Childcare and Education
Even in familiar surroundings, finding quality childcare and good schools is one of the most challenging and overwhelming tasks parents face, and a move to a new area compounds the difficulty. With time and effort, however, it is usually possible to find a good situation for your child, whether it is in-home or on-site daycare, a nanny, an after-school program, or a good public or private school. The keys, of course, are research and persistence, and perhaps a bit of luck. Keep in mind that even institutions with the best reputations may not be suited to your child’s individual needs. Get comfy with the phone book and the web, and, perhaps most important, prepare to talk with other parents.
Probably the best way to find a good childcare provider is by referral from someone you know and trust. As a newcomer, however, you may not have such resources at your disposal. A good place to start your research is one of several local childcare resource and referral agencies that can help you find and select childcare providers. Call 866-227-5529 or visit ccrr-mc.org in Multnomah County; 800-624-9516, ww.caowash.org in Washington and Columbia counties 866-371-4373, clackesd.k12.or.us/ece/ccrr.html in Clackamas County; 360-750-9735, 800-282-0874, esd112.org/ccrr in Southwest Washington.
In Oregon, the Oregon Employment Department (oregon.gov/EMPLOY/CCD/) regulates childcare providers. There are several options for care, and each is subject to different regulations. A childcare center is a facility other than a private home that provides care for more than 13 children; such centers must be state-certified, are subject to mandated adult-child ratios, and must offer a program of age-appropriate activities. A certified family childcare home, which is subject to similar requirements, is a facility in the provider’s family residence that provides care for a maximum of 16 children, including the provider’s children. Family childcare homes that care for no more than 10 children (including the provider’s children) need only be licensed with the state; certification is not required.
A wide range of small-scale childcare providers are exempt from licensing requirements, including providers who care for no more than three children (in addition to the provider’s own children), nannies and others who provide care in a child’s home, and caregivers who provide care on an occasional basis only or who are related to the child. Programs run by government agencies are also exempt, as are preschools (i.e., facilities that offer an educational curriculum for children from three years old through kindergarten-age) that provide care for less than four hours per day. To check on the licensing status of a childcare provider or find out about complaints, call the Child Care Division’s hotline at 800-556-6616.
Washington requires virtually anyone who is paid to care for children on a regular basis to be licensed (unless the children are related to the caregiver). The Washington Department of Early Learning (del.wa.gov) regulates childcare providers in that state. To check the license status and complaint history of a childcare provider, visit the department’s website or call 866-482-4325.
In addition to the required state certifications, you may want to look for childcare centers that are accredited by third-party organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), naeyc.org.
What to Look for in Childcare
When searching for the best place for your child, be sure to visit prospective providers—and make an appointment. A security-conscious caregiver should not let a random stranger on the premises unannounced; a staff member should accompany you at all times. In general, look for a safe and clean environment and a caring attitude. Are areas that children use child-proofed? Are the kitchen, toys, and furniture clean and safe? Are outdoor play areas fenced and free of hazards? Observe other kids at the facility. Do they seem happy? Are they well behaved? Is the adult-child ratio acceptable? Ask for the telephone numbers of parents who use the service and talk to them. It’s a good idea to request a daily schedule—look for both active and quiet time, and age-appropriate activities. Keep in mind that wet Portland winters don’t allow for daily outdoor play. Is there an adequate covered space for active play in winter? Does the facility have adequate insurance? Finally, understand that a license does not necessarily guarantee quality childcare. It is your responsibility as a parent to make sure that the caregiver delivers the standard of care you expect.
Nannies and Au Pairs
Hiring a nanny is generally the most expensive childcare option, but under the right circumstances it can be a very rewarding arrangement for everyone involved. In the Portland area you can expect to pay at least $400 a week for a full-time nanny—more (and sometimes much more) for a nanny with more experience or who will be expected to care for multiple children or do housework.
