Oregon Public Schools

schoolhouseFor 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. The ranking is determined by 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.

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.  

Online Oregon  School Directory

Oregon has 197 school districts and more than 1,200 public and charter schools. The Online Oregon School Directory is a compilation of phone numbers, addresses, emails, and key staff people in all public schools and districts in the state, along with additional information about private schools, Oregon Department of Education (ODE) staff contacts, and other educational institutions. This directory is updated throughout the school year.

Education Week:  Oregon Public Schools Annual Report

Each year, Education Week grades each state for the quality of their public schools in a report it calls Quality Counts.  This annual report on state-level efforts to improve public education is published in January. The study, released in early 2018, gave Oregon a grade of C-. In 2018, Oregon finishes 35th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 71.4 out of 100 points and a grade of C-minus. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C (74.5 points). 

Diving into the findings for the three graded indices:

  • Oregon earns a C in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks 32nd. The average state earns a C-plus.
  • In School Finance, Oregon receives a C-minus and ranks 30th.
  • For the K-12 Achievement Index, last updated in the 2016 report, it finishes 37th with a grade of D. The average state earns grades of C and C-minus in School Finance and K-12 Achievement, respectively.

Read the full Oregon Quality Counts report.

Graduation Rate

With the class of 2017, Oregon schools notched their biggest one-year improvement in the statewide graduation rate since the current measurement system began eight years ago.

The sizable improvement, made public in late January 2018, occurred largely because schools did a far better job helping Latino and special education students graduate on time.

Still, Oregon’s increase in its overall graduation rate, from 75 percent to 77 percent, did not put the state on pace to reach the national average anytime soon, let alone match the best states.

It also fell short of the state’s own goal, set in 2016, for yearly mileposts on the way to reaching a graduation rate of 90 percent by 2024. That timeline called for a graduation rate of at least 78 percent for the class of 2017.

To view Oregon schools graduation rates visit The Oregonian/OregonLive website. Click on a school name to see graduation data and other information about the school.

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 Street’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.

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 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:

  1. International School of Beaverton 
  2. Corbett Charter School
  3. Lake Oswego High School
  4. Beaverton School of Science & Technology
  5. 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 on 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’s Open Enrollment Law

Oregon’s open enrollment law (HB 3681) took 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:

  • Student transfers  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 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 had 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, was the centerpiece of former Governor Kitzhaber’s plan for education reform in Oregon.

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.

School Report Cardsreportcard

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 stack up against others in the state, it shows how those scores compare to schools similar to theirs — regarding 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 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 allow 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 an FAQ.

A good place to find out about Oregon programs for special education is to visit the Oregon website special education page. They ensure that students with disabilities and those who are talented and gifted benefit from an enhanced education system.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

There is 34 schools in Oregon that participate in an International Baccalaureate (IB) 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. In the Beaverton School District, Southridge High School and Sunset High School offer the IB program. The Beaverton School District also offers the IB program at Cedar Park Middle School, Bonny Slope Elementary, and Raleigh Park Elementary. 

South Meadows Middle School in the Hillsboro schools kicked off the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program in 2009.  

Beginning with the 2010 school year, Lincoln High School offered 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 are 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.

Language Immersion

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 offers 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, some 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 is admitted to the program as kindergartners.  In 2010, the oldest students in Portland’s Mandarin immersion program were 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 a grant from the National Security Education Program.  The grant partnerships with the University of Oregon, and 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 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.

schoolbusWhich School Will Your Child Attend

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 your residence address.  The site that works for just about everyone is Portland Maps.

Charter Schools

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 bulletin board to list home-school events, ask questions and exchange ideas.

Most homeschoolers 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.

Oregon Department of Education Annual Report 
The Oregon Statewide Report Card contains information on just about everything you might want to know about the Oregon public school system, such as the graduation rates, test results and the percentage of students suspended or expelled during the academic year. The report includes a bevy of stats about Oregon 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.  Click here to visit the Portland metro area schools stats.



