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K-3rd Grade Literacy at PPS

October 14, 2015
ulie S. Omelchuck, Community Grants Program Director, MHCRC


MHCRC TechSmart Initiative Invests $5 million in K-3rd Grade Literacy at Portland Public Schools

The Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission (MHCRC) handed the Portland School Board and Superintendent Smith a check for over $5 million at the November 3 Board meeting to fund critical teacher supports towards creating technology-rich learning for K-3rd grade literacy. The grant was made available under the MHCRC’s TechSmart Initiative for Student Success.

The TechSmart Initiative grant investment is laser focused on significantly increasing the number of students who are reading at benchmark by the end of 3rd grade – a critical factor on the way to successful high school graduation.

PPS is in the process of adopting literacy curriculum for PreK-5 grade across the district. The last time PPS underwent this process in 2007, it did not result in improved outcomes for students in reading achievement. With the support of the TechSmart Initiative investment, PPS is taking a new approach to the K-3rd Grade literacy adoption, with the goal to have all students at reading proficiency by 3rd grade and to eliminate the achievement gap.

In order to sustain and scale literacy transformation across the large urban school district, PPS plans to pilot blended learning models, infused with technology and professional development supports, in K-3rd grade programs in 20 schools across four years. The current school year will be used for planning and onboarding the district/school instructional coaches, principals and teachers at the first five schools that will implement beginning in SY2016-17. Five schools will be added each of the following three school years (five year total grant period).

The project plan includes deep investments by both PPS and the MHCRC in elements critical to successful technology-rich learning environments: dedicated staff capacity to do the work; staff and teacher professional development; and classroom technology and infrastructure. In addition, PPS plans to conduct comprehensive evaluation of embedded supports and provide for iterating professional development and instructional practices for technology-based blended learning from year to year, and building district capacity to sustain the literacy transformation to all PPS K-3rd grade programs across the district in the years following the grant period.

Teachers were key participants in planning the framework for the TS3R Project. 30 teachers serve on the Literacy Advisory Committee, which provided the project vision and direction. And teachers also make up the majority of members on the Blended Learning Steering Committee.

In addition to the $5 million grant, the MHCRC TechSmart Initiative has partnered with Pacific Research & Evaluation and Portland State University to provide Portland Public Schools with evaluation resources to identify instruction that effectively improves 3rd grade reading for all students. The MHCRC and the District plan to share learnings about effective instruction with other school districts in Multnomah County.

“The MHCRC is thrilled to invest, along with so many others in the community, in PPS’ effort to develop learning environments and strategies that truly support academic achievement for all students,” said Carol Studenmund, MHCRC Chair and Multnomah County representative. “Through the MHCRC TechSmart Initiative, the District will gain critical resources to discover how to best use technology in teaching and learning.”

TechSmart Logo Graduation Cap over the words MHCRC TechSmart Initiative

About the MHCRC and TechSmart Initiative

The MHCRC officially launched the TechSmart Initiative for Student Success in Fall 2014 with plans to strategically invest about $19 million over the next 10 years in local public schools to positively impact academic outcomes for all kids in Multnomah County. The PPS grant is the fourth investment made by the MHCRC in local public education under the TechSmart Initiative. Previous grants went to David Douglas School District, Parkrose School District and Reynolds School District.

Funds for the TechSmart Initiative derive from the cable services franchises negotiated by the MHCRC with Comcast, Frontier, Century Link and Reliance Connects. The cable companies pay three percent of their gross revenues for video services in Multnomah County to support community uses of cable system technology, including funding for the MHCRC’s Community Grants program. Cable companies enter into franchise agreements in order to use the public right of way for their business purposes.

The MHCRC is an intergovernmental commission created by the cities of Portland, Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village and Fairview and Multnomah County to efficiently administer the cable services franchise agreements, including implementation in the community of public benefit obligations of the companies under the franchises.