Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
ACCESS Academy - Frequently Asked Questions
(updated May 10, 2016)
1. What is the ACCESS Academy Alternative Program? Whom does ACCESS serve?
ACCESS Academy Alternative Program is a rigorous academic program designed for highly gifted 1st-8th grade students whose educational needs are not being met in the general education setting. ACCESS provides both curriculum acceleration and academic enrichment to create an age-appropriate and challenging education.
The ACCESS Academy Alternative Program is for students who demonstrate exceptional performance as measured on one or more standardized tests. Exceptional performance is defined as being in the 99th percentile (99%) or above on one or more nationally-normed tests in any one or more of these categories: cognitive ability, academic math (broad/composite), or academic reading (broad/composite). Please note that test scores at the 99th percentile or above are a minimum, but not the sole criterion for admission to ACCESS. A student’s demonstrated need for an alternative program – including social-emotional factors and achievement in his/her current school setting -- will be considered by our Admissions committee. A brochure describing the ACCESS Academy Alternative Program can be found at: www.pps.k12.or.us/schools/access.
ACCESS welcomes applications from all interested and eligible highly gifted students – including students who receive Special Education services, those who receive accommodations under a Section 504 Plan, and emergent bilingual students who receive ESL services. We strive at ACCESS to welcome a community of students who represent the racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity of Portland Public Schools’ highly gifted learners.
2. What tests count toward the 99th percentile requirement for admission to ACCESS? How can I learn more about testing for my child?
To apply to ACCESS, a child must score at the 99th percentile or above on a nationally-normed, broad or composite measure of academic reading, academic math, or cognitive ability. “Nationally-normed” means that the student’s performance is measured against a large, national sample of students at the same age or grade level. A wide variety of tests meet these criteria. We follow the same testing criteria as the Johns Hopkins University/Center for Talented Youth. See here for a non-exhaustive list of acceptable tests: http://cty.jhu.edu/talent/docs/AcceptableTests.pdf If you have questions about the acceptability of a particular test instrument or your child’s test results, please e-mail Principal David Wood, firstname.lastname@example.org, to discuss.
Oregon State Assessment scores (e.g., OAKS, SBAC) are not acceptable tests for application to ACCESS, as the results are not nationally-normed.
Scores from tests administered by the PPS TAG Department for TAG-nominated students are acceptable tests for application to ACCESS, as the TAG Department’s tests are nationally-normed. If your child was tested for TAG outside of PPS, you will need to confirm whether a nationally-normed assessment was used to identify him/her. If a child is TAG-identified, the PPS TAG Department will not re-test a student in the same area (Reading, Math, Cognitive) in order to qualify him/her for ACCESS. The PPS TAG Department no longer tests private school students who live in PPS boundaries, nor students who live out of PPS boundaries. For more information about PPS TAG testing, see here: http://www.pps.net/Domain/196
For families who wish to have their child tested privately, Educational Psychologists are the professionals who are usually best suited to recommend particular tests based on the child’s strengths, age, and developmental level. ACCESS cannot recommend particular practitioners. The Children’s Program of SW Portland, www.childrensprogram.com, 503-452-8002, is one collection of professionals experienced in assessing students for application to ACCESS. Other education psychologists in the Portland area offer similar services.
We strongly prefer scores from tests administered to your student within the past two (2) years. However, if your child was identified for TAG in PPS more than two (2) years ago, you may still apply based on your child’s scores from which his/her TAG eligibility was determined. For special testing circumstances or questions, e-mail Principal David Wood, email@example.com to discuss.
3. What factors does the ACCESS Admissions Committee consider to determine a student’s “demonstrated need for an alternative program”?
The Admissions Committee considers a wide variety of evidence provided by teachers, parents/guardians, and the student’s record, that the student:
May be underachieving relative to his/her potential – that s/he is not working to his/her ability level;
Has exceeded all standards at his/her grade level benchmark(s);
May have low self-esteem or self-efficacy;
May have difficulty in forming or sustaining positive peer relationships;
May have erratic or irregular attendance;
May be engaging in at-risk behaviors;
May be “twice-exceptional” – i.e., highly gifted and supported by Special Education services or a Section 504 Plan of Accommodation
The above factors are not a “check list”; rather, an applicant’s demonstrated need for an alternative program may be based on one or more of the above factors. The Admissions Committee strives to obtain a “full picture” of each applicant’s need for an alternative program from the totality of the applicant’s file. We encourage parents/guardians to be honest, descriptive, and frank in their applications about what is and is not working about a student’s current educational setting.
4. How can we decide if ACCESS might be a “good fit” for our qualified student?
We encourage you to review carefully these FAQ’s and ACCESS’s website at www.pps.k12.or.us/schools/access. We further encourage you to attend an information session that features current ACCESS staff, students, and families describing their experiences in applying to and attending ACCESS. These information sessions will be offered in the daytime and in the evenings in March and April. See the ACCESS website for specific dates/times. If you have questions specific to your student and his/her eligibility for ACCESS, please contact ACCESS Principal David Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. How do we apply to attend ACCESS?
Applications are available on our website under the “Important Information” tab from January through March each year during our application enrollment period. Our website is: http://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools/access/ An ACCESS Academy Application must contain:
A completed application for the current school year. Even if you have applied to ACCESS in one or more prior years, we ask for an updated, current application. You are welcome to attach and incorporate by reference any materials submitted in prior year(s).
At least two letters of recommendation – (1) from a teacher who has worked with your child in the past calendar year (preferably the current school year); and (1) from an administrator or counselor who has worked with your child in the past calendar year. If your child’s current administrator or counselor does not know him well (e.g., because s/he is new to the school), consider another school teacher or staff member who knows well your child’s academic performance/potential, as well as his/her social-emotional needs.
