will help pay for, according to an announcement issued today by the district:

In addition to helping with the continued expansion of four-year-old classrooms at Portland schools, the grant also will be used to:

  • Assist the district’s community preschool partners in expanding programming and services in approved partnership sites.
  • Promote community dialogue about the needs and direction for Portland’s public pre-kindergarten.
  • Publicize the Portland Public Schools as a partner and provider of early education starting at birth.
  • Conduct a census, possibly with United Way of Greater Portland, to identify programs and services already in place for children and families from birth through age nine. The census will help the district identify unmet needs in the three years prior to school entry to assist children and families in a city with a 50 percent poverty rate.
  • Build capacity within the Portland Public Schools and the Portland preschool community to provide highly qualified teaching staff for pre-kindergarten classrooms. This will include providing staff development activities to help preschool faculty gain certification to teach pre-kindergarten, encouraging cross-classroom visitation between pre-kindergarten staff and teachers of kindergarten through grade three, aligning curriculum and data collection efforts starting at age 4 (and earlier for students with special needs), addressing the unique nature of early learners and encouraging parent education and parent involvement in pre-kindergarten classes.

Currently, the district partners with community early childhood educators to offer pre-kindergarten classes at Riverton, Cliff Island and East End elementary schools, as well as in the Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) building.

I’ll be very interested in seeing the results of census mentioned above — with many in all parts of the Portland community acknowledging the importance of getting an early start in education, a comprehensive view of what type of early education is being offered and received across the city will provide important data as the district aims to set itself apart in coming years.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.