Tools to Help Evaluate Oregon Schools

“Can you tell me which community has the best schools?”  That is one of the most frequent question we receive from the Moving to Portland website.  It’s a difficult question to answer because schools are like automobiles; each has it own distinctive style. Some students require a very structured setting whereas others thrive in a more open atmosphere. Some students do better when they can be immersed in a subject matter for weeks at a time whereas others need a number of subjects for a short period of time each day.

Portland Monthly Magazine Guide to Schools

In their December issue each year, the Portland Monthly magazine reports on over 600 schools in the metro area and make what they referred to as a “crib sheet.”  The sheet gives school rankings, test scores, and statistics that will help you evaluate the schools without the need for in-depth study.  The report covers both public and private schools as well as “alternative options” schools.

Included in the document are Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, average number of students per grade, student-teacher ratio, Oregon Statewide Assessment (OSA), etc.  They track 11 different components.

Click here to visit the real estate page at the Portland Monthly Web site  you will find the link to the school report on this page.

Tools to Help with Evaluation

You have two choices for determining the quality of schools in Oregon.  First you can use a number of Web sites that give information about Oregon schools such as location, class size, special programs, etc.  These sites are not sponsored or affiliated with state department of education or school districts.

The other choice is using the Oregon Department of Education website.  We can point you to four tools at the Oregon Department of Education Web site that will help you evaluate an Oregon School:

  • Oregon Statewide Assessment Test (OSA)
  • Oregon School Report Cards
  • Oregon School Performance Rating (The Oregonian)

These tools are discussed in detail below (see 1, 2, and 3). The SAT and OSA are standardized test.  Each year in late fall, the Oregon Department of Education produces annual performance report cards for schools for the previous school year.

website  Websites to Evaluate Oregon Schools

  • Great Schools  This site provides a numeric rating for schools on a scale of 1 – 10.  The rating is based on test results which is public information.  You can also post one review for each school your children attend.  Reviews submitted by students will be read by a moderator and posted if they meet the guidelines.  The site has some good information about “Choosing the Right School.”
  • PSK12   This site is the provider of school performance information for K-12 public schools. It takes the public information (i.e.,  Oregon Department of Education) and presents it an easy to understand way using charts and graphs. It’s worth your time to explore the site.
  • Private School Review   You can obtain free, detailed profiles of private schools and their surrounding communities.  This is a commercial site with numerous paid links.
  • School Tree  They offer listings for over 140,000 public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, and school districts.  To get started, go to the homepage and click any state you wish to search from there, click on a county, then a city, then a school.  This site has basic information about all the schools in Oregon.  It provides data on class size, Title I, etc.

oneCollege SAT and ACT Scores

All the Oregon high school report cards show the average college entrance SAT score for senior graduating during a given school year.  The table contains the following:

  • School, state, and national average scores for the verbal and math tests. Starting in the 2005-06 school year, writing is another area tested.
  • The percentage of students tested at the school and in the state of Oregon.
  • The number of students tested at the school and in the state of Oregon.

If a high school has strong SAT scores, it follows that students coming into that high school must have received a solid education in the elementary and middle schools feeding the high school.

View SAT Scores for Oregon High Schools

Here are two places to view the SAT scores:

  • We have created a Portland Metro Area High School SAT page with the scores for the last 4-5 graduating classes – go to SAT Scores to view.
  • SAT scores for individual schools are kept with the school report card – go to State of Oregon Department of Education Web site to view School Report Cards.

twoOregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS)

Going strictly by standardized test scores to evaluate a school means you can compare “apples to apples”.  The Oregon standardized testing program started in 1991 when the Oregon State Legislature passed the Oregon Educational Act.  OAKS is an effort to hold students accountable for high academic standards as measured by a series of annual tests conducted at benchmark grade levels.

These test scores show how the Oregon students at an individual school performed, on average, in relation to the statewide averages, depending on the test. Three types of comparison can be made for each school:

  • Improvement or decline with the school itself over time
  • Ranking against all other schools statewide
  • Comparison of the school with demographically similar schools

Let’s explain some of the OAKS terms and the testing methods, then we’ll point you to where you can obtain the scores for every public school in Oregon (plus some private schools if they elect to participate).

