Oregon Public Schools
For relocation parents, there is a wealth of information on the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) site and most of the reports are in Adobe’s PDF.
“. . . and where all the children are above average.” is the words that Garrison Keillor, the host of NPR’s Prairie Home Companion Show, uses to end his dialogue about the week’s events in his fictitious hometown of Lake Wobegon. Unlike Lake Wobegon’s students, Oregonians can prove that Oregon’s children are above average! In 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005, 2006 Oregon SAT scores were the second highest in the nation. In 2007 and 2008, they were third. Oregon ranked first in the nation in SAT scores in 1997 and 1998 among the twenty-three states where more than 40% of students take the SAT. Oregon ranked in the top five in 1999 and 2000 on SAT scores. Ranking are determined among states where more than 50 percent of students took the test. Washington state finished number one in those years.
The SAT is the college entrance exam of choice on the West Coast whereas the ACT is used more in the east and Midwest but more students in the west are beginning to take both tests.
Oregon’s Failing Schools
Over the last few years, Oregon schools have taken a fall — one that might not be obvious as Oregon busily restructures its state education leadership and mutely slogs through another year of local school cutbacks. Somehow, our K-12 education system has come to rank among the nation’s most fragile on multiple fronts.
Each year, Education Week grades states for the quality of their public schools in a report it calls Quality Counts. Oregon’s overall grade in the 2016 report was a C-, based on its student achievement (D), school finance (C-) and conditions for success (C ).
The study, released in early 2016, ranks Oregon No. 38 in public education, based on student achievement, school funding and a broad mix of other factors such as parental employment and the availability of affordable preschool.
The strongest findings, based on rankings by the Education Week:
- Oregon is making little progress or heading in the wrong direction when it comes to raising elementary and middle school reading and math achievement. Progress for high achievers in math is at a standstill.
- Oregon is allowing low-income students to fall further behind their better-off counterparts faster than 48 other states. Compared to 2003, in 2015 Oregon’s low-income fourth- and eighth-graders were 9 percentage points further behind their more-prosperous peers. Only Washington had a worse increase in the achievement gap separating the two groups.
- School funding, or rather the lack of it, helps put Oregon in the educational basement. Given each state’s gross domestic product, only four states had a lower effective tax rate for K-12 education.
- Partly as a result of low taxes for education, Oregon had very few students attending schools that were funded at or above the national per-pupil average. Just 13 percent of Oregon students enjoyed that level of funding, versus 42 percent of students nationally.
The Quality Counts rankings closely follow the findings of an in-depth look at school performance by The Oregonian/OregonLive last year. That investigation also concluded that Oregon ranks No. 38 among states, partly because Oregon lags far behind the national average in classroom spending.
Source: “Oregon ranks low in education; flat test scores, low funding, growing disparities to blame,” by Betsy Hammond, The Oregonian/OregonLive. Published January 7, 2016.
Low Graduation Rate
Oregon’s high school graduation rate rose 2 percentage points in 2015, marking its first substantial improvement after five years of stagnation, the state reported. The improvement was broadly shared among nearly every demographic group, including low-income, middle-class, white, Latino, black, second-language and special-education students. Overall, 74 percent of students in Oregon’s class of 2015 earned a diploma in four years. See the rates for all Oregon high schools.
Before the improved graduation rate in 2015, Oregon has the fourth-worst high school graduation rate in the nation, according to the federal government’s most accurate state-by-state report on the topic. Just 68 percent of Oregon high school students in the class of 2011 earned a diploma in four years, according to data released in late November 2012. Forty-two other states did better, and three were unable to report properly so their rates weren’t tallied. In the 2011-2012 school year Oregon was second to last in graduation with 47 states submitting reports.
