From words to action: PPS Racial Equity Plan

On June 13, 2011 the Portland School Board unanimously approved the PPS Racial Educational Equity Policy.  The policy calls out race-based disparities in schools, identifies the district's role in erasing them and holds up high expectations to ensure that all students reach their academic potential. [Read the policy]

To operationalize that policy, PPS created a set of 18 goals that address change across the organization and work plans for reaching those goals. View the Racial Equity Plan.

Racial Equity Strategies

PPS also identified the following four key areas that require significant investment and attention in order to achieve racial equity in the district.

1. Culturally Responsive Teaching & Learning

In order for the district to achieve educational equity, we must provide students of color with rigorous, culturally responsive, and engaging learning environments which accelerate their academic achievement and personal growth.

We believe:

If we provide students of color with equitable access to common core courses and high quality teachers who demonstrate culturally responsive instructional practices, they will achieve academic and personal success.

If we enroll emerging bilingual students in effective dual language programs, they will experience increased academic and personal success while preserving their native language, cultural identity and cultural heritage. 

If we provide school and central leadership with professional development on culturally responsive positive behavior support systems, then referral rates for exclusionary discipline and special programs will decrease markedly for students of color. 

If we partner with culturally-specific community organizations to provide personalized supports for students and families of color, then students of color will experience more inclusive and culturally relevant learning environments and ultimately, increased success. 

2. Culturally Responsive Workforce

In order for the district to achieve educational equity, we must recruit, hire, promote and retain racially conscious and culturally responsive employees at every level across the organization.
By “cultural responsiveness” Portland Public Schools means “the knowledge, beliefs, skills, attitudes and practices that allow individuals to form relationships and create learning environments that support academic achievement and personal development of learners from diverse racial and cultural groups.” *

We believe:
If every employee is racially conscious and culturally responsive, then every staff member will exhibit the knowledge, attitudes, skills and practice to interrupt institutionalized racism and better meet the unique needs of students, families and staff of color.

If our workforce mirrors the student & family population we serve, then our organization will be better able to provide role models for students of color, better understand the needs of our students and families of color, and make better decisions for our families and students of color.  Increasing the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of our organization increases the cultural responsiveness of our organization.   

3. Culturally Responsive Family & Community Engagement

 In order for the district to achieve educational equity, we must empower both families and communities of color to advocate for their children and give them meaningful access to both school- and district-level decision-making. 

We believe:

Because of the District’s focus on majority culture communication style and pathways, families of color experience an information gap.  If we provide families of color with equitable access to school and district information and practices, they will be empowered to better navigate the system, advocate for their children and support their academic and personal success. 

If every PPS school develops a parent engagement plan which focuses on connecting families of color to the instructional goals of their school, there will be an increase in the number of culturally-specific family engagement opportunities at each school and ultimately, increased engagement with families of color.

Historically there was no established protocol for district stakeholder engagement, and the voice of students, families and communities of color was often marginalized.  If we develop and implement a framework for equitable, transparent and consistent stakeholder engagement—which clarifies roles and responsibilities and reduces barriers to participation for underserved communities—then we will see increased participation from students, families and communities of color.

4. Cultural & Organizational Transformation

In order for the district to achieve educational equity, we must undergo a cultural and organizational transformation to build a culture of inclusion and acceptance—one that actively challenges institutional racism.  District leadership must actively examine and dismantle systemic policies, programs and practices that serve to perpetuate racial achievement disparities. 

We believe:

If goals at every level in the district are based on data disaggregated by race and ethnicity, there will be increased accountability for meeting the needs of specific communities of color. 

If we adopt culturally relevant data and research practices, we will be able to more accurately represent, assess and evaluate the needs and behaviors of students and families of color.

If we apply a Racial Equity Lens to key policies, programs, practices and decisions in core business areas—with an intentional focus on “equal outcomes” rather than “equal inputs”—students and families of color will experience more equitable outcomes.

If we establish an Equity in Public Purchasing & Contracting (EPPC) policy and implement an EPPC program, we will demonstrate annual growth in the number of contracts secured with minority-owned, women-owned and emerging small businesses, promoting diversity and equal-opportunity.

Currently student enrollment is not balanced across the district, resulting in uneven distribution of students across schools and ultimately, an inability to provide students of color with equitable access to a strong core program.  If we balance enrollment though boundary changes, grade reconfigurations and/or other strategies using a Racial Equity Lens, every PPS school will have enrollment within the target range and every student will have access to a strong core program.

* Adapted from Randall B. Lindsey, Kikanza Nuri Robins, and Raymond D. Terrell (Corwin Press, 1999, 2003).  Cultural Proficiency.