Safe Routes to Schools


Safe Routes to Schools is a partnership of the City of Portland, schools, neighborhoods, community organizations and agencies that advocates for and implements programs that make walking and biking around our neighborhoods and schools fun, easy, safe and healthy for all students and families while reducing our reliance on cars.



Which School Will Your Child Attend if You Live in Portland


A map is displayed with school boundaries and you can enter a street address. The neighborhood schools associated with this address, that are within the Portland Public School boundaries, will be displayed.



Scoop On Schools 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.



Mrs. P is a website for children started by two Portland residents and actress Kathy Kinney, who plays the title character in a wig and a friendly, off-kilter Irish accent. It’s about as low-tech and low-key as anything on the Web, which is the key to its appeal. There’s no advertising, no distractions and no special effects other than a magic library with some highlighted items such as a magic dictionary and a dog that responds to simple commands.



Community and Parents for Public Schools (CPPS) – the Portland chapter of Parents for Public Schools  – is part of a nationwide network of grassroots organizations focused on increasing parent, family and community involvement in public education.  CPPS actively recruits parents to public schools, and advocates for parents taking a role in decision-making, school improvement, and accountability.



How Education is Funded
in Oregon
Scott Bailey, co-founder of CPPS (see above), wrote up the history of how education in Oregon is funded in 2005.  Click here to download the document.




School Funding
Income taxes now pay for more than half of school operating expenses.  About 6% comes from the state lottery.  Local revenues (mostly property taxes) provide about 30% of school funding.
58% of state income taxes are spent on education, including K-12, community colleges and universities.
Sources:  US Census Bureau, National Education Association, Quality Education Commission, and 2005 NAEP test data.




Open Book$$ tracks the total operations spending of Oregon’s 198 school districts and shows the spending in charts. Visitors can compare their district with the statewide average and other districts of similar size.




The Chalkboard Project is a collaborative effort led by five Oregon charitable foundations, which banded together in 2003, to study ways to improve Oregon schools.




Education Week’s “Diplomas Count” annual report provides a first-of-its-kind look at every U.S. school district’s graduation rates and state policies that either support or detract from improving graduation rates.  The report includes an Executive SummaryReport Overview, and Graduation Rates by State/Student Group.



Standard & Poor
The site presents detailed test scores, spending records, and other information about nearly every school and school district in the nation.




Portland Maps will tell you the schools (elementary, middle, and high school) your children will attend by keying in an address.  It’s easy to use!



Portland Metro Schools Report Cards
Oregon law (ORS 329.105) requires that the Oregon Department of Education issue performance reports for public schools. These performance reports shall include school ratings for overall school performance, student performance, student behavior, and school characteristics.
View the Report Cards for schools at Report Cards.



School Enrollment
Public and Private Schools
In 2002, 83.5 percent of Portland students attended a Portland public schools according to a report released by Portland State University’s Population Research Center in February 2002.  This number declined in schools across the Portland school district, from 85.8 percent in 1990.



Private School Directory
Directory of Oregon
Private Schools



Charter Schools
Visit the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools website to learn about charter schools – the site has information about Oregon charter schools.  The Oregon Department of Education also has information about Oregon charter schools at their Web site.




Saturday Academy’s (SA) innovative programs are open to all students in grades 4 through 12.  SA offers enrichment programs in locations throughout the Portland metro area.
SA emphasizes math, science, engineering, technology, and healthcare because these disciplines are integral to the future children will live and work in.



Engineering for Kids is an after school, day camp and enrichment program that provides fun instruction in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects.




SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) began harnessing volunteers in 1992 to help develop literacy skills in all of Oregon’s children from kindergarten through third grade. Focusing especially on youngsters in danger of falling behind, volunteers read with two children for a half-hour each, one hour a week during the school year. Students also are given two new books a month to keep and read with their families.