August 28, 2019
Finding good tutoring in Portland, Oregon can be a unique and challenging journey. This is because Portland has many different educational sub-systems to navigate. We are firm believers that good tutors know and understand how a given school system works. A tutor has to know how a school system works in order to best help a student.
Portland has seven different public school districts and a vast array of private schools. It also has many colleges, including Portland State University, which is located in downtown Portland, Oregon. With regards to primary and secondary education, Portland has seven school districts which include: Lake Oswego, Parkrose, David Douglas, Beaverton, Tigard-Tualatin, Reynolds, Riverdale, and the Portland Public School District. The latter is by far the largest school district. There are over 45,000 students who attend one of the ~ 100 schools in the Portland Public School District.
Portland also has many private schools, including Central Catholic High School, Catlin Gabel, De La Salle, The International School, and Oregon Episcopal School, among many others. Portland is also home to OHSU School of Medicine and Lewis and Clark Law School.
I grew up in Portland, Oregon. I attended a number of the Portland Public Schools, including Duniway Elementary, Sellwood Middle School, and Cleveland High School. I also spent some time at Central Catholic High School. Growing up in Portland taught me a lot about the Portland Public School system as well as the surrounding school systems. Now I own and run Tutor Portland, which is a local tutoring company serving a countless number of schools in the Portland area. We focus mainly on mathematics, science (mostly chemistry!), and Spanish. We focus on these because we have found through experience that these are generally the subjects that Portland, Oregon students struggle most with. They are also subjects which students can learn! And we’ve seen the biggest benefits when students reach out for help in these subjects. But, we’ve also learned that not all tutoring is created equal. We’ve discovered that often a college student with strong communication and psychology skills makes for a better tutor than a Ph.D. who has trouble explaining his or her ideas. The college student is likely more approachable. And if they are experienced at working with youth and have the ability to create rapport then that’s a strong foundation for a tutoring relationship to flourish. They also have to know and understand the Portland, Oregon school system—especially the school district within Portland that your child attends. Each district has different standards and programs.
Finding tutors who are knowledgable about the various different school districts and curriculums in Portland is not easy. Portland, Oregon is a growing city. There are more students needing tutoring—and more people claiming that they can offer it! How do you sort out a trustworthy tutor from one that doesn’t really know how to teach?
We like tutors who:
- Grew up in Portland, Oregon and know the local school system
- Have strong communication skills & understand human psychology
- Are down-to-earth and approachable*
*This one is really important. Learning is really hard. Math and science are difficult subjects. The last thing you need is a teacher or tutor who is uptight and too serious. That makes these subjects even more challenging and frightening to approach. When the tutor is down-to-earth and relaxed, the student will naturally feel this and adopt this attitude. In addition, math and science are generally not the most important things in a teenager’s life. And that’s fine! Tutors need to be accepting and understanding of this. If they aren’t, if they try and tell students that math is the most important thing in life, the student will be off-put by that. This puts the learning relationship at risk.
In addition, *you* are likely getting busier and busier. Your kids do sports, your daughter has music lessons, and you have to drive them around all day. Traffic is getting worse. It takes hours to get across town. That’s why many parents find it hard to secure good tutoring. Maybe they think about online tutoring, but generally realize it’s not as high quality as in-home or in-person tutoring, and they can’t monitor what is going on during online sessions. That’s why many Portland, Oregon families ask about our in-home tutoring. This is a good option because we drive out to you. This allows your student to learn in the comfort of their own home. In addition, it is just simply convenient. You save time and money not having to drive your kids all around town during rush hour.
Many families are telling us that the current education their child is receiving is inadequate. Often they have a teacher who moves too quickly for their child. Many times these teachers are by-the-book and not very accommodating to students who learn math and science at a different pace or in another way. And less-than-stellar teachers are not the only thing putting downward pressure on Portland students. The Portland Public School system is also facing budget cuts and other funding pressures. To compound this problem, Portland has a housing crisis for many families. This means that many children go to sleep each night without a stable home to sleep in. Because of this, nearly 4% of Portland Public school students are deemed homeless. This puts pressure on all of the students in school.
One neat thing about the Portland Public school district is that they offer language immersion programs. The Spanish immersion is the most popular program and it is offered at ten elementary schools. The program is also offered at the middle and high schools that these elementary schools feed into. At Tutor Portland, we work closely with these programs and provide support for students who are struggling, and students who simply wish to excel.
Many Portland schools also offer International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. The IB program is run by a non-profit organization. It allows students to take more challenging courses and receive advanced credit for them. There are four different IB programs: Primary, Middle, Diploma, and Career-Related. These programs are offered at various schools throughout the Portland area. Some of the schools are: Lincoln High School, International School of Beaverton, Southridge, Tualatin, and Cleveland High School.
The Diploma IB Program is for high school students aged 16-19. Schools all across the world offer this program. There are six core subject areas within the program: Arts, Mathematics, Language, Science, Literature, and Societies. Each subject area has specific courses that fall within it. Many schools will let students take just a few courses instead of testing for the entire IB Diploma program. For example, it’s possible to just enroll in IB English, IB Science, and IB Mathematics. And we can help you with those subjects! We’ve done quite a bit of work helping students in these challenging IB courses and preparing for difficult IB and AP examinations.
We think that the IB Program is great because they focus on developing students who are:
Those are great qualities for students to have.
Portland Public Schools also have other programs, which many families voice concerns over and feel frustrated with. We listen to many complaints about the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Oregon School Board of Education put these standards in place in 2010. The standards were placed in English and mathematics. The majority of issues families have are with the mathematics standards. Families are frustrated because the Common Core Standards and their corresponding teaching methods are different than they grew up with.
The standards outline different categories for students. For example, high school students are expected to learn and gain mastery over six different areas:
- Numbers & Quantities
- Statistics & Probability
As a way to gauge success within the given categories, annual standardized tests are conducted for each child. This strong emphasis and focus on persistent testing of students has led to backlash and outrage across the nation and throughout schools in Portland, Oregon. Teachers have taken to the streets to protest the Common Core Standards and corresponding standardized testing.
However, there are some organizations that support Common Core. Notably, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports it. They support it because they believe that Common Core gives our schools a set of standards which help make our students competitive in the global economy.
Regardless of the perceived benefits or disadvantages of common core, one thing is clear: it can be tricky for families to navigate. That’s why we’ve found that having a tutor or assistant who can help you greatly improves student performance and reduces stress.
However, not all students fit within the neat categories or school districts. There are many students who choose to home school, at least for a few years. We have worked with a number of families who were deciding to homeschool their children and wanted to provide some structure to their day by adding an hour or two of tutoring each weekday. We have helped create custom learning programs for students in subjects ranging from mathematics, English, to Spanish. These students often see great results in their learning. They have the advantage of being more self-directed in their learning and more focused on mastery of subjects and ideas, rather than on simply earning good grades.
The legal requirements and standards for homeschooling in Portland, Oregon are pretty simple. The government simply asks that you register your child with your local school district service. This can be done online! Parents are given a lot of leeway with how they want to educate their children. Parents can choose what subjects they want their kids to learn and what resources they will use. Parents can choose textbooks, online resources, private tutoring, and online charter schools. There are many free resources to use! KhanAcademy is a great free tool.
There are a lot of different ways parents like to use tutoring. We have covered many different ways in this post. Sometimes families choose unlimited [or full time] tutoring for their children instead of school. This is common for parents who are homeschooling their children. Other times, parents use tutoring as an addition and boost to their current education.
Portland, Oregon can be a tricky place when it comes to navigating the local school systems and finding a good tutor. This is our specialty. This is what we do. Please let us serve you.