i3/EIR InProgress: Personalized, Relevant, Engaged for Postsecondary (PREP)

The i3/EIR grant program funds hundreds of organizations throughout the country, all of whom are engaged in forward-thinking, even boundary-pushing work. The InProgress interview series conveys the breadth and excitement of our diverse grantees by letting them explain their work in their own words. These aren’t success stories, exactly, but portraits of ongoing work, with all the inspiration and obstacles that implies.

For this installment we hear from Matthew Eide, Director of PREP, with Portland (Oregon) Public Schools, an EIR grantee.

 

What are your goals with your EIR grant?

Our goals are to increase the engagement, achievement, persistence, and completion of students in Portland Public Schools’ alternative education system through a combination of three integrated interventions:

  • A culturally responsive model of project-based learning
  • Expanded access to Career Pathways and Career Technical Education 
  • Programming to address social emotional barriers

Our intervention is informed by a theory that students engage or disengage in response to a combination of “push” and “pull” factors. Students may be pushed out of school because of (a) a sense that they do not belong or fit in; (b) conflicts with teachers and students; (c) academic issues, such as lack of credits or failing grades; and (d) discipline issues, like suspensions and expulsions. Similarly, students may feel pulled out of school because of (a) adverse life events, (b) mental health and alcohol and drug issues, (c) the need to work, or (d) the need to parent or care for family members. To improve the engagement, persistence, and completion of its students, PREP will address intra-institutional factors that contribute to disengagement and provide wrap-around support to students who feel pulled out of school.

How far along are you in the grant?

We are in the second year of a five-year grant. During this program year, we will be piloting the interventions in three district-administered alternative schools: Metropolitan Learning Center, Alliance Alternative High School at Meek Campus, and Alliance Alternative High School at Benson Campus.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge is balancing the need for fidelity with the need for local adaptation. Each of the three pilot sites is very different in terms of student populations and program model. As such, it has been challenging to identify which parts of the interventions need to be tight, and which parts need to be loose. In other words, which elements should be implemented according to a set of clearly defined criteria and parameters, and which should be designed to provide flexibility for adaptation.

What’s an unexpected lesson you’ve learned so far?

One key lesson has been the power of an opportunity like the EIR grant to drive coordination, collaboration, and coherence. One of the collateral benefits of the project is that it has brought previously siloed programs together and provided an anchor around which teachers can discuss their practice.