Several agencies help match nannies with families. While these services tend to charge significant placement fees, many agencies perform background checks or psychological testing (for the nanny, not you) during the applicant screening process. Nannies are not state-licensed, and screening processes vary, so you may want to ask each agency about its specific screening criteria. Most agencies can also help with temporary childcare needs. Local nanny placement agencies include:
- A Brilliant Nanny, 4110 SE Hawthorne Blvd #157, 503-459-4055, abnanny.com
- Care Givers Placement Agency, 10211 SW Barbur Blvd, Suite 203A, 503-244-6370, cgpa.com
- Karoline’s Nannies, Vancouver, 360-721-0902, karolinesnannies.com
- Northwest Nannies, 11830 SW Kerr Pkwy, Suite 330, Lake Oswego, 503-389-5568, nwnanny.com
If you are contracting directly with your nanny for his or her services, rather than going through an agency, you’ll have to get an employer identification number from the IRS and pay certain taxes, including social security, Medicare, and possibly unemployment insurance tax, and you’ll have to withhold income tax—unless of course you’re planning on being nominated for a high-profile federal job and would like a good scandal to torpedo your nomination, in which case by all means neglect to pay taxes for your nanny. You’ll also need to carry workers’ compensation, which you may be able to purchase through your homeowner’s or automobile insurance provider. Several companies offer assistance with childcare employment taxes, including HomeWork Solutions (800-626-4829, nanitax.com) or GTM Payroll Services (800-929-9213, gtm.com/household/).
Be sure to check references before hiring a nanny. Although most agencies run background checks, if you’re not using an agency or if you simply want a second opinion, several companies can perform pre-employment screening. Look in the Yellow Pages under “Employment Screening” or “Background Screening,” or type “employment screening” into your search engine for links.
Au pairs are young adults, usually college-age women, visiting the United States with a special visa status that allows them to provide childcare and light housekeeping in exchange for room and board, international airfare, and a weekly stipend. The host family benefits from cultural exchange as well as relatively inexpensive childcare, but the placement usually only lasts one year and an au pair might not offer the same level of maturity and experience as a career nanny. Keep in mind that the au pair will be in a foreign country and will be interested in traveling and meeting people her age, but may not have fully considered how restricted her free time will be. At the same time, many parents have unrealistic expectations of their au pair, and assume that she will be a combination nanny, babysitter, and full-time housekeeper, with few outside interests or social engagements. That said, the au pair arrangement can be a great experience for those families and au pairs who understand the trade-offs of the system and have the same expectations for their year together.
The US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (202-203-5096, j1visa.state.gov/programs/au-pair) regulates au pair placement agencies and maintains a current list of designated sponsor agencies. The following are some of the approved national au pair agencies that can connect you with a local placement coordinator:
- Au Pair in America, 800-928-7247, aupairinamerica.com
- AuPairCare, 800-428-7247, aupaircare.com
- Cultural Care Au Pair, 800-333-6056, culturalcare.com
- EurAuPair, 800-333-3804, euraupair.com
- Go Au Pair, 888-287-2471, goaupair.com
- InterExchange Au Pair USA, 800-287-2477, interexchange.org/au-pair-usa
Many organizations offer care to school-aged children before and/or after school hours and during school vacations. In many cases, care is provided on-site at an elementary school, or at a nearby location to which children are transported by bus after school. Check with your child’s school for convenient options. Note that school-age programs that are operated by a public school or other government agency are exempt from state certification requirements (but the programs may choose to be certified anyway).
There are hundreds of public and private schools in the Portland area, and choosing the right one for your child can be a complicated and time-consuming task. While the public school systems in Portland and in many of the surrounding communities rely primarily on neighborhood-based schools (i.e., schools that draw from a set attendance area), they also offer a growing number of magnet programs and specialty schools; add transfer options, private schools, and charter schools into the mix and the range of options is dizzying. Fortunately, there are some sources that can help with your initial search.
