Here is an overview of your educational options in the West Portland Metro Area.
While we’re not the most objective source, we have noticed that many newcomers to our area appreciate an overview of the area’s educational landscape. We realize there are risks in commenting on our friends (and competitors), but we encourage you to check out the options yourself. Disclaimer: We have not exhaustively researched these options. This is simply our perspective on other area schools.
Beaverton Public Schools
Beaverton schools are relatively safe and the city has some of the highest paid teachers in the area. Their class sizes though, along with most other schools in Oregon, are some of the largest in the nation. A high school degree earned in Oregon represents a full school year less of classroom time than an average American peer gets according to Beaverton Superintendent, Jeff Rose. Graduation rates are also at or below 80% and are some of the worst in the nation when normalized for ethnic distribution. This all being said, the general impression that the general public has is that this is a good school system compared to other surrounding cities, and people prefer to live here (and pay higher property taxes) due to this impression. Facilities in Beaverton public schools are on the whole quite good, especially at some of the newer high schools.
Hillsboro Public Schools
Hillsboro schools are also relatively safe, but do not have the same reputation as Beaverton does for higher quality schools. Most of the other comments above also apply to Hillsboro public schools. Since Hillsboro is a more rapidly growing city, their facilities tend to be newer to accommodate for this growth.
Why choose a general public school? If cost, athletics, activities, and a mainstream experience are your desire, the public schools are a viable choice. Academically, one should remember the goal of public school—leave no child behind. Also, Oregon’s educational standards tend to be lower than the rest of the nation on average. One measure of this is the qualifying score for National Merit Scholars on the national PSAT test. College-bound students take the PSAT their junior year to qualify for the prestigious standing as a National Merit Scholar. The test requires a proportional number of scholars from each state. An Oregon student can become a National Merit Scholar with a PSAT as low as 217 (they lower the score to qualify more students). Students have higher bars in neighboring states like California (223) and Washington (220). This is an indicator of the relative weakness in our state’s schools. We strongly suggest that Christians visit Discover Christian Schools for Christian as well as academic reasons to select a private Christian school.
Charter schools are public schools outside of the direct control of local school districts. Because they are taxpayer funded (no tuition) most have waiting lists, and they cannot use religious curricula. Current Oregon law only allows 60% of the normally appointed student costs to pass on to the charter school, so extra fundraising is often used to make up the gap in income. Some of the schools are K – 6 (Arco Iris Spanish Immersion School, Hope Chinese) while some are K – 8 (City View). Each school has a specific focus, whether it be in language immersion, expeditionary learning, or some other specialty. Class sizes tend to be similar to the public schools, while the facilities tend to be of lower quality than the public schools due to the startup nature of the schools, their limited financial resources, and inability to float bonds.
Charter schools often use lotteries to fill up the limited spaces, and parents are increasingly turning to these options due to frustration with their public school’s academic performance or due to a desire for a different type of educational methodology from what is normally offered in their public school.
Magnet schools are public schools governed by a local school district with a specific subject area of focus. Their enrollment is usually not strictly geographically dictated like conventional public schools. An example would be the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy, School of Science and Technology, and International School of Beaverton. These schools offer a highly specialized education geared toward a particular subject area and are quite popular with the general public.
Our perspective: Beaverton/Hillsboro public schools (conventional, magnet, and charter) are heavily influenced by the No Child Left Behind accountability program and now Common Core, which has been fully implemented in the state of Oregon. Because the system rewards bringing all students up to minimal competency, schools spend much of their time, effort, and resources on the lowest performers. Consequently, average to above average students receive less attention. The result can be a narrow education lacking in well-rounded subjects like literature, foreign language, logic, speech, music, and art. It can also mean that your average to above average student is not challenged by the education. These produce a heavy focus on what is tested — the basics of reading and math – with few other supplemental subjects.
One of our goals is to provide a rigorous academic curriculum that challenges each of our students to reach their potential. This may sound cliché, but we think that in practice this is relatively rare. We test as well, but not for the same reasons. In addition to using the normal PSAT and SAT tests in high school, we use as our main testing program a testing agency that has been in operation for over 80 years and is known worldwide for its rigorous standardized testing – the Educational Records Bureau. The ERB serves many of the finest preparatory schools in the country. The test combines conventional “bubble sheet” questions with a handwritten essay. This allows parents to decide for themselves if our results are satisfactory using a reference that compares us to the best private and public schools in the country and around the world, not just Oregon. We consistently score very well in relation to these schools on both the ERB and the PSAT/SAT. In fact, our SAT scores have consistently been in the top 3 in the entire Portland metropolitan area across all public and private schools. Parents also value the integrated aspect of our curriculum across literature, language, history, science, art, and music. Finally and most importantly, our curriculum is saturated with a Christian worldview that focuses on character and virtue. We educate our students holistically and do not make false divisions between the “secular” and the Christian parts of their lives. We seek to unite faith and reason through the classical Christian education that we offer.
