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Trillium Charter School

Preschool | Grades K-12 | Portland SD 1J
5420 North Interstate Ave
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 285-3833

About This School

Trillium Charter School is located in Portland, OR and is one of 91 schools in Portland School District 1j. It is a charter school that serves 359 students in grades K-12.

Charter schools are public schools, but differ from traditional public schools in that they are independent and are operated by educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, or others. Funding for charter schools is based on designated local or state educational organizations. Those organizations are responsible for monitoring and assessing the quality and effectiveness of education, but permit the schools to operate outside of the traditional public school education system. See Trillium Charter School's test results to learn more about school performance.

In 2011, Trillium Charter School had 18 students for every full-time equivalent teacher. The Oregon average is 20 students per full-time equivalent teacher.

Student Ethnicity (2011)

Students (2011)


Students Per Teacher (2011)

Female/Male (2011)

44% 56%

Subsidized Lunch (2010)


District Spending (2010)

per student
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Trillium Charter School Reviews

I've been in Trillium from 1st grade to 12th and this school saved my education

By a Current Student on

I have been going to Trillium since the day it opened twelve years ago.

As a fidgety, artistic 1st grader who had trouble with the classic "memorize-regurgitate" means of my old school, Trillium was a perfect fit for me. I actually felt involved and really learned some things.

I am a senior now, working on my Senior Project which is a rigorous means of graduation where each senior must complete something challenging and meaningful to them.
I wrote a novel. In a month. 50,725 words in 27 days. And that's only one example of the amazing things the students in senior project have succeeded.
Kids have learned how to fly (literally. Piloting school, I kid you not), created entire video games, albums, novels, learned survival skills and made shoes and speakers and clothes from scratch.

I have seen all of the things these people complain about happen. I was there when the teachers were fired and re-hired, and when a staff member was hiding from bills, throwing us in horrible debt.
And though these flaws DID happen, that's not the point! Every school has a few ugly incidents, to be honest, I'm just glad they're not like other schools and include shootings and student abuse, both of which seem to be running rampant these days.

Trillium has some of the most amazing, caring, loving teachers and always has. Teachers that will talk to students one on one, and give emotional and academic support. These teachers give up their personal time and money towards their students. And the small class size (The entire high school is about 80 kids) allows the students themselves to also be an amazing resource. It feels safe and open here, and there isn't much anonymity, because everyone knows everyone else.

And it's true that Trillium is a predominantly white, cis, straight school. We know that, and we are aware of the problem that presents. But the teachers and most of the students do try so hard to be open and accepting of all genders, preferred pronouns and names, sexualities, races, cultures, etc!
We regularly confront the issues that our country, system, even our own individual school may have. We fight for truth and support people having individual ideas and beliefs.

For those who have said that Trillium's high school is "sloppy" and a "poor place to prepare for college" I just have to disagree right there.
Yes, we have had a history with transcript confusion (it takes like, two conversations to fix that, by the way.) But the staff members were /incredibly/ helpful and kind during that painful, scary process.
I have watched three senior classes go through the ups and downs of graduation, and now I'm going through that process as well, and I can tell you Trillium is an /amazing/ place to prepare for college.

Trillium is flexible so those who learn fast can move on their own and those who need a hand can /actually get the help they need./

If your child needs extra support, or is an artist or technologically involved or loves independent projects- then this is the place for them.

Trillium Charter School is a wonderful, safe, patient, caring and helpful school. And I am so proud to have spent my past 12 years here.

By a Parent on

my child is in his 6th year at Trillium.  I would not expect any school to be perfect for everyone, and I think that most of the bad reviews on this site are really just a matter of it not being a good fit.  For the kids who thrive at Trillium, it's an incredible place.  I see children and teens at Trillium who are so incredibly well educated, and with such heart, it never stops amazing me.  Knowing my child, I can easily say that many schools that receive generally high reviews would be horrible for him.  That doesn't make them bad schools.  So please, read the nasty ratings here with a grain of salt.  And think hard about your individual child in choosing a school.  
Also, that review that says you have to be a certain color and income level to fit in at Trillium is simply puzzling.  It's true, the general demographic of families at Trillium feels pretty liberal.  But there are PLENTY of us there who are living below the poverty line, and there is way more diversity than you generally find around Portland.  Not just in race either; there is all sorts of diversity.
Trillium is full of heart, great kids, great families, and great teachers.  I think that if the place were to close down tomorrow I'd have to learn to homeschool, as I can't imagine any other school coming close to meeting my child's needs like Trillium does.