The Oregon Department of Education is responsible for statewide curriculum, instructional, and assessment testing programs. The department issues an annual statewide report card that covers every public school in the state. The annual report cards are available from the Department’s website (ode.state.or.us), which also offers a tremendous amount of additional information about public education in Oregon. In Washington, the office of the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction (k12.wa.us) plays a similar role and issues report cards for schools in that state.
The Chalkboard Project (chalkboardproject.org) is another good source of information about Oregon public schools. This organization is involved in a side project, the Open Books Project (openbooksproject.org), which allows parents—and others—to track how educational funding dollars are spent in Oregon; the website includes report cards for each school and district, provides information about statewide educational spending and spending by district, and allows for district-by-district comparisons.
Other sources for gathering specific information about schools include Great Schools (greatschools.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing clear and objective information about local schools; and the National Center for Educational Statistics (nces.ed.gov), a federal center that collects and analyzes information from states. Information on private schools is notoriously hard to come by; they are not subject to state curriculum requirements, and do not have to release certain information (such as standardized test scores or teacher credentials) that public schools are required to disclose.
When researching schools, bear in mind that statistics and summary progress assessments paint a picture that is at best incomplete. While objective measures may help support or guide your decision, there is really only one way to choose a school, public or private, that is right for your child: visit.
When visiting a school, pay attention to your gut reaction. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I comfortable here? Will my child be comfortable here?
- Does the school feel safe? Are the bathrooms clean and free of graffiti?
- Do the students seem to be engaged? Is student work on display?
- Are classrooms crowded? (Class sizes can vary enormously from school to school.) Do teachers appear to be overworked?
- Are adults present throughout the building and grounds?
- Are desks, instructional materials, and computers plentiful and up-to-date?
- Does the school offer academic and extracurricular opportunities for students to explore their own special interests, such as art, music, sports, or science?
- In an elementary school, pay attention to the way the children are moving around—are they interacting naturally, but staying on task? In a middle school or high school, notice how students interact with each other and with teachers at the beginning and end of class, and in the halls.
- Ask elementary teachers about reading and math groups and find out if children move up as they build skills.
- Are parents encouraged to volunteer? To paraphrase JFK, ask not only what your school can do for your child, but what you can do for your child’s school. The level of parent and community involvement in a school is one key to that school’s success.
Public schools in the Northwest face many challenges, including rapid growth in districts on the urban fringe, declining enrollments in inner cities, and an increasingly diverse student population. In Oregon, a roller-coaster ride of inconsistent (and often inadequate) funding over the last decade or so has exacerbated these problems. As the Oregon Blue Book, the state’s official government directory, succinctly puts it, “Oregon public school finance is unique and very complicated for several reasons.” In a nutshell, mandatory property tax limits reduced local governments’ ability to fund schools, and today about two-thirds of the money for public schools comes directly from the state. While state funding has helped reduce the disparity in resources between districts, it leaves school funding vulnerable to economic cycles and competing demands for limited revenue (despite a state constitutional amendment, passed in 2000, which requires the legislature to appropriate sufficient funds to allow schools to meet legally established quality goals). State funding also means that communities which place a high value on their schools have only a limited ability to increase support for those schools using local tax revenues.
A funding crunch in Oregon during the recession of the early 2000s led some districts to cut electives, increase class sizes, and (most infamously) lop several days off the school year to reduce costs. In response to this deterioration in school services, some parents placed their children in private schools or simply moved to more affluent school districts. An improved economy—and in many districts, voter-approved property tax levies—helped stabilize school funding until the most recent recession, beginning in 2008, led once again to declining tax revenues and mounting pressure on school budgets in both Oregon and Washington. The financial picture has improved somewhat with the economy in recent years, but fundamental school funding issues, which are hardly unique to the Northwest, have not been resolved. That said, some districts are in a much better financial position than others.