Appropriate testing data. See Question #2 above for a description of acceptable standardized tests that can be used for application to ACCESS.
6. [UPDATED 5/10/16] When are applications due for the 2016-17 school year?
We are aware that scores for TAG tests administered this year (2015-16) have been delayed until late April and early May. We are working closely with the PPS TAG office to ensure that every eligible and interested family has the opportunity to apply to ACCESS and is not foreclosed from applying due to the delay in TAG testing results. Therefore, we will have two application deadlines this year:
If your student qualifies to apply to ACCESS based on a prior school year’s TAG scores or based on private testing, your application for 2016-17 must be received at ACCESS no later than 3:30 p.m. on April 15, 2016.
If, but only if, you will rely on this year’s (2015-16) PPS TAG testing scores to support your child’s application, your application must be received at ACCESS no later than 3:30 p.m. on May 27, 2016*. (*We will continue to monitor the reporting of this year’s TAG testing scores and may further postpone this deadline if needed to ensure all applicants have adequate time to apply after receiving their TAG scores). Those relying on this year’s scores may submit an otherwise complete application prior to your receipt of your PPS TAG testing scores, and ACCESS will hold your application pending receipt of those scores.
7. [UPDATED 5/10/16] Will you consider late applications?
Generally no. Students with timely and complete applications (4/15/16 or 5/27/16 -- see above) will have priority for admission and, if applicable, on the waitlist, over students who apply later than these deadlines.
8. Is ACCESS part of the PPS School Choice Lottery Process?
No. Since ACCESS is an alternative program, it is not part of the lottery transfer process used in PPS. Therefore if you apply to ACCESS, you are also free to apply to other PPS schools in the transfer process. Information about this option may be found at: http://www.pps.net/Domain/182
9. Does ACCESS offer a preference in admissions to siblings of current ACCESS students?
ACCESS recognizes the strong value to families of qualified siblings attending school together. At the same time, ACCESS is committed to admitting a student body that is broadly representative of Portland Public Schools’ highly gifted population. Siblings of current ACCESS students, like all other applicants, must be qualified to attend ACCESS – i.e., they must demonstrate BOTH exceptional performance (99%ile+) on one or more nationally-normed, standardized tests, AND must have a demonstrated need for an alternative educational setting. Eligible siblings should complete the same application as non-sibling applicants. Sibling status is one factor the Admission Committee will consider when deciding among qualified applicants.
10. Does ACCESS accept applications from private school students? Home-school students? Out-of-district applicants?
Applications are accepted and evaluated equally from all eligible students living within Portland Public Schools’ boundaries -- whether they currently attend a PPS school, a private school, or are home-schooled. PPS policy requires that ACCESS Academy must accept all eligible students living within PPS boundaries before admitting students from out of district. In addition, under Oregon law, “sending” districts must agree to “release” students to PPS/ACCESS if a student is admitted. If you are considering applying to ACCESS but currently live outside of PPS boundaries, you should first consult your district’s office about the possibility of a “release,” and then contact ACCESS to determine the likelihood of space availability at your intended grade level for out-of-district applicants.
11. Does ACCESS treat differently applications from students who are currently in a private school, home-schooled, or enrolled in an out-of-district school?
ACCESS treats equally applications from all students living in PPS boundaries, regardless of whether they currently attend a PPS school (neighborhood, focus option or charter), a private school, an out-of-district school, or are home-schooled.
12. For what grade levels will ACCESS Academy accept applications for 2016-17?
ACCESS Academy @ Rose City Park is a 1st - 8th grade program. Currently, we expect openings at all grade levels for 2016-17, and will accept applications for all grades. We estimate the following number of openings for new students in 2016-17:
1st grade: 12-13 new students
2nd grade: 2-3 new students
3rd grade: 40-42 new students
4th grade: 1-2 new students
5th grade: 2-3 new students
6th grade: 2-3 new students
7th grade: 3-5 new students
8th grade: 3-5 new students
Future grade levels served will be determined based on the number of applications, staffing allocation, and program design for each school year.
13. What enrichment classes are offered at ACCESS?
Enrichment classes offered to all ACCESS students during 2015-16 nclude Wellness, Art, Mandarin Chinese, Library, Technology, and Guidance/Counseling. In addition, a parent volunteer coordinates Choir on a weekly basis to students in 1st-5th grades. Enrichments in 2016-17 and beyond will depend on staffing and program design.
14. When does the school day start and end?
In 2015-16, ACCESS classes begin at 8:30 AM and end at 3:00 PM. We expect a similar schedule in 2016-17.
15. Is before/after-school care available on-site?
Yes, in 2015-16, ACCESS has contracted with Campfire USA to provide fee-based before- and after-school care at the Rose City Park campus. Currently, care is available 7:00-8:30 a.m. and 3:00-6:00 p.m. daily, M-F. We expect to have similar care available in 2016-17.
16. How do I contact the school?
ACCESS Main Office, 2334 NE 57th Avenue (Rose City Park building), Portland, OR 97213 503.916.6482 Office hours are 8 AM – 4 PM.
17. How do students get to and from school?
Portland Public Schools provides bus transportation to ACCESS Academy from throughout the city. In 2015-16, 6 school buses serve ACCESS from throughout PPS’s boundaries. Please check out the district's Transportation website: http://www.pps.net/Page/141 to find routes and pick up/drop off times.
18. How do I volunteer?
There are a lot of opportunities for parents to share their talents and gifts within our school community. One way is to volunteer through the PTA. There are many avenues for volunteering in addition to PTA; among them is volunteering in the classroom, arranging fieldtrips, etc. All volunteers must have a cleared background check prior to volunteering. http://www.pps.k12.or.us/volunteer/6278.htm