Catlin Gabel: A Pre-K – 12 elite college preparatory school with a progressive (politically liberal) focus. They have very strong academics, but they do not follow a traditional classical model of education as many eastern college preparatory schools still do. They focus on the modern form of experiential, student led learning that stands in stark contrast with classical Christian education’s more structured approach to learning, especially in the younger grades. Catlin Gabel has a robust sports and extracurricular program and college level tuition.
French/American International School: A Pre-K – 8 French immersion program that follows the French national academic curriculum within the framework of the International Baccalaureate program.
German International School of Portland: A K – 5 German immersion program focusing on fostering cross-cultural understanding and developing and maintaining fluency in German and English all within the framework of the International Baccalaureate program.
Our Perspective: While these schools may be more rigorous and have broader content than the public schools, they embrace the modern educational paradigm. Classical education has been the foundation of college preparatory schools across the country for centuries. Schools like Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter, Boston Latin School, and Stonybrook are examples of highly acclaimed classical preparatory schools. We know of no system that has a better record of producing academic excellence than classical education.
The Roman Catholic schools (Valley Catholic, St. Cecilia, St. Pius X, Jesuit, Holy Trinity, St. Mary’s, etc.) in this area tend to be fairly similar to the public schools in curriculum and method, but with religious content found in specific religion classes. Valley Catholic and Jesuit high schools are well known for their very competitive sports programs. Catholic schools here in the Portland Metro area tend to be a less traditional when compared to Catholic schools outside of the Pacific Northwest.
Life Christian School: A large Pre-K – 12 Christian school in Aloha, which provides a general education using Christian curriculum. They also offer a similar extracurricular experience as small-to-mid-sized public schools. Life Christian school is a ministry of Life Christian Church.
Oregon Episcopal School: One of the elite college preparatory schools in the state and the oldest Episcopal school west of the Rockies. Over the years they have drifted away from their Christian roots and now focus on general religious education and exposure to Episcopalian traditions while not holding to Christianity as being the exclusive truth. Focus is now on ethical behavior instead of living a life obedient to Jesus Christ. Curriculum is modern inquiry based with a progressive focus. OES has a large sports program and college level tuition.
Faith Bible Christian School: A mid-sized Pre-K – 12 Christian school in Aloha/Hillsboro which provides a general education using Christian curriculum. They also offer a similar extracurricular experience as small-to-mid-sized public schools and are fully accredited by AdvancED.
Southwest Christian School: A large K-12 Christian school in Beaverton that has been around for 40 years, which provides a general education using Christian curriculum. They also offer a similar extracurricular experience as small-to-mid-sized public schools. Southwest Christian is a ministry of Southwest Bible Church.
Cor Deo Christian Academy: A blend of homeschool and Christian school that splits time between the two. They use a typical Christian curriculum, but also have a strong emphasis on biblical education. They offer classes from K-12, but do not offer any extra-curricular activities. Cor Deo is a ministry of Southwest Hills Baptist Church.
St. Stephen’s Academy: Most people note our uniforms and academic setting when they first visit the school. As a classical Christian school, our methodology and content is unique. Used in American schools until the early 20th century and still in use in preparatory schools and overseas, the classical system departs from modern methods, but has years of demonstrated success. Why? Primarily because it takes students further, faster, and with more depth than other forms of education.
Also of note: St. Stephen’s Academy is accredited by the ACCS, the only major accreditation body of which we are aware that does not conform to the Common Core or AdvancED, the centralized accreditation body. The ACCS remains independent.
Our mission is to provide an academically excellent education in a grace-filled environment that develops Christian character and equips students with tools of learning that will last a lifetime. We encourage maturity in students as we unite faith and reason through a classical Christian education. To accomplish this, we depend on a solid partnership with parents. We look at three main factors when we consider admitting students: academic readiness, parental support, and spiritual condition. Our ideal student is one who is academically diligent, has parents who are involved in his or her education, and whose Christianity is real in his or her life. This combination enables academic excellence in students who realize that their work is done solely to glorify God.