Oregon Schools Classroom Spending
Oregon lags far behind the national average in classroom spending. Oregon’s average per-student spending level in 2011-12 was $8,900 compared to the national average of $10,700. Using this figure would have resulted in approximately an additional $1 billion for Oregon students. This disparity to a national average is magnified when considering the per-pupil spending expenditures for America’s very wealthy school districts. The following data is from a study done by 24/7 Wall St’s analysis from 2006-2010. Some of the high-expenditure, wealthy school districts include: Bronxville, New York, $27,980, Weston, Connecticut, $20,718, Scarsdale, New York, $26,742, San Perlita, Texas, $19,413 and Darien, Connecticut, $15,433. Student performance levels, test scores and graduation rates in these and other wealthy school districts far exceed those of less wealthy schools.
This report mirrors the findings of the 2016 Education Week study.
Surprisingly, Oregon has one of these high expenditure school districts, Riverdale. But, not surprisingly, Riverdale’s per student expenditure of $16,807 also results in a 95 percent graduation rate, high-test results and a college enrollment rate of 86 percent. The schools are one of the reasons that homes within the Riverdale School District usually sell quickly.
Oregon Adopts the Common Core State Standards
Starting in 2013 every public school student in Oregon is supposed to be graded solely by whether they have mastered the academic skills covered in class.
Turning everything in neat and on time, bringing back signed forms and racking up extra credit won’t boost grades. Turning assignments in late, skipping homework and talking during class won’t hurt, as long as the student can demonstrate the key skills and knowledge covered in the course.
The Oregon Board of Education adopted the Common Core in 2010 and gave districts four years to fully revamp what and how they teach in four subjects at every grade level. These subjects are reading/English, math, social studies, and science. Full implementation for Oregon schools will take place during the 2014 – 2015 school year.
The mission of the Common Core State Standards is to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.
The standards are copyrighted by NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The copyright ensures that the standards will be the same throughout the nation, creating a de-facto national curriculum. The standards also carry a generous public license which waives the copyright notice for State Departments of Education to use the standards; however, two conditions apply. First, the use of the standards must be “in support” of the standards and the waiver only applies if the state has adopted the standards “in whole.” This use of a copyright for public policy document is unprecedented in U.S. political history. The effect of the copyright and public license is consistency across the states; the standards cannot be changed or modified, creating in effect, a national curriculum.
Forty-five of the fifty states in the United States are members of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, with the states of Texas, Virginia, Alaska, and Nebraska not adopting the initiative at a state level. Minnesota has adopted the English Language Arts standards but not the Mathematics standards.
To read more about the Common Core and view the standards for each of the subjects visit Wikipedia.
US News & World Ranking of High Schools
There are over 100 Oregon schools ranked among the U.S. News Best High Schools. Here are the top five rankings:
- International School of Beaverton
- Corbett Charter School
- Lake Oswego High School
- Beaverton School of Science & Technology
- West Linn High School
Finding the Right School For Your Children
With another mom, Northeast Portlander Katy Mayo-Hudson, Rothenberg started Scoop On Schools, which walks parents through the potentially bewildering process of finding the right school for their kids and includes a growing list of insider portraits of different Portland-area schools. Their website is organized chronologically, with features such as a calendar, ideas for questions to ask during school tours, and tips about the lottery. Those interested in a particular school, as opposed to general tips, can check to see if their school has been profiled in the site’s blog. The blog features assessments of each school’s strengths and weaknesses.
There are other popular online forums in Portland for discussing individual schools, including the long-running website Urban Mamas.
Oregon Open Enrollment Law
Oregon’s open enrollment law (HB 3681) toke effect on January 1, 2012. Schools across the state have a choice to make: participate in the new law that makes it easier for students to transfer to a new school district or decline altogether.
Here are five points about the law:
- Who makes the decision whether to participate. The school board makes the final decision whether or not to participate in the new law and how many students it is willing to accept. If they say say yes, by March 1 they have to determine how many openings they will make available. They can do that by building and by grade level. Once they determine how many openings they have, by April 1, people from outside the district will apply.
- Does the district of residence get a say in whether a student transfers or not? The short answer is: no. If a district declines to participate in the new law and chooses to use the traditional method of transferring, both the home district and the new district must agree to the switch. However, under the law, only the receiving district must agree.