OAKS Terms and Testing Methodology

OAKS is made up of multiple-choice and performance assessments in these areas:

  • Reading and literature knowledge and skills (grades 3, 5, 8 and 10)
  • Mathematics knowledge and skills (grades 3, 5, 8 and 10)
  • Science (grades 8 and 10)
  • Social Sciences (grades 5, 8, and 10)
  • Writing (grades 5, 8 and 10)
  • Mathematics problem solving (grades 5, 8 and 10)

Oregon law mandates that public school students be tested annually in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10.   The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law mandates annual testing for all states by 2005-2006.  NCLB does not explicitly require states to administer the same test from year to year.

OAKS is a Performance Standards Test

OAKS is different from national, norm-referenced tests used in many districts and states. The OAKS is a criterion-referenced assessment. As a result, the types of scores produced from the OAKS are somewhat different from those produced by national, norm-referenced tests. OAKS is based on “performance standards” which means that the number, type, and minimum scores required on state and local assessments have been established by a panel of educators.  Read the criteria at the Oregon Department of Education (OAKS) Web site.

Scoring System

For reading/literature and mathematics, scores produced from the OAKS are based on an achievement scale widely used in the Northwest. The scale, with numbers ranging from about 150 to 300, is similar to other scales such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scale or other “growth” scales. Each point on the scale is at an equal distance from the previous point on the scale, so changes up or down can be charted and viewed as comparable from year to year.

Writing and mathematics problem solving rely on a model, which trains expert “judges,” typically classroom teachers, to match student work to criteria for performance on a predetermined scale.

Comparing Schools with Demographically Similar Schools

OAKS uses a School socioeconomic score (SES) to compare similar schools. A composite picture of a school’s socioeconomic status (SES) is drawn from available information describing the school’s demographics. Four variables were identified that best predict student achievement:

  • Percent of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch
  • Student mobility rate
  • Student attendance rate
  • At grades 8 and 10, level of education of the most educated parent

From this information on all Oregon public schools, an SES index is built using a weighted combination of these four indicators. Schools are then ranked on the SES index.  At the Oregon Department of Education Web site, you can then compare a given school with schools having a similar SES index.

Where to Find the Test Results

OSA scores can be view by the school district overall as well as individual schools within a school district at the Oregon Department of Education Web site.  They keep three school years of data on Web site.

  • We have created a Web page all about the Oregon Assessment and Knowledge Skills test – go to OAKS to view.  Scroll to the bottom of the page to locate the links to the test results.
  • The Oregon Department of Education maintains the OAKS scores for all Oregon public schools online and you can find them at OAKS Results.

threeOregon School Report Cards

The Oregon Department of Education produces yearly report cards for schools and districts in this state. These reports—called for by the 1999 state legislature—provide educators with an opportunity to communicate directly with their constituents about how local schools are performing. Over time, they will allow educators, parents and taxpayers to chart the progress of Oregon schools.

Each school is given an overall rating. This rating is a composite of four categories:

  • Student performance
  • Student behavior
  • School characteristics
  • Improvement adjustment

The rating system factors in both current performance and improvement over time. Student performance is rated as exceptional, strong, satisfactory, low or unacceptable. Student behavior is rated as exceptional, strong, satisfactory, strong or low.  School Characteristics:  The five ratings for this category are exceptional, strong, satisfactory, low or unacceptable.  Visit the Oregon Department of Education Report Card Guide for an explanation of how to read the school report card as well as the history of report cards.

Where to Find the Report Cards

The Report Card for a school district and schools within a district has other very valuable information on it such as attendance, student dropout numbers, faculty data, etc.

  • We have created a Web page all about the Oregon Report Cards — go to Report Cards to view.  Scroll to the bottom of the page to locate the links to the reports.
  • You can view the results of  school report cards at the Department of Education School Report Cards


The Oregonian Interactive School Performance Rating

InterativeSchoolRatingOregon School Performance Rating  The Oregonian created this interactive tool to assess school performance and it’s powerful. It works likes a spreadsheet and it’s color-coded so easy to use. It’s the only tool you will need if you have a time limit.Nearly 1,200 Oregon schools are rated by five performance tiers, with about 10 percent in the elite top tier and 5 percent in the lowest tier. Schools are rated based on their reading and math test scores (“achievement”), their students’ year-to-year growth on those tests and, for high schools, their graduation rate.

In each area, they are rated as one of five levels. Level 5 = best, Level 1 = worst. Schools get extra scrutiny for the performance of a “subgroup” of their students, those who are low-income, special education, Latino, African American, Native American, Pacific Islander or learning English as a second language. If a school does not test at least 95 percent of students in every student group, the overall rating gets lowered by one tier.

Only schools that receive federal antipoverty funds face state-mandated turnaround efforts, and get extra state support, if they fall in either of the two bottom tiers.