Unlike in many states, school district boundaries in Oregon and Washington do not necessarily correspond to city or county boundaries. For example, five different school districts serve the city of Portland, and the Portland Public Schools district draws from both Multnomah County and a small portion of Washington County.
Both Oregon and Washington have educational service districts (ESDs), which generally encompass multiple districts and which provide certain programs and services that are too costly or specialized for districts to provide on their own. Most parents don’t deal directly with ESDs.
Portland Public Schools
The Portland Public Schools district—the largest of five districts that encompass parts of the city of Portland, and the most populous school district in the state—serves some 47,000 students. Although enrollment had declined for many years, it has recently stabilized and has even begun to increase slightly for several years. Close to 85% of Portland children attend public school, and Portland remains one of the few large cities in America in which the middle class has not largely abandoned the public schools. To be sure, Portland Public Schools is emerging from a time of great uncertainty and turmoil that included state funding cuts, a round of school closures, controversy over standardization and core curriculum issues, and a narrowly averted teachers’ strike in 2014. Immediate challenges include a high dropout rate, several consistently low-performing schools, and equity issues between schools and neighborhoods; state report card ratings run the gamut from “needs improvement” to “outstanding.” That said, some Portland schools are among the best in the state.
The school district website (pps.k12.or.us) includes a great deal of information about individual schools (click on “schools” in the horizontal menu) and about school choices, with a handy look-up function to find the neighborhood school for a specific address (pps.k12.or.us/departments/enrollment-transfer/6478.htm). Your child is guaranteed a spot at your neighborhood school. The Enrollment and Transfer Center is a great resource; send an email to email@example.com or call 503-916-3205.
To register your child, go to your assigned neighborhood school or approved transfer school. (Keep in mind that the school that is closest or most convenient to your residence may not necessarily be your neighborhood school.) Call first to make sure the staff member you need to see will be available, and bring the following documents:
- A completed Student Registration form, available in hard copy from the school or online at pps.k12.or.us/departments/enrollment-transfer/6808.htm.
- Proof of the student’s age (e.g., a birth certificate or passport). Children who are five years or older by September 1 may enroll in kindergarten.
- Records of immunization for diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, chicken pox, polio, hemophilus influenza type B (HiB), mumps, measles, and rubella, unless you are seeking an exemption for religious or medical reasons. There are specific requirements for each grade level.
- Proof of residence: You must provide two or more recent documents showing your name and current home address, such as utility bills, credit card bills, a rental agreement, or the deed to your home. A driver’s license is not acceptable to show proof of residence.
- The name and contact information for any previous school your child attended outside the Portland Public Schools district.
You can register at any time, but it is better for everyone (including your child) if you register as early as possible. Most schools hold informational meetings and provide tours for prospective parents during the winter months.
If you would prefer that your child attend a school other than your neighborhood school, you can apply for a transfer. Transfer applications are due in late winter. Popular schools generally have more transfer applications than open slots, and applicants are selected by lottery in the spring; in an average year, more than three-quarters of applicants get into one of their top choices, if not necessarily their first choice. A few schools, particularly those with new and expanding programs, including language immersion programs, may have spaces available in select grades until late August. (Be aware that, as a newcomer and given the timetable for transfer requests, your child will likely have to attend your neighborhood school initially unless he or she is not yet school age.) For details about the transfer process, visit pps.k12.or.us/departments/enrollment-transfer/schoolchoice.htm or call the Enrollment and Transfer Center at 503-916-3205.
Magnet Schools and Language Immersion Programs
Portland has several magnet and charter schools that concentrate on arts, math and science, or other disciplines; contact the school district for specifics. In addition, language immersion programs are available in Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. (The Mandarin kindergarten-to-college immersion program, which begins at Woodstock Elementary School and continues at Hosford Middle School, Cleveland High School, and the University of Oregon, was the first of its kind in the United States.) For more information, contact the Portland Public Schools Immersion Coordinator at 503-916-6255.
