Comprehensive plan for Portland schools moves forward

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PORTLAND — The framework for a plan that will determine the direction city schools will move in the next 10 years is on its way to the School Board.

Board members are scheduled to review a committee’s outline for the district’s comprehensive plan, which highlights the goals and how the district plans to work to achieve those goals.

The district’s No. 1 goal, according to the document, should be to improve graduation rates.

The framework, put together by a group of volunteers headed by former board member Peter Eglinton, includes student drop-out rates. During the 2009-2010 school year, 76 students dropped out: 47 from Portland High School, 28 from Deering High School and 1 from Casco Bay High School.

“Most of these students dropped out during their 10th- or 11th-grade year and more than a third of these students were identified as special education students,” the plan says. “More than two-thirds of these students who dropped out qualified for free or reduced lunch (a measure of social economic status) and the ethnicities of these students roughly matched the ethnicities of the student body here in Portland.”

The document notes the state counts students who take more than four years to graduate as drop outs, and that the true drop-out rates (students who leave school and do not return) are lower, but still something the district must address.

The frameworks also includes college readiness and participation in extra-curricular activities as goals for the schools.

Objectives of the plan include aligning curriculum with the Common Core State Standards, quality instruction that includes technology and performance assessments, a coordinated system for student support, a culture of accountability and use of efficient and effective business practices.

Each school will also be required to put together a work plan that outlines how it will work toward these goals, and produce a “school report card” at the end of each year to show its progress. School administrators and teachers will be involved in the coming months in putting those work plans together.

“The effort will shift to the development of detailed district- and school-level work plans, with opportunities for more direct stakeholder engagement,” Eglinton said.

A public forum is scheduled for the Nov. 1 School Board meeting. The plan will be discussed by the School Board for the first time on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., when there will again be an opportunity for public comment.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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