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Get the lay of the land for Portland area schools. Learn the basics of navigating the system.

Determine what you’re looking for in a school, and what your child might need.

Get the essential details on your school options, and learn how to interpret the data.  Give and get the scoop in our Schools Forum

Know how to get the inside scoop on a school. Learn what to ask and what to look for on a school tour.

Make a plan to go after the schools you like best. Understand the application or lottery process.

When you finally commit to a school, get tips on how to transition successfully.

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Welcome to Scoop On Schools

If you are wondering how to find the best Portland area school for your child, we’ve got you covered! Follow a step-by-step process created by two Portland moms who have gone through it themselves and want to give you the scoop on how it all works.

We may not be blogging anymore,  but we're still around! If you want to let us know about changes in the school scene please leave comments, find us on FACEBOOK, post to the FORUM, or CONTACT US


In Consideration of Creativity

Lately a new work project has been putting me in the path of fascinating readings and conversations about the creative process, and it has gotten me to thinking.  What can I, a parent of an eight and eleven year old, do to better foster creativity at home?  As I get deeper into the literature, I am finding that the answers do not necessarily involve craft supplies.  Some of the answers are as simple as they come...

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Tips from Parents on Improving Your School

The neighborhood school is an appealing option for most people.  Who doesn’t love the idea of walking their kids down the street with neighbors, building community, reaping the benefits of whatever cultural diversity your neighborhood has to offer? In many ways this is an iconic image of America. But it doesn’t always play out that way here in Portland.

Sometimes the draw of a language immersion or other type of “specialty” school is hard to resist.  And other times parents move into a community and don’t like the buzz they hear about their neighborhood school. Maybe it has underwhelming test scores, behavioral problems in the classroom, lack of enrichment or other attractive features.  Whatever it is, parents will fall into 2 camps — they either flee, or come hell or high water, they make it work. 

We spoke with a group of impressive parents who fall into that latter camp.  Their east side elementary schools had a great need for improvement; and today, due to their efforts, most are in turn-around mode, steadily and vastly improving.  Because some of them wanted to remain anonymous, we opted to leave out all names, but still bring you their insightful tips - tips that are useful for any parent involved at any school:

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The Portland Montessori School (fka Providence Montessori School) - profile

*UPDATE:  Providence Montessori School has officially changed its name to The Portland Montessori School.

The Portland Montessori School*, formerly known as Providence Montessori School (PMS) has the distinction of being the first Montessori school west of the Mississippi, started by the Sisters of Charity of Providence in 1962.  The school continues to evolve from its humble beginnings 50 years ago and is no longer run by nuns (nor does it teach a Catholic curriculum, in case you were wondering). Today Providence Montessori goes up to the 4th grade, with 5th and 6th grades being added over the course of the next 2 years. With its green space and play area, Providence Montessori School is situated in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of NE Portland, not too far from the 84 or Burnside.  After talking with folks in the PMS community, here’s what we learned:

The Scoop Half-Full:

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Destination Imagination - an After-school Program that Packs a Punch

In terms of our kids’ schooling most of us lament the over-focus on standardized test scores, abundance of worksheets, and basic factory-style schools that have not caught up with 21st century knowledge. Because even though science tells us that a crucial element of learning has more to do with thinking on your feet, creative problem solving, and self-managed decision making, our schools are still stuck in a morass of learn-some-facts-and-spit-them-back-for-a-test. So unless you enroll your kid in a non-traditional school that puts her in the driver’s seat of the learning process, your child might not get practice in some fundamental skills that her future success depends upon. What’s a parent to do?

We supplement with soccer in lieu of PE; after school classes in art, music, or drama (because they’ve been cut in most schools); and other enrichment in hopes of rounding out our kids’ education. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an after-school activity that touched on all of this *and* gave your kid plenty of opportunity to develop those executive function skills that schools sadly can’t afford to worry about? Enter Destination Imagination…

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Southwest Charter School

The Southwest Charter School (SWCS) is a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school located in the Johns Landing neighborhood of Southwest Portland. SWCS is a state-sponsored charter school, meaning that unlike the rest of the charter schools in the city, Portland Public Schools does not oversee the SWCS; the state’s Department of Education does. However, like all charter school, SWCS is a free, public school, its teachers are held accountable by the same standards neighborhood public schools are and the waiting list gets longer every year.

