Portland's Casco Bay High School recognized as 'School of Opportunity'

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PORTLAND — Casco Bay High School is one of seven schools across the country –and the first ever in Maine – to be recognized for providing students with challenging learning opportunities and a chance to build on their strengths.

Last week the school learned it’s won a gold award from the National Educational Policy Center for being a School of Opportunity.

CBHS Principal Derek Pierce said the school went through an “extensive review process” that included a deep dive into what the school is already doing and what it can do better to close achievement gaps and “dismantle inequities.”

In the award letter, the School of Opportunity judges said they were “particularly impressed with … the myriad ways (CBHS) extends student learning options through authentic, community-focused activities.”

The school held a surprise assembly May 21 to inform students and staff about the gold award designation.

In congratulating CBHS on its singular honor, Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said, “Every day, Casco Bay works to help every student aspire to and follow the road map to their greatest self.”

“Our Portland Promise talks about the importance of reducing the opportunity gaps that some of our students experience as a way of helping all of our students achieve their potential,” Botana added.

“Casco Bay High School was conceived on this idea (and) I am grateful, but not surprised, that Casco Bay has been selected as Maine’s first ever School of Opportunity.”

Pierce said what makes the high school so exceptional is the way students and staff work together to create a community “committed to finding, supporting and growing the greatness in each of us.”

Being named a School of Opportunity connects CBHS to a network of 45 other public high schools in the U.S., according to a School Department press release.

The School of Opportunity designation is not based on test scores, the release said, but instead looks at how well schools use research-based policies and practices designed to increase a student’s ability to truly “learn and thrive in school.”

The School of Opportunity program is a joint initiative of the National Educational Policy Center and the University of Colorado.

Project Manager Adam York said schools earning a gold award have “each demonstrated, with ample evidence, deep care and commitment to their students through equitable learning opportunities and strong positive school cultures.”

The School of Opportunity team found that CBHS meets its criteria because the “educational philosophy focuses on flexible learning time” while offering “a rich interdisciplinary program of project-based learning.”

In addition, the School of Opportunity team found the curriculum at CBHS includes “ample opportunities for struggling students to catch up (and) for all students to enrich their experiences.”

Casco Bay High was founded in 2005 and shares space with the Portland Arts and Technology High School off Allen Avenue. The school keeps class sizes intentionally small, which allows staff to get to know each student very well.

Pierce said the gold award recognizes CBHS for how far it’s already come, but also challenges the school community to continue the difficult and critical task of closing the achievement gap.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Casco Bay High School in Portland has been recognized as a School of Opportunity by the National Educational Policy Center. It’s the first school in Maine to earn this honor.

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