Culturally Sustaining Practices in Portland


I learned a lot. I learned from students and dedicated staff members, community partners, university leaders, and district and school leaders in Portland. Last week I visited three programs in Portland, some of which serve multiple districts. I got to see culturally responsive and sustaining programs in action. Programs that truly connect with the students, families and communities they serve. The staff, volunteers, and partners have a deep dedication to the people they serve and the mission they are trying to accomplish. This commitment to community and mission is one commonality these three programs share. But there are more… all three rely on cross-agency, inclusive partnerships to reach the community and their mission and they all three willingly share their methods with others so that their success can be replicated.

The programs were:


The list of partners is impressive:


I really did learn a lot! Each of this programs is focused on helping students reach graduation with a plan for their future. Each one of these programs recognizes that Oregon is becoming more and more diverse and that schools must change their practices to reach all students and families. And, each one of them is moving beyond talk and plans to serve our most marginalized students…they are doing it and they are a model for all of us.

KairosPDX knows that education is a gateway to future opportunity. They start with families and their youngest children through their Early Learning Network. The KairosPDX Early Learning network is focused on  providing direct and  indirect, culturally competent consulting and services to current in-home providers and families/friends and neighbors who serve under-represented youth including low-income youth and youth of color. They also offer a Family connections program, born of the belief that families are first teachers and children exist in the context of their families. The family connections program also serves as a broker and connector to community resources. Oh yes, and they operate a K-3 (eventually to grade 5) school or multicultural service learning academy.

OPEN School East is OPEN School’s newest 7th-12th grade college-prep school in East Portland. It helps students excel academically, graduate, and go to college. They focus on rigorous academics, teachers who are given time to develop meaningful relationships with students, and a lot of love and support – yes, I witnessed this…it is present in the halls, outside the school,  and in the classrooms. And, it seems to work. Their students advance an average of 2.5 grade levels in math and reading in their first year in the program.

3 to PhD is a unique partnership between Faubion K-8 School and the Concordia College of Education. This is a partnership that has been in existence for several years. It has now grown to a new level. The K-8 and the College of education will soon be housed within the same building! They aim to create a safer, healthier and more educated community. Their goal is to close the opportunity gap for the most marginalized and vulnerable children and families in the community. 3 to PhD hopes to restore a school as the heartbeat of a community. The effort includes:

  • Wrap-around services for children and families;
  • early childhood education;
  • health & wellness programs;
  • STEAM (science, technology engineering, arts and math) educational opportunities; and
  • one-on-one tutors, mentors and coaches from Concordia


Innovation is happening in Oregon! Over the next two weeks I will continue to visit with students, families, educators, and community in Lane, Marion, Linn, Benton, and Douglas Counties. Look for a report of all our findings in late October or early November.

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