- Do students have to renew their transfer under the new law? No. Unlike the traditional method of transferring, which requires renewal each year, a student who transfers under HB 3681 is considered a member of the new district until he or she graduates from high school. However, each year districts can choose not to participate in the new law and accept transfers only through the traditional method.
- Who is responsible for transportation once the student transfers to a new district? School districts are only responsible for transporting students who live within their district boundaries. Districts can choose to offer transportation to students who have transferred, but it is not required. Ultimately, students who have transferred outside their home district are responsible for their own transportation.
- Can districts offer transfers to only certain types of students? No. Districts cannot discriminate who gets to transfer based on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, athletic ability, ethnicity, national origin, disability or proficiency in English.
Portland Schools Transfer Policy
The Portland Public Schools board approved changes to its in-district transfer policy in early 2015. The new transfer program is slated to open in early February 2015.
Under the new policy, the district will refocus on neighborhood schools, rather than the transfer system that Superintendent Carole Smith says has led to white flight from poor-performing schools. The transfer policy will be reconfigured to be a petition system based on income status and other factors rather than the lottery system that was used for years.
Visit the Portland Public Schools website to learn more about their transfer policy.
Performance Goals Start in 2012
By June of 2012, every school board in Oregon must specify how much it aims to improve student performance in 100 areas for the next school year, from the percentage of ninth-graders passing at least six classes to the share of African American, Latino and special education students who earn diplomas.
All 197 school boards will have to specify achievement targets for students in 10 groups, most of which have fared poorly in Oregon schools, including minority groups, students with disabilities, talented-and-gifted students and students learning English as a second language, in addition to setting targets for the district’s students as a whole. After critics complained the needs of some students might get ignored, the board agreed to scrap its plan to lump all minority, low-income, disabled and limited English students into one big “disadvantaged students” group.
Instituting annual achievement compacts, which ask school boards, community college boards and university presidents to focus on key outcomes at the same time they set their yearly budgets, is the centerpiece of Governor Kitzhaber’s plan for education reform in Oregon this year.
There are no consequences for a school district or college that meets all its performance targets — or fails to meet any of them.
Oregon Graduation Requirements
Starting with the senior class of 2012, it will get tougher to graduate from high school in Oregon, under a plan passed in 2008, by members of the Oregon state Board of Education.
- Oregon students will have to pass state reading, math and writing tests, or prove they have the equivalent skills, to get a high school diploma, beginning with the 2008 incoming freshmen.
- The unanimous decision by the Oregon Board of Education also requires students to give three speeches that meet state standards.
- The state also needs to design a way for students to show they read well enough to meet state reading standards without passing the state reading. The Oregon Department of Education will establish a system to do that.
One-third of Oregon sophomores failed the state reading and writing exams in 2007, and 45 percent failed the state math test.
Oregon will be the 27th state to require students to pass a state high school graduation exam. California began requiring students to pass state reading and math exams in 2006. Washington graduated its first class of students in 2008 who had to pass state reading and writing exams to get a diploma. Oregon will be one of just two states (the other one is New Jersey) to allow students to substitute a locally graded essay or work sample if they can’t pass the state graduation test.
Delay in Math Test The Oregon Board of Education members said in mid-December 2008 that they plan to push back a mandatory math test to get a diploma. That means that this year’s high school freshmen won’t have to prove they have mastered introductory algebra, geometry and statistics to graduate. Board members said that since almost half of sophomores fail the math test on their first try, it would be too difficult for schools to get all students proficient in math by 2012 without a large infusion of money − money the state doesn’t have in this recession. The board agreed to postpone the math test requirement until 2014.
Each year in early January, the Oregon Department of Education produces annual performance report cards for schools and districts beginning in the year 2000. Oregon law mandates this system and the state legislatures set the rules and measurement criteria. You will want to view the report card for the school(s) of your choice.