By a Parent on

Trillium is an awful school full of bad vibes, unhappy teachers, and a bloated administration. The focus is no longer on students.

By a Parent on

Trillium has experienced MAJOR changes in staff and philosophy in 2011 (basically an internal power struggle of founders that resulted in firing all of the teachers and asking them to re-apply for their jobs).  It is also facing a huge financial crisis, due to previous mismanagement of funds.  This will become apparent in the aggressive fundraising. Beware of discrimination if you are not a white, bike-riding, hippy family with enough income to have a stay-at-home parent, and try not to fall for the language about "diversity", "community", and "democracy".  There are some individual teachers who are very qualified and do their best to provide a constructivist educational model, and the classes are still smaller than the average PPS, but there is much panic about the debt and whether the charter will continue past this year.  It is absolutely not a good long-term choice, and if you are low-income or not light-skinned (or even just have concerns about inclusion of all) I would exercise extreme caution.

By , a Parent on

If you have older students who are looking to attend college in the future, I would never send them to Trillium. The upper school is in absolute disarray and they have lost years worth of student transcripts. Students receive little support from staff when attempting to rectify these huge problems. Staff don't seem to be focused on helping students succeed when it comes to attending college.

By a Current Student on

I'm not going to lie to you, at first glance i though that Trillium was a pretty sad excuse for a school. The mud wall around the front inspires many thoughts, but offers no assurance of the school's quality. However, after actually spending time at the school, i had to admit that my first impressions were wrong. The classes are a great ballance, some are conventional, and others are completely unique and alternative. Sure, there might not be as much organization as in other schools, but thats a part of what makes trillium work. Bottom line: it may not be the best school, but theres certainly a few ways it can inprove. After all, nothing's perfect.

By a Parent on

I am so grateful that there is a variety of choice in schools in PPS. I have 4 children and three of them did well in more traditional schools but one child struggled. We home schooled for a few years then, 5 years ago, tried Trillium. He is thriving here. I was concerned that Trillium might not be academically rigorous enough in high school. That has not been a problem. I feel the academics are just as rigorous and in fact encourage true individual thought and creativity. Thank you trillium and PPS for supporting school choice.

By a Parent on

All children, if forced to attend school, would benefit from attending a school structured like Trillium. If you truly understand the importance of real freedom, you'd never consider sending your child to a traditional school where individuality and personal freedoms are stripped away at a very young age. Trillium is, without a doubt, ahead of its time. Others may scoff now, but in the future we'll see that those who were raised with true freedom are the ones who are healthier, happier, and more productive.

By a Parent on

I have three children attending this school, one in a 1-2 class, one in a 3-4-5 class, and one in the high school. Each one of them comes home every day telling me about what they learned in math or about the book they're reading or about what they learned in physics. They all have absolutely wonderful teachers that communicate to me how my children are doing, and let me know right away if something is wrong. They are always willing to take one-on-one time with my children if they need it.
I know that the graduation rates look low, but that's because they don't count 5th year graduates. A lot of these kids come to the high school already having failed a year at their previous school. Trillium gives them the opportunity to start anew, learn life skills, and complete their high school education.
I will say that if your child has trouble with even the most basic self-directed activities, this school is not for you.
It is a community as well as a school, and service learning is a part of the experience. This school teaches students to be global citizens, bettering themselves and their world. It's a hard community to leave! Many alumni attending nearby PCC or not quite as close PSU will stop by and visit on their days off.
I am so glad I applied to this school and my children got in. I've never seen them so excited about learning.

By a Parent on

I have three children who've attended Trillium Public Charter School for five years. Trillium is:

* Based on constructivist philosophy. You don't need an advanced degree in educational philosophy to grasp the concept, just google it or maybe grab a book on the subject. Basically, in this type of school learning is active, learning is contextual, learning is cooperative, and learning is often community oriented.  These are, to us anyway, very good things, but may be confusing to the uninitiated.