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Update on Local Family's School Search

Early this year we met Gina and her partner Luca who were looking for a half-day Kindergarten option for their son this fall. They were drawn toward the more alternative schools such as Metropolitan Learning Center, Opal Charter School and Cedarwood Waldorf School, while at the same time feeling 70% certain they would end up at their neighborhood school, Chapman Elementary. However, the twists and turns of the school exploration path have taken them for a bit of a ride.

Since our original post Gina & Luca visited Cathedral School in NW Portland. While Gina & Luca consider themselves classic “Portland liberals” their Catholic upbringing made them pretty comfortable with a parochial school as an option for their son. They were really impressed with Cathedral’s size (250 kids in K-8), the dynamic new principal, involved parent community, and commitment to new technology (Starting this year, every student is issued an iPad). The downtown location, uniforms (makes mornings very easy!) and relatively low tuition ($6000) were bonuses too. But...

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Time to hit the books

It’s been a long time since anyone on this side of the blog has set foot in school as a student, but we can’t help it – school’s back in session and we’re brimming with excitement. Maybe it’s the shopping for school supplies or new clothes, or the thought of a new teacher bringing out our child’s potential. The promise of another school year puts a smile on our faces.

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The Summer (Over) Schedule

Updated on June 13, 2012 by Registered CommenterScoopOnSchools

School's out for the summer(!)... and we are going to take our own advice from last year and try not to schedule too much at all.  That includes posting to our blog.  We'll be back in the fall with more Scoop. We hope you all have a fun summer!

Every year I have the same conversation with myself.  “Self,” I say, “this summer you are not going to overschedule the kids.  You are going to remember that less is more.  You are going to have days, weeks, a month! – with the kids playing in their P.J.s all day,  unless they need to put on their bathing suit.   And you are not going to get suckered into signing the kids up for too many camps, no matter how amazing they sound.  Period.”

Then, usually I turn around and do just the opposite.  I fill the docket to exploding.  I get excited about each of the fun things to fold into summer and BOOM, before you know it we are booked.

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Markham Elementary - profile

Markham Elementary is a K-5 neighborhood school deep in SW that feeds into Jackson Middle School & Wilson HS. We heard from several parents who gave us their thoughts about what makes Markham stand out from other neighborhood PPS schools:

The Scoop Half-Full:

Markham has the key elements in place that make a neighborhood school appealing: 1) respected leadership & teachers; 2) strong parent support; and 3) the majority of families (67%) that live within its boundaries choose to attend. Parents gushed about teacher enthusiasm and dedication to their highly diverse student body. Historically a Title 1 school, Markham students have had the benefit of a low teacher student ratio, which contribute to overall parent satisfaction. And the staff achieves this high regard because of its successful working relationship with parent volunteers. Though the parent community may not have much financial muscle, they do manage to pull it together for necessary fundraising, keeping art and other programs alive; helping in the classroom; and regular participation in school events.

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Hayhurst Elementary - profile

Hayhurst Elementary (K-5) is tucked away in SW Portland and feeds into nearby Robert Gray Middle School and Wilson HS. Because it is a PPS neighborhood school (which shares its campus with the K-8 Odyssey Program Focus Option), curriculum and methodology won’t vary much from any other neighborhood school - so to get the scoop we’ll look at what parents have told us about its community and other general observations:

The Scoop Half-Full:

Most families within the Hayhurst boundaries attend this elementary school (72% in fact) which sits on a sizeable patch of green in suburban SW Portland. When asked about the positive aspects of Hayhurst, parents called out principal Deanne Froelich, whom they feel is doing an exceptional job leading two programs under one roof. And while Hayhurst’s solid test scores offer evidence of successful leadership, parents note that Principal Froelich’s friendly, available, and “goal-oriented” approach are what make Hayhurst hum. Whether she's working to upgrade the computer lab, or making smart decisions in hiring staff, parents see day-to-day progress at the school, and in their children’s own educational progress.

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