This page covers:
- Websites (and reviews of them) that parse & display comprehensive school information
- Where to find specific Portland Public School data
- Where to find insider comments on the web
- Where to find an offline guide on schools
Comprehensive School Searching Sites: Any of these sites below might be your one-stop-shopping for school research. They all more or less pull their information from the same publicly available data, which is largely only available for public schools. After that it’ll come down to personal preference for features and design layout which work best for you.
- Education.com – This megasite allows for interactive searching and offers the standard fare of publicly available information (which means thin, and not necessarily accurate information for private schools). While clean and loaded with education related content, expect to see lots of ads. Also expect that some of the content is corporate driven (anything regarding online learning seems to be paid content). Strong points: countless articles on anything education related; JustAsk feature which allows you to ask any learning/education related question and likely get a meaningful response from their staff.
- Greatschools.org – This über monster of a school research site lets you save your schools in a free account and compare them side by side. But know that their “GreatSchool” ratings are solely based on publicly available test scores, which means that comparing the public schools to private schools is nearly impossible. And while the data they have on the schools is rich, expect to spend some time on each school page to get an overall picture as it’s not all there in a handy list of charts and requires clicking around. Not all the information, such as number of students or grade levels, is accurate either – so go to the source (ie. the school itself) to get the real scoop. Greatschools is content rich and offers tons of solid advice – but since it covers the entire USA, much of it, while still pertinent, is very general. Strong points: free account that lets you save and compare schools you’re researching; lots of articles on a multitude of school related subjects; recent parent reviews for many of the schools.
- Publicschoolreview.com and Privateschoolreview.com are twin sites that offer variations on a theme of the same information you’ll find on other sites. As their URLs state, each one covers either public or private schools, with privateschoolreview.com allowing the creation of a free account to keep track of schools you’re considering. The same caveat applies to the accuracy of the private/independent school information. What makes these sites slightly different is that the information tends to be on a single page, so you can get the general picture without too much clicking around. Like other sites, you’ll find plenty of general school-related articles (under the top Articles tab). But our favorite stand-out feature is that each school will have any recent articles in the news linked off its page. This theoretically can give you insight into the school’s personality and reputation. Strong points: most information on a single page; any recent news articles about schools listed.
- Schooldigger.com – This site seems to be largely real estate driven as it offers a nifty mapping tool (which we find frustratingly slow at times) and lots of ads. Don’t look at it for their ratings, as they only use public school available test data, district data – all highly averaged out, thus not very useful. Also, on Schooldigger private and charter school data is non-reliable (we saw inaccuracies) – a reminder to always go to the source. Strong points: mapping tool lets you see locations clearly; easy access chart that shows student diversity.
- The Oregonian - Oregon’s largest statewide newspaper also offers an interactive tool to compare the latest scores for the state’s public schools. You can search by public school name to get a clean, simple snapshot of current and historic scores. If you select the Portland (or other) school district you can get an easy-to-read snapshot of all the public school current scores (including most charters). Strong points: Quick, clean & easy, not cluttered by any ads. And bonus that you can print a pdf of the district report card, which covers all public schools.
It’s incredibly easy to get lost in this behemoth of a site. Filled with tons of information on the full gamut of Portland Public Schools (PPS) policies and programs, you’ll definitely want to spend some time clicking around. Below we distilled the links on accessing the basic information for each school. See our Data Crunching page for tips on interpreting the info you’ll get from these pages:
- List of Schools in the District - lists each school with its PPS page in the left clickable column – along with a school created website, if they have one, in the right clickable column
- Enrollment Profiles of each PPS Schools - lists schools alphabetically. Click to get all the enrollment and profile data which tells you things about the student body such as percentages of racial background, free & reduced lunch, how many kids transfer to other PPS schools, how many transfer in, test scores, teacher qualification stats, and more. This page is also accessible from each school’s own PPS page (see above)
- Test Assessment Results for each PPS School - At this page, select the school you’re researching from the pop-up menu and then keep drilling down to each question to get a little chart which should give you an indication of how students perform on standardized tests, whether they’re improving, how they compare, etc. A lot of clicks to go through, but the statistically inclined will appreciate the data. This page is also accessible at each school’s PPS page
- AYP Reports - Select Portland from the District pull down menu to drill down for the No School Left Behind report, which requires that each school make Adequate Yearly Progress. There are a small percentage of schools that don’t meet these standards, and they may be meaningful to you if you live within one of these schools’ boundaries as it will automatically allow you access to a better school.
Getting online reviews
Online comments and reviews are tricky to interpret as you have no idea who’s leaving them and what their biases may be. But we are in favor of taking in whatever information you can get (and taking with a grain of salt) until you visit and really dig deeper.
- GreatSchools.org tends to have some reviews for most schools, (and search their community forum too to see if any relevant conversations are taking place). Some of the other above mentioned sites may have comments as well.
- Urbanmamas is another great source for the local scoop. If you go to their Schools section, you may see a school of interest in the Categories column on the lower right. Click to see what postings come up. Also type in the school’s name in their search field as oftentimes a buried comment thread may exist which mentions the school.
If you can, pick up the Portland Monthly issue that covers schools. It’s a “Nice to Have” as it lists nearly all the options in the greater Portland Area (not just PPS). Like most other resources listed here, the private school info is spotty, not always accurate, and difficult to compare with public options – but the list will give you a snapshot of basic info. Portland Monthly does have an online page of the most recent schools issue, but it’s a bit frustrating to use as once you scroll down to the school in question, there’s no point of reference to what all the numbers mean and then you have to scroll back up to see what you’re looking at – and then back down again to see the number. (A floating bar with the column titles listed would be a big plus!)