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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


Grout Elementary - profile

Grout Elementary is a SE Portland neighborhood K-5 school that feeds into Hosford Middle School and Cleveland HS. This means that all children living within Grout’s boundaries are guaranteed a spot. As a neighborhood school Grout’s curriculum and methodology are pretty similar to what you would find at other non-Focus Option schools within PPS.  So to get a sense of what distinguishes it from other schools, we’ll look at various bells & whistles, and community factors to get the scoop:

The Scoop Half-Full:

It’s rare these days that a public school is able to tout small class sizes. But Grout’s relatively small population (~350) coupled with its Title I funding allowing for more teachers, result in class sizes that hover in the low 20s. However, parents tell us what really makes Grout hum is award-winning principal Susan McElroy. She tirelessly champions for the school, writing grants to keep programs funded despite budget cuts; building partnerships with local organizations; greeting the children by name every day; and working to strengthen the diverse community that makes Grout families proud.

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Take Action & Turn Up the Volume

I’m not breathing a big sigh of relief at Monday night’s 11th hour rescue of PPS’ funding woes – and neither should you. Every year since my kids started school it seems to go like this: 1) impending budget cuts for lack of funding 2) administrators forced to slash expenses, layoff teachers 3) a desperate move to find emergency funding so schools can have a semblance of adequacy 4) our students are left a little more starved than the year before.

When will we say “enough!” of this gut-wrenching rollercoaster ride? When will we get fed up instead of holding our breath and crossing our fingers that class sizes won’t grow or programs won’t be gutted, like what’s happening at Buckman Arts, which could lose 2 of its 3 art teachers unless parents scramble to raise a crazy amount of cash? Maybe we’re finally there with last Friday's rally when hundreds of Portlanders marched into Pioneer Square  to express their frustration at yet another year of this insanity. This momentum needs to build, and we need to get louder.

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Should Teachers be held Accountable for Student Achievement? Documentaries Delve In...

Several recent documentaries in the field of education are addressing issues surrounding teacher competence:  measuring their effectiveness, examining their training, illuminating their lack of support and the multi-faceted demands of their profession. Teacher performance is a very thorny area of policy to maneuver, but research is pointing toward what we all already know ourselves either as former students or as parents: that students learn and grow when they have a good teacher, and they flail when they don’t.

The difference between inspiration and boredom, between an eagerness to learn and dropping out, between a year of academic growth and stagnation is often in the hands of the teacher. Don’t we all remember teachers that made us care about a topic with a passion we didn’t know we had, simply because they were good at what they did?

Three documentary films—Waiting for Superman (2010), American Teacher (2011) and The Finland Phenomenon (2011)—show varying angles of the problems facing the teaching profession and some possible solutions.

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Sibling Rivalry & School - Learning to Live with Differences

“Don’t get involved because as soon as you do the kids don’t care about fighting with each other.  All they want to know is, Who is the favorite?  Don’t worry, Mom.  I know I’m your favorite and you love me more…” 

This unabashed straight talk was my 14 year-old daughter’s response when I asked for her thoughts about siblings at school.  Little does she know how insightful she is...

All’s fair in love and war, right? 

The heart of sibling rivalry is the passionate fight over the grand prize of parental love.  This battle for affection, along the inherent differences of individual students, sets the stage for school-focused battles. And how you guide them as parents helps them to learn how to navigate their competitiveness.  After all, we want our sibling children who fight with each other today to fight for each other tomorrow.  And to get there we first need to understand where they’re coming from…

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Martin Luther King K-8 - profile

Martin Luther King K-8 is a small neighborhood school (enrollment of 288) nestled at the western end of the Alberta Arts District in Northeast Portland.  Historically a rough neighborhood, King is in the midst of a long-overdue transformation that includes the establishment of the highly reputed International Baccalaureate program and the prioritization of the arts.  Here is the scoop:

The Scoop Half-Full:

Parents appear to enthusiastically agree that King’s recent renaissance stems from the day that principal Kim Patterson walked through its doors.  Formerly an assistant principal at nearby Jefferson High, Principal Patterson comes to King with years of experience in marginalized schools, with an energy and optimism that parents describe as limitless.  In her two years at the helm, she has made massive and visible changes to the feel and energy of the school, minimized behavior issues, and has established partnerships with outside entities to benefit and support the school’s transformation.  She also has deeply affected the program that King offers its students, adding Spanish, dance, music teachers, a brand new computer lab, and an optional but well-attended summer school for all students.  Parents describe her as accessible, decisive, and tirelessly focused on making King successful.

