For five years, the Oregon Department of Education, or ODE, has marked the new school year by publishing annual report cards on the state’s schools in the first week of October. But this past fall, the ODE was tardy, failing to deliver its grades until two weeks before Thanksgiving. The reason? It was trying to earn extra credit.

Yes, the state revamped its grading system for the first time since Oregon began publishing report cards in 2000. It now judges schools not just on how well students performed, but on how much they improved. In short, students who showed a significant gain from the previous year—even those whose testing still failed to meet state standards—now boost their school’s overall performance grade. (Previously, a failing student detracted from the school’s overall rating, no matter how much he or she may have improved.) In addition, the ODE scotched its grading system of Exceptional, Strong, Satisfactory, Low, and Unacceptable in favor of three simpler ratings—Outstanding, Satisfactory, and In Need of Improvement—based on such factors as drop-out rates, performance on standardized tests, and overall success in meeting federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards as established under the No Child Left Behind Act. Federal assessments of our schools for the 2008–2009 academic year were also far rosier than they were the previous year. An impressive 70 percent of all Oregon schools met the AYP (including a whopping 89 percent of elementary schools).

If you’re a parent who prefers delving into the nitty-gritty details that lie beyond such sweeping statistics, Portland Monthly has done your homework for you. We’ve read the reports and combed through the data to bring you a comprehensive listing of 630 Portland-area public and private schools. You’ll find an overview in the following pages, and you’ll find a more extensive chart at portlandmonthlymag.com/schools.

Now you can decide for yourself which of the region’s schools are making the grade.