Oregon rolled out a new school report card system in October 2013. It not only shows parents how the test scores at their kids’ school stacks up against others in the state, it shows how those scores compare to schools similar to theirs — in terms of demographics. At a glance, you can see if your kids’ school is doing better or worse than others with similar numbers of poor children, kids with disabilities and those for whom English is a second language. This new system replaced a simple rating of exceptional, strong, satisfactory, low, or unacceptable.
The Nation’s Report Card
Every state has their own reporting and testing system so it is impossible to compare scores between states. However, beginning in 2003, the No Child Left Behind Act requires state assessments to be administered in reading and mathematics at grades 4 and 8 every two years. Therefore, limited comparisons can be made between states.
The Nation’s Report CardTM informs the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. Report cards communicate the findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a continuing and nationally representative measure of achievement in various subjects over time. The Nation’s Report Card compares performance among states, urban districts, public and private schools, and student demographic groups.
NAEP does not provide individual scores for the students, schools, or school districts.
The two websites are full of information and allows comparisons between the average scores for public school students in a particular state or jurisdiction and the average score of the nation or another state. To access reports, visit the NAEP website or the Nation’s Report Card website.
Magnets, Language Immersion, Talented and Gifted
Some Portland metro area schools have special programs such as the Richmond Elementary Japanese immersion program (K-5) or the Ainsworth Elementary Spanish immersion program. Wilson High School in the Portland district has a Young Scholars program.
Portland Schools have some innovative high school programs such as the International Baccalaureate programs at Cleveland High School, Lincoln High School, Tigard and Tualatin High Schools, a Young Scholars program at Wilson, high tech at Benson, and college prep at Riverdale.
The Portland School District lists special programs on their School Facts page. For example, Portland Public Schools’ Talented and Gifted (TAG) program has some special instruction programs for talented/gifted students. Each school district is required to have a contact for their TAG program. The ODE’s website offers numerous resources for TAG programs to include a FAQ.
A good place to find out about Oregon programs for special education is to visit the ODE Office of Student Learning and Partnerships Web pages. They are responsible to ensure that students with disabilities and those who are talented and gifted benefit from an enhanced education system.
International Baccalaureate (IB)
Four Oregon middle schools and 18 high schools participate in a International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Ridgewood Elementary in the Beaverton Schools is a candidate for the IB Primary Years Program and if approved, it will be the first elementary school in the state to become a member of the program.
Twelve IB programs are offered in the metro area high schools. In the Portland school district, Lincoln High School and Cleveland High School have IB programs. Tigard High School and Tualatin High School offer IB programs. Beaverton has four schools in the program: Beaverton, International School, Southridge, and Sunset.
South Meadows Middle School in the Hillsboro schools kicked off the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program in 2009. Beaverton School District also offers the IB program at Cedar Park Middle School and Bonny Slope Elementary.
Beginning with the 2010 school year, Lincoln High School will begin offering Arabic. The Portland School Board approved a $70,000 grant from Qatar Foundation International, a Washington, D.C., group that promotes cross-cultural understanding through education. The money is enough to pay a full-time teacher for one year and kick-start development of a four-year curriculum. The foundation chose Lincoln because of its international studies program and long interest in Arabic. The school has offered after-school Arabic classes for more than a decade with help from Portland State University’s Middle East Studies Center.
An option with AP that students at Wilson High School in Southwest Portland is the Advanced Placement International Diploma (APID). It is a globally recognized certificate for students who are thinking they may want to apply to a university outside of the United States. The APID is not a substitute for a high school diploma, but rather provides additional certification of outstanding academic excellence. Similar to an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, it challenges a student to display exceptional achievement on AP Exams across several disciplines.
According to the Oregon Department of Education, 30 schools in the state offer an immersion program of some type. Only Louisiana and Hawaii offer more immersion programs than Oregon.
The Portland School District currently offer Russian, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese immersion programs. These programs are spread among nine of the district’s 50 elementary and K-8 schools. Students from anywhere in the school district can apply for each of these programs. The annual period in which applications must be made opens January 23 and closes March 12.
