My child has attended Jackson for 3 years, and has had a fabulous experience. The social interactions are very positive, the teachers smart and supportive, and the arts programs are excellent. She told me, "At my school we don't really have cliques"- which is a pretty remarkable perception for a 7th grade girl, even if it isn't probably 100% true. But it speaks to the open, inclusive atmosphere there!
Please note the other, negative reviews are for a different principal and administration than the one that is there now. School leadership is well-informed, competent, professional, and, best of all, inspired. The Bernstein model is alive and well despite common core standards and increased testing. Jackson offers choir, cadet, concert and symphonic band, drama, engineering (shop) and art in addition to the classic curriculum. There is a large emphasis on 21st-century learning styles, including a dedication to integrating technology into the classroom as much as the budget will allow (and then some). Also, students are safe to learn here; this school is one of the most diverse in the city (a large Somali community and mosque nearby) and so there is a lot of emphasis on positive anti-bullying efforts and community-building. There are a lot of community events happening at the school after hours, from Portland Youth Philharmonic peer classes to football practice to Girl Scouts. The school is alive at all hours! As a result, and because of the strong community involvement and great parents, the kids are kind, supportive, and encouraging of each other. Overall, this school offers a truly great public middle school experience. You will not be disappointed that your kid goes here.
Teacher quality is uneven - there are quite a few amazing teachers, while others are sub-par. The current principal is a difficult and unpleasant person with whom to work - he does not listen to parents, bristles at constructive criticism, and seems unable to find creative solutions. (Note that reviews before 2008 describe a school under a different - and wonderful - principal.) Despite all of this, the school community is a good one, with strong parent involvement, an excellent guidance counselor, and apparent overall student satisfaction.