Portland ConnectED

The well-being of the City of Portland is inextricably linked to the well-being and education of all its residents. Economic opportunity and educational opportunity grow together. The community thrives when its children and families thrive. To succeed in careers and being engaged community members, and to sustain economic and civic vitality, all Portland children need healthy early childhood experiences and high-quality learning opportunities.

Yet many Portland children face barriers that prevent them from attaining their full educational potential. Median family incomes lag, with over 50% of Portland students living in poverty, and one in four students is learning English. Schools and teachers cannot address these challenges alone. The community as a whole has a crucial role to play.

Portland ConnectED  is a cross-sector partnership of organizations and individuals working together to build a civic infrastructure that will help our children navigate the journey from cradle to college, career, and community. The pathway to success is marked by four fundamental milestones, which form the basis of our work:Portland-ConnectED-image

“Whose kids are these? To get this right, these kids have to be ours: the business community’s, the education community’s, all of ours.” — Chris Hall, CEO, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce

After analyzing local data, we have identified targeted goals that are ambitious but achievable. We strive to support 120 more third graders to achieve grade-level reading proficiency in 2017. We strive to support 60 more students to graduate on time in the high school Class of 2017. And we strive to support 40 more students to finish a post-secondary credential in 2017.


“What we know is that the way we have been doing our work until now has not worked for all kids. We believe that different parts of the community—education, social services, and businesses—working with the child and family, and focusing on the same goal, will produce a better result.” — Mike Tarpinian, CEO, The Opportunity Alliance


During the first five years of life, over 90% of a child’s brain growth occurs as children develop essential skills for learning. But one national study has found that 60% of preschoolers did not have the basic skills expected when they enter kindergarten, such as the ability to count to ten or recognize letters in the alphabet. We are working with early childcare providers and schools to assemble reliable local data that will help us support parents—a child’s first and most influential teachers—and forge seamless systems of care that will ensure ready children, ready families, and ready schools on the path to grade-level reading.

Learn more about Starting Strong, Portland ConnectED’s early age component.


Third grade marks a critical threshold where the emphasis shifts from learning to read to reading to learn. Children who do not reach this threshold are four times more likely to drop out before finishing high school and six times more likely to drop out if they are also living in poverty. To ensure that all children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade, we are working to improve school readiness, counter chronic absence, stop summer reading loss, and enhance literacy instruction in every learning environment.

Learn more about Starting Strong, Portland ConnectED’s early age component.


High school graduation remains essential to post-secondary and professional success, but one in five incoming Portland ninth-graders does not make it to graduation. State law sets a goal for a 90% on-time high school graduation rate by 2016 and calls for the high school diploma to be tied more closely to proficiency standards. To ensure that students graduate from high school on time and ready for college and career, we will start by increasing student-centered and out-of-school learning opportunities.


The new economy increasingly requires completion of a post-secondary degree or certificate. Over 60% of jobs within five years, and up to 90% of high growth jobs within Maine this decade, are predicted to require some sort of post-secondary credential. Higher levels of educational attainment mean higher job security and individual salaries over the course of a lifetime—and improved overall economic and civic vitality for the community. To ensure a viable pathway for students to a post-secondary credential and meaningful career connection, we will support post-secondary aspiration, preparation, enrollment, and persistence.

“We know that early childhood development is a fundamental factor in future success. We also know that early grade-level literacy is a key determinant for high school graduation, and that post-secondary training and credentials are increasingly necessary for success in today’s modern, global society. Portland ConnectED will connect the dots between these stages and put all Portland children on a pathway to engaged community members and a satisfying and promising career.” — Michael F. Brennan, Former Mayor, City of Portland

Founding Partners

City of Portland
Creative Portland
John T. Gorman Foundation
Portland Public Library

Portland Public Schools
Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce
Sam L. Cohen Foundation
Southern Maine Community College

The Opportunity Alliance
United Way of Greater Portland
University of Southern Maine