* Democratic. It is a school that considers the students important, active participants and change-agents. Really. They have a constitution, rights and responsibilities, a grievance process, votes and everything. Lots of people do not understand this concept. It is integral to the school- always has been- and if you cannot wrap your head around it or don't like it, enroll elsewhere, please. We do, and its a major reason we send our children here. Remember, if you don't prefer democratic ed, there are a myriad of options available to you and your students.

* Successful by traditional standards too. The school is rated as "outstanding" in terms of its test scores and advancement toward adequate yearly progress. (go to: http://www /data/reportcard/reports.aspx , then scroll down to the Trillium report)

It's interesting reading reviews by folks who sent their children to a school about which they did not first inform themselves. Trillium asks that families considering Trillium make themselves aware of its philosophy and participate in a shadow experience before making a decision to enroll. Obviously this did not happen in the case of many of the confused, disgruntled folks here. This is truly unfortunate, not only for these students and their families, but for those of us who send our children to the school because we believe absolutely in its constructivist philosophy and democratic processes.

Please hear this: if you are looking for an artsy-looking school that's just seems a little "alternative" so your friends will think, 'wow, what an edgy parent she/he is!', but one that's based on an educational philosophy not much different from the school down the street, please don't disrupt our educational atmosphere by sending your children, complaining about what sets it apart from other schools, yanking your students, and then blogging your misconceived ideas about the school. This school has made all the difference in the education and overall social experience of our children. It is unfortunate some folks do not understand the school or its philosophy. However, this is not the fault of the school, which goes out of its way to help parents decide if it is appropriate for their children.

By a Parent on

Take these comments with a grain of salt readers! My daughter is at Trillium and my husband and I couldn't be happier about it. As I'm reading the comments posted here, I am wondering how much actual involvement any of the parents posting have at Trillium. I am wondering why you parents made the effort to submit to the lottery if you wanted a more traditional school. I was aware before I submitted the application that Trillium uses a constructivist, portfolio-based educational model, that my child would never be expected to sit at a desk or be regularly subjected to rote memorization to achieve test scores for dollars and that she would learn about community, diversity and how to be in this world. And if you took a tour and didn't get your questions answered, why did you elect to enter the lottery? It's true, there is a roof-top garden that the kids are involved in. They are learning about the biology of plants, permaculture and getting to taste the fruits of their labor. There is an actual art teacher who is teaching kids ART, not "crafts". Kids don't just "walk around the neighborhood", they are out cleaning up garbage in the park, doing a clothing drive for Dignity Village or participating in the service program at Trillium which teaches kids how to make a positive impact on society. THERE ARE BOOKS AT TRILLIUM. They may not be text books manufactured in Texas by one of the two companies in the US that monopolize what the general population of kids get exposed to in school but there are books, everywhere on campus. As far as "doesn't seem to be any real collaborating going on", the teachers meet at least twice a week as a whole and also in teams to support each other on how to better serve YOUR CHILDREN. Many teachers are there early, way after school and on the weekends doing work to make Trillium a better place. The comment "no thought at all" seems more applicable towards the parent who put no thought into what kind of educational environment they wanted for their kid! Can Trillium improve, of course! Should it be entirely up to the staff and administration, NO WAY! We as parents have a responsibility to be involved and invested in education. I realize that is not possible for every family, but if you are going to be so judgmental about some really hard-working and committed people, you should at least lend a hand. I apologize if I seem harsh, but y'all just are not spending enough time at your kid's school to see what is really happening. Volunteer, see what's going on day-to-day. Make an impact! And by the way, check out Trillium's latest state report card based on TEST SCORES. Trillium is rated outstanding!

By a Parent on

This school is rooted in a constructivist philosophy, where students have opportunities to grow as active participants in their own learning. They focus on learning How to learn and think independently to take risks in their own important work. Keep up the great work. My daughter will too!

By , a Former Student on

I cannot agree with most of the hurtful comments above. As a graduate of the school, I can personally say that Trillium is my home away from home. I've learned more at this school then I could have imagined. My writing skills I gained from this level set me into the 241 writing classes at PCC! And while your learn, the social aspect of this school may seem hectic and crazy, but isn't the world? The people whom go to this school are geniuses and are capable of whatever they set their minds too. I'm proud to have gone there for 7 years, it has surly changed me for the better.

