Bellevue schools among 'America’s Best High Schools'

High schools in Bellevue are making headlines once again - this time as some of the nation’s best public high schools Newsweek’s 2013 list of “America’s Best High Schools.”

All five Bellevue high schools – International, Newport, Interlake, Bellevue and Sammamish – made the cut, with International School ranking 31st out of 2,000 public high schools in the nation; Newport was also in the top 100 at number 80.

At the state level, four Bellevue schools made the top five statewide and all five high schools are among the top 20 statewide.

The Newsweek ranking is based on six components: four-year on-time graduation rate, percent of graduates accepted to college, Advanced Placement (AP)/International Baccalaureate (IB)/Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) tests taken per student, average SAT and/or ACT scores, average AP/IB/AICE test scores, and AP courses offered per student.

Year after year, national publications have consistently ranked Bellevue schools among the best public high schools in the nation, a trend many educators attribute to the following: 91 percent of all Bellevue high school graduates have completed one or more AP or IB courses; 3,500 high school students in Bellevue enrolled in more than 8,400 rigorous AP, IB and “Beyond AP” courses this year; 67 percent of Bellevue’s Class of 2012 graduates earned a passing score on at least one AP exam during high school, compared to 19 percent of graduates nationally.

"AP and college prep doesn't begin in high school," said Lance Balla, K12 English Curriculum Developer for the Bellevue School District. "It begins way before high school."

He said Bellevue schools continue to rank highly because the staff and administrators in understand this concept, and have committed to a notion of rigor.

"That doesn't mean hardship," Balla said. "It means holding kids to high standards while at the same time supporting them to reach those high standards."

Balla said this mentality stems from the leadership of former school superintendent Mike Riley. During his 11 years with the district, Riley developed a common curriculum for the district and increased the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses by roughly 70 percent.

"If you look at our middle school teams, they think of their students as future AP students," Balla said. "They're thinking about that in their lessons, they're constantly focused on that goal."

Although students in Bellevue are not required to take AP classes, it's highly encouraged for every one to take part. Balla said taking away these "gates" – GPA requirements, letters of recommendations, tests – has allowed Bellevue to help students of all types perform at the highest level.

"All of the teachers feel that they have the permission to be rigorous in their courses - that they don't have to create a track system," Balla said.

To view the ranking specifics go HERE.

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