Portland Oregon Public Schools
by Rob Levy
With 47,000 students, just under 2,900 teachers and 81 schools, the school district in scenic Portland, Oregon is the largest district in the Pacific Northwest.
It is a district devoted to academic excellence, a mindset proven most recently by the achievement of all three Milestones and five of the six sub-targets set under the Milestone Framework for 2010. The sixth district target – closing the achievement gap between Caucasian and African American students – was missed by only a single percentage point. Led by Carole Smith, a superintendent praised by the Portland School Board for her performance in 2010, Portland public schools can look to a bright and prosperous future.
A Little Bit of History
Founded in 1851, the Portland Public School District has a history as rich as it is deep. It began as a single schoolhouse, taught by John T. Outhouse, which remained open for almost two years before legislative funding ran out.
Since that time, aided by strong community ties and creative solutions to financial hardships, the school district has grown to include 81 public schools, 17 community-based programs, 17 special services programs, seven charter schools and an Early Childhood Education program.
Annually, the students enrolled in Portland public schools prove their academic mettle by achieving scores above the state average. According to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) 2010-2011 Summary Report, 80% of the district met or exceeded standards in reading, 66% in mathematics, and 67% in writing. For the past nine years the district has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in reading, math and attendance, earning the coveted "met" designation from the Oregon Department of Education.
In addition to hard work within the classroom, this consistent academic achievement is facilitated by a low high school dropout rate, which has steadily decreased over the past 15 years. In 2010, approximately two out of every three high school seniors (66%) graduated within four years, a figure that grew to nearly 70% with one additional year (five year rate).
It Takes a Village
Portland public schools have an impressive list of partners, all of which offer support in unique and vital areas, at a variety of developmental levels. To name just a few:
- All Hands Raised, an organization committed to supporting students throughout their entire academic career, from "Cradle to Career." Just seven U.S. cities including Portland have been invited into this partnership.
- Playworks, a program that fosters independent play by providing children with the necessary tools to manage their own play time, including recess.
- Safe Routes to School, an organization that strives to keep children safe and healthy outside the classroom.
Drawing from a history of hard work and creativity, Portland public schools have the leadership, the community support, and the student drive to achieve academic success far into the foreseeable future.
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