Suburban District Schools
The suburban districts in the Portland area defy generalization. Some are huge, with thousands of students, and others are tiny; some have sparkling new facilities and adequate budgets, others have frankly decrepit buildings and are struggling financially; some have some of the highest test scores and graduation rates in the state or country, and others—well, not so much. In fact, school conditions and academic performance can vary dramatically not only between but within districts, so research is in order.
Registration procedures are fairly uniform throughout the Portland area—go to the appropriate school and present an enrollment form, proof of residence, immunization records, proof of the child’s age, and prior school contact information. Contact your school district for specific enrollment requirements and information.
The following are the main school districts in the four-county metropolitan area:
Beaverton School District
16650 SW Merlo Rd
Beaverton, OR 97006
The Beaverton School District, the third-largest in the state, educates more than 39,000 students from the city of Beaverton, part of Tigard, and many of the surrounding unincorporated areas of Washington County (and a tiny portion of Multnomah County). The district as a whole has a very good reputation—its overall academic performance is among the best of the state’s large school districts—although some schools are much better than others. In addition to the standard offerings at its 33 elementary, 8 middle, and 5 high schools, the district has a wide range of “option” schools, including the International School, which is part of the International Baccalaureate program; the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy for grades 6–12; a Science and Technology High School; and a Health & Science School for grades 6–12, which follows the “Expeditionary Learning” model.
Canby School District
1130 S Ivy St
Canby, OR 97013
The Canby School District has more than 5,000 students from Canby and much of the surrounding (primarily rural) area, including the Charbonneau District of Wilsonville.
Centennial School District
18135 SE Brooklyn St
Portland, OR 97236
This jurisdiction-busting district containing 10 schools plus an alternative school for grades 7–12 serves outer Southeast Portland, western Gresham, and portions of unincorporated Multnomah and Clackamas counties.
Corbett School District
35800 E Historic Columbia River Hwy
Corbett, OR 97019
This tiny, highly regarded 1,100-student district in eastern Multnomah County has one elementary, one middle, one high school, and one charter school, all at the same location, plus an offsite K–8 arts with Spanish program. The high school has an impressive Advanced Placement program and is generally considered to be one of the best schools in the state.
David Douglas School District
1500 SE 130th Ave
Portland, OR 97233
The David Douglas School District serves more than 10,000 students in a large swath of East Portland (east of Interstate 205 and west of the Centennial School District). This part of the city is experiencing significant immigration from Mexico, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia, and district enrollment is growing at a rapid rate. Roughly one-quarter of students are English language learners. David Douglas High, with some 2,700 students, has the largest enrollment in the state.
Forest Grove School District
1728 Main St
Forest Grove, OR 97116
The Forest Grove School District covers 200 square miles in the city of Forest Grove, part of the adjacent city of Cornelius, and nearby unincorporated areas. It educates 5,800 students.
Gladstone School District
17789 Webster Rd
Gladstone, OR 97027
The Gladstone School District largely (but not entirely) corresponds with the boundaries of the city of Gladstone. With one elementary, one middle, and one high school (which has only about 730 students), this is one of the smallest suburban districts.
Gresham-Barlow School District
1331 NW Eastman Pkwy
Gresham, OR 97030
The Gresham-Barlow school district serves a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse student population in much (but not all) of Gresham and the new city of Damascus. The district has nearly 12,000 students in 22 schools (including three charter schools); performance varies from school to school.
Hillsboro School District
3083 NE 49th Pl
Hillsboro, OR 97124
The fourth-largest district in Oregon, Hillsboro School District educates more than 20,000 students in much of western Washington County; in addition to the city of Hillsboro, the district includes all or part of North Plains, Cornelius, and unincorporated areas from Aloha south to the edge of Sherwood. There are 25 elementary schools, 4 middle schools, and 4 high schools (as well as an alternative school and a charter school). As one might expect, school performance and offerings vary substantially within the district. Hillsboro High (aka Hilhi) has an International Baccalaureate program.
