Class Notes

With special features such as music program makeovers to the tune of $40,000 and tech-savvy schools' Facebook pages, Portland-area schools go for the extra credit.

Edited by Martha Calhoon January 25, 2010 Published in the February 2010 issue of Portland Monthly

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Ridgewood Elementary is a candidate for the International Baccalaureate Organization’s Primary Years Program. If the Beaverton grade school is approved, it will become the first elementary school in the state to become a member of the program. (Currently, 4 Oregon middle schools and 18 high schools participate in the IB program.)

Springwater Environmental Sciences School is one of many local schools featuring artist-in-residence programs. In the fall, for example, the Oregon City grade-schoolers took dance classes from members of Portland’s renowned BodyVox dance studio. Our only question: can we audit the class?

Gardiner Middle School’s music room got a $40,000 makeover this year, thanks to the essay that choir and art teacher Cheryl Rizzo wrote about the sad state of the school’s music department. Her descriptions of the Oregon City school’s duct-taped, rubber-banded “frankenstruments” won InTune magazine’s essay contest and landed the 550-student school a fat check.

Wander the halls at Shahala Middle School in Vancouver, and you’ll hear Arabic, Cantonese, Lithuanian, Tamil (the official language of Sri Lanka), Tibetan, and Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines)—at least 28 languages in all. Step into the choir room and the disparate dialects will sing in harmony: more than 50 percent of the students take an elective music class.

St. Mary’s Academy is as old as (Oregon) dirt. Like our state, the all-girls school celebrated its 150th birthday in 2009, making it Oregon’s oldest continuously operating secondary school.

Be my friend? Many of the private schools on our list—from Pacific Crest to the Portland Adventist Academy—maintain their own Facebook pages.

Reading test scores at Clackamas Elementary School soared in 2008. In 2007, 68 percent of students passed the state reading tests, but by the next year that number had jumped to 86 percent. The school credits the jump to a new small-group teaching style.

Corbett School is a media darling—and a darn good school. In 2008, the small school near Troutdale ranked No. 86 on Newsweek’s list of the top 100 public high schools in the nation; in 2009, it landed the No. 8 spot.

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