By a Current Student on

I started at Trillium 9 years ago, as it opened when I was in second grade. Ever since I can remember, I have loved coming to school every morning. The unique learning environment, amazing people, and overall sense of acceptance and community has made my schooling experience valuable, unique, and most of all, enjoyable. Wanting a change, I attended public high school for my freshman year. Trillium had prepared me very well to easily pass all of my classes at a "normal school," but the huge classes and excess of busywork was much too monotonous and brain-numbing compared to my prior experience. Since transferring back to Trillium, I've gained even more appreciation for what an amazing and special place it really is.

By a Parent on

Trillium is a great school, it is small and feels very much like family - the students grow up together from k-12th grade. It's easy to know your child's instructors and check in, something that would not be possible at one of the giant non-charter schools. The close knit environment can serve students well. I know that math scores had been down in the middle school, so I cannot dispute what the other parent said about their daughter's experience. A very important part of that story is missing though. When Trillium the Trillium staff and board saw falling scores and heard parent feedback - they went and hired new staff in science and math, and I know that at least one of the new math instructors has a Masters in Math Education.

Trillium is a community, and as such, there is great response when folks voice concerns or praise successes. It's an extremely valuable asset, such flexibility in a school. I really think it shows in how they handled this.

Our child has done quite well at Trillium. Their openness really gave him room to pursue some of interests to such a level that he can do many tasks at an adult level. I too was a bit worried about basic academics. They have become more structured with their academics this year, and he is doing even better than before with his writing and math, as well. Seeing the turnaround, we are sticking with Trillium!

By a Parent on

Wow! I wish we would have read some of this sooner. We moved to Portland and enrolled our child because this school appeared similar to our old school. No way! We took the tour and asked a lot of questions. I agree with another parent that they could not address anything specifically and made us feel that generally everything was good. There doesn't seem to be any real collaborating going on between teachers or even grade levels so if your child doesn't learn something this year, no one will know next year. When I try to pin someone, anyone, down on what the curriculum is and when my child is supposed to be learning specific subjects, I get shuffled from one person to the next. The teachers, or advisors seem to be misfits who didn't want to follow the structure set by public or even private schools. They lack serious accountability. They only go 1/2 day on Friday and that day is a wash because they often draw, chat or walk around the neighborhood. I have noticed many of my child's friends are logging into Facebook during the day. I realize that kids can do this from their phones, but I happen to know that two of them have their phones taken away right now. This school is a complete mess from top to bottom.

By a Parent on

Our daughter is in high school this year. She was at Trillium until this year. She is completely unprepared. She did well by Trillium's standards while there, but she did not learn what is required of her in terms of just the basics. She probably is more socially aware and alternative in terms of her interests, but she never learned to write well and was so far behind in math that we had to hire a tutor. I feel horrible and we feel like we have let her down. We asked questions of her teachers and while we were never really reassured that she was meeting educational standards, we were always made to feel that there was nothing to worry about. We now know that Trillium's educational standards are just far too low. They are so focused on community issues and art that basic skills are not being taught. We really feel that this school should not be operating.

By a Parent on

I agree with the previous comment. The advisors are not teachers. There is no real teaching going on. The kids are left to learn on their own if they choose. There are no text books and the communication is terrible. I have no idea what my child is actually learning because tests, quizzes and assessments are rarely given and I never see a paper with a grade or a comment on it. There seems to be no thought at all given to how their type of grade system and curriculum will translate into the real world when a child goes to college or even transfers to a traditional school. The students have no homework so they are not learning study skills, organizational skills or time management skills. I am a huge supporter of alternative education, but this school is really subpar as far as education is concerned. If you want your child to learn to garden and make crafts this is perfect. This is not the school for you if you want your child to get even a minimal education. Just look at their test scores. They are low across the board and the graduation rate is terrible. I can't imagine how these kids do once they attend college given that they have only a marginal base of knowledge, and practically no study skills. We are changing schools after this year.

By a Parent on

If you want an environment that mimics social chaos, this is the place. The "advisors" are just babysitters. The focus is on fundraising, organic food and the outside community. God help you if you don't have a computer or are not a slave to one. There are no books. Just a million websites for the kids and parents to sort through. There is a formal constitution designed to create some sort of order, but if the adults spent some, just a little, time teaching acceptance, kindness and tolerance to the kids, it would be a much happier environment and more conducive to learning and community service. Barring any major offense, the kids are left to resolve almost everything on their own.

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