Lake Oswego School District
2455 Country Club Rd, PO Box 70
Lake Oswego, OR 97034
This well-funded, sought-after district includes six elementary schools, two junior high schools, and two high schools. The district boasts some of the highest test scores and high school graduation rates in the state.
North Clackamas School District
4444 SE Lake Rd
Milwaukie, OR 97222
North Clackamas School District extends from Milwaukie and Oak Grove in the west to Happy Valley and Sunnyside in the east. Schools within the district vary widely in quality, from excellent to mediocre at best.
Oregon City School District
1417 12th St
Oregon City, OR 97045
This sprawling district encompasses Oregon City and large sections of unincorporated Clackamas County, including Jennings Lodge, Beavercreek, and Redland.
Parkrose School District
10636 NE Prescott St
Portland, OR 97220
The Parkrose School District can trace its origins to the 1880s. Today, it serves a smallish area of Northeast Portland, primarily east of Interstate 205, with four elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school.
Reynolds School District
1204 NE 201st Ave
Fairview, OR 97024
Reynolds School District serves the east Multnomah County cities of Fairview, Troutdale, and Wood Village, as well as portions of outer Northeast Portland and northern Gresham. Reynolds High, the district’s only high school, has the second-highest enrollment in the state.
Riverdale School District
11733 SW Breyman Ave
Portland, OR 97219
Riverdale School District serves perhaps the most affluent area in Oregon, and test scores, graduation rates, and college attendance prospects are correspondingly high. Riverdale Grade School serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade; older students attend Riverdale High School, located near Lewis and Clark College in Portland.
Sherwood School District
23295 SW Main St
Sherwood, OR 97140
This generally well-regarded school district in southwestern Washington County has three elementary schools (plus a charter school), two middle schools, and one high school.
Tigard-Tualatin School District
6960 SW Sandburg St
Tigard, OR 97223
Tigard-Tualatin School District, which covers most of the cities of Tigard and Tualatin, as well as the surrounding communities of Durham, Bull Mountain, and Metzger, is one of the most sought-after districts in the state. Average student performance, school ratings, and test scores are generally high throughout the district. Both of the district’s high schools—Tigard High School and Tualatin High School—offer International Baccalaureate programs.
West Linn–Wilsonville School District
22210 SW Stafford Rd
Tualatin, OR 97062
The West Linn–Wilsonville School District covers the two non-adjacent cities of West Linn and (most of) Wilsonville, as well as the unincorporated areas that lie between them. This well-regarded district has nine elementary schools, three middle schools (two in West Linn and one in Wilsonville), and a high school in each city, along with a grades 4–8 charter school and the Arts & Technology High School.
Battle Ground Public Schools
11104 NE 49th St
Brush Prairie, WA 98606
Battle Ground Public Schools has some 11,000 students in Battle Ground and the surrounding unincorporated areas of Clark County, including parts of Brush Prairie, Amboy, and Yacolt.
Camas School District
841 NE 22nd Ave
Camas, WA 98607
The growing Camas School District, one of the most sought-after districts in Southwest Washington, serves the city of Camas and part of unincorporated Clark County. The district has six elementary schools, two middle schools, and a new high-tech high school.
Evergreen Public Schools
13501 NE 28th St
Vancouver, WA 98668
The generally well-regarded Evergreen Public Schools system serves the eastern half of Vancouver and much of nearby unincorporated Clark County. The district has more than 26,000 students, and is the fourth-largest school district in Washington. Mountain View High, one of six high schools in the district, offers 24 Advanced Placement classes (one of the highest totals in the Northwest).
Hockinson School District
17912 NE 159th Ave
Brush Prairie, WA 98606
This largely rural district includes most of Brush Prairie and parts of the surrounding areas of unincorporated Clark County, and offers one elementary, one middle, and one high school.