- Arabic: Lincoln High School
- Chinese Mandarin: Woodstock Elementary (SE Portland).
- Japanese: Richmond Elementary (SE Portland).
- Russian: Kelly Elementary.
- Spanish: Ainsworth Elementary (SW Portland), Atkinson Elementary (SE Portland), Beach Elementary (North Portland), Bridger Elementary (SE Portland), Clarendon (North Portland), Lent Elementary (SE Portland, Rigler (Northeast Portland).
Chinese Mandarin In Oregon, a number of high schools offer classes Mandarin Chinese, including Cleveland High in southeast Portland, which serves as the capstone in a kindergarten-trough-senior-year Mandarin immersion program that begins at Woodstock Elementary. Demand to enter the program has grown so 60 students a year are admitted to the program as kindergartners. In 2010, the oldest students in Portland’s Mandarin immersion program are juniors and sophomores in high school, and many of them have reached advanced or near-advanced status on a national proficiency scale, meaning they can speak connected paragraphs in Mandarin and can talk about academic subjects in the language.
The other Portland metro high schools where Mandarin is taught are Lake Oswego, Tualatin, Southridge in Beaverton, International High of Beaverton, and Franklin in Portland.
Portland’s efforts to produce students who are near-fluent in Mandarin, rather than merely prepared to converse informally with native Chinese speakers, won it a grant from the National Security Education Program. The grant, won in a partnership with the University of Oregon, allows students to study Mandarin from kindergarten through four years of college.
Source for above information about Mandarin: The Oregonian, “Chinese instruction thrives in U.S.” January 24, 2010, by Betsy Hammond.
Portland Area Public School Websites
Many schools have their own websites. Within such sites, there’s often information about individual schools, including service boundaries, after-school activities, class sizes, program strengths, mission statements and even examples of student work.
- Beaverton School District Beaverton
- Canby School District Canby
- Centennial School District Gresham
- David Douglas School District Portland
- Gresham-Barlow School District Gresham
- Hillsboro School District 1J Hillsboro
- Lake Oswego School District Lake Oswego
- North Clackamas Schools Milwaukie
- Oregon City School District Oregon City
- Oregon Trail School District Sandy
- Parkrose School District Parkrose
- Portland Public Schools Portland
- Reynolds School District Troutdale
- Riverdale School District Portland
- Sherwood School District Sherwood
- Tigard-Tualatin School District Tigard
- West-Linn-Wilsonville West Line and Wilsonville
Many of the Portland area school districts have address locator. On some sites you enter a street address and the elementary, middle, and high schools associated with this address will be displayed. Other districts will display a map of the district showing school boundaries and you zoom in on school and/or your residence address. The site that works for just about everyone is Portland Maps.
Oregon’s charter law, passed in 1999, allows start-up charter schools, as well as public school and alternative education program conversions. A charter school in Oregon is a public school operated by a group of parents, teachers and/or community members as a semi-autonomous school of choice within a school district. It is given the authority to operate under a contract or “charter” between the members of the charter school community and the local board of education. The school must be nonsectarian. A public charter school is a school of choice. Students may choose to attend the charter school even if the school is not in their attendance area. Applications may not be submitted to convert an existing private school into a charter school. Charters are excluded from many statutes and rules guiding traditional public schools.
We have created a web page about charters that has extensive information about the history, evaluation, and links to various charter school resources. Just click Charter Schools here to access.
Home Schooling in Oregon
According to ODE, about 12,000-13,000 students are home-schooled in Oregon. The Web has proved to be a powerful tool for home-schooling parents, giving them access to math, science, and other lesson plans and offering their children a world of research opportunities. Most of all, it has brought home-schoolers together as never before, creating an electronic bulleting board to list home-school events, ask questions and exchange ideas.
Most home schoolers in Oregon use the discussion group called ORSig and Portlanders use the Greater Portland Homeschoolers site as well as OHEN (Oregon Home Education Network). The Beaverton-based Village Home Education Resource Center is another source for families who home educate.