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Update on One Family's Search

Several weeks ago we met Pradeep*, a work-at-home dad in SE doing much of the school scouting for his twins while his wife Siri finishes her residency at OHSU.  We checked in with him again and here’s the scoop on their school visits:

  • Abernethy: Pradeep and Siri visited their neighborhood school and liked it well enough - but not enough to pull kids out of their last year of Montessori school. The bottom line is that they think that one of their twins would do fine anywhere, but that the other needs more freedom in his environment to engage in learning, which makes them very hesitant to jump the Montessori ship now.
  • Buckman Arts: They liked it, but it didn't feel that drastically different to them than their neighborhood school - just more art bells & whistles. They did think that if Buckman were their neighborhood school they would be more than happy with it - but is it enough to leave the

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Diane Ravitch Slays the Sacred Cow

This week's post is written by Chandra Emery, a writer and mediator in service to the Portland Community.  Before becoming a mom, she practiced law in Washington, DC and Portland for a number of years.

On a recent Tuesday night, Illahee hosted a lecture by Diane Ravitch as part of its 2012 Sacred Cow Lecture Series.  From the packed bleachers at Lincoln High School, Ravitch received two standing ovations, notably one before she reached the podium.  

In a lecture that had the tone and rhythm of a stump speech, Ravitch came out swinging at the “sacred cow” -- the belief, promoted by the “corporate reformers,” that schools will improve if we focus on testing, accountability and choice.  In the 1990s, as assistant secretary of education, Ravitch was fully committed to these pillars of reform.  She has since changed her mind, dramatically and publicly.  She is now arguing to protect public education from the “corporate reform movement” which has underpinnings to privatize the American school system.  Our government's focus on testing, accountability and choice, she says, is a threat to public education.

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Write Up Our Alley!

Scoop On Schools has been a great success so far, and our small volunteer team at Scoop On Schools is currently working beyond capacity.  We are actively looking for guest bloggers and ongoing contributors to keep our work sustainable and relevant. We want to hear your perspective on Portland schools, its education scene, and learning in general.

 We are looking for writer-types who could share:

  • Insights about specific Portland area schools 
  • Opinions or interests about educational topics of benefit to other parents
  • Expertise and oversight of social media marketing
  • Ideas for posts and online conversations

We want to hear from you.  Email us and let us know how you'd like to join the Scoop On Schools team!


The Many Gifts of Introversion

Let’s face it - introverted kids get a bad rap.  

In Time Magazine’s recent article, “The Upside of Being an Introvert: and Why Extroverts are Overrated,” introverted author Bryan Walsh points out that “in America, the land of the loud and the home of the talkative,” being an introvert is challenging.  Our schools reward children who are assertive, outgoing and competitive.  The brave athlete, the bold performer and the gregarious social charmer receive accolades while thoughtful sensitive children are too often labeled as “shy.” These quiet students may even be marked down or criticized for “low classroom participation”; their many gifts unappreciated and their self-esteem diminished.   No wonder parents worry! 

Clearly, it is time to honor the introverted child’s unique potential.  After all, between between 20 – 30% of us fall on this side of the temperament spectrum.  

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The Finland Phenomenon: Why do their schools run circles around our own?

So I piled my end-of-the-workday self into the car a month ago alongside a fellow educator and shot off to Oregon Episcopal School for a viewing of the latest in a seeming series of grassroots documentaries on education.    Following in the questioning footsteps of Waiting for Superman and American Teacher, The Finland Phenomenon takes us overseas to the edu-utopia of Finland, rated #1 by the UN in education.  Narrated by Harvard professor Tony Wagner, the documentary explores what Finland has so right, that we so obviously have so wrong. Here is what I learned:  

US & Finland – What Isn’t Different

  • It is not a money issue.  Finland spends about the same per child as we do here in the states.
  • It is not necessarily a salary issue per se either – Finnish teachers are firmly middle class like American teachers. 

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