Vancouver School District
2901 Falk Rd
Vancouver, WA 98661
The Vancouver School District educates more than 22,000 children in the western half of the city of Vancouver and a large chunk of unincorporated Clark County. The district has several magnet schools, including the Vancouver School of Arts & Academics, which boasts a 99% graduation rate.
Washougal School District
4855 Evergreen Way
Washougal, WA 98671
Washougal’s school district boundaries encompass not just the area within city limits, but also a sizeable portion of the rural Columbia Gorge eastward into Skamania County. The district has three elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools (including an alternative high school).
Private and Parochial Schools
The Portland area is home to many excellent private and parochial schools. The following are some of the better known (but by no means the only) private schools in the region.
- Catlin Gabel School (P–12), 8825 SW Barnes Rd, 503-297-1894, catlin.edu
- Central Catholic High School (9–12), 2401 SE Stark St, 503-235-3138, centralcatholichigh.org
- French American International School (P–8), 8500 NW Johnson St, 503-292-7776, faispdx.org
- German American School of Portland (P–5), 3900 SW Murray Blvd, Beaverton, 503-626-9089, gspdx.org
- The International School (P–5), 025 SW Sherman St, 503-226-2496, intlschool.org
- Jesuit High School (9–12), 9000 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, 503-292-2663, jesuitportland.org
- La Salle Catholic College Preparatory (9–12), 11999 SE Fuller Rd, Milwaukie, 503-659-4155, lsprep.org
- L’Etoile French School (P-5), 68 SW Miles St, 503-715-1258, letoilefrenchschool.com
- Northwest Academy (6–12), 1130 SW Main St, 503-223-3367, nwacademy.org
- Oregon Episcopal School (P–12), 6300 SW Nicol Rd, 503-246-7771, oes.edu
- Portland Jewish Academy (P–8), 6651 SW Capitol Hwy, 503-244-0126, portlandjewishacademy.org
- Portland Waldorf School (P–12), 2300 Harrison St, Milwaukie, 503-654-2200, portlandwaldorf.org
- St. Mary’s Academy (9–12), 1615 SW 5th Ave, 503-228-8306, stmaryspdx.org
- Summa Academy (K-8), 2510 SW 1st Ave, 503-287-1785, summainstitute.org
A complete list of nonpublic schools in Oregon is available in the Oregon Department of Education’s Oregon School Directory (ode.state.or.us/pubs/directory/), and in Washington from the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Office of Private Education (k12.wa.us/PrivateEd/).
Parents who have misgivings about public schools have the right to take their children’s education into their own hands. Many parents believe that they are best qualified to design an educational program that will engage and challenge their children, responding to each child’s unique psychological and intellectual traits. Homeschooling is especially popular among strongly religious parents who object to the secular nature of public schools, and among liberal parents who object to, among other things, public schools’ increasing reliance on corporate sponsorship.
Teaching is not easy—you will need a lot of time and energy to plan and execute a study program that will enable your children to earn a high school diploma at home—but there are plenty of organizations and resources to help you. The Oregon Home Education Network (503-321-5166, ohen.org) and the Washington Homeschool Organization (425-251-0439, washhomeschool.org) are good places to start.
Many school districts in Oregon, including Portland, offer public charter schools—schools run autonomously, but with the (sometimes grudging) approval or sponsorship of the local school board. At press time, there were over 120 charter schools statewide. Unlike most public schools, charter schools, which are bound by their own charter agreements, are free from some traditional school regulations. For more information about charter schools in Oregon, including a current list of charter schools, visit the Oregon Department of Education charter school page at ode.state.or.us/go/charterschools/, or contact the League of Oregon Charter Schools (503-838-3636, oregonleaguecharters.org), the state’s charter schools association.
Washington voters approved a charter school initiative in 2012. The state is currently in the early years of implementing the law, and at press time only a handful of charter schools had opened, none of which are located in Southwest Washington. Up-to-date information is available from the Washington Charter Schools Association (wacharters.org).