Editorial | Success for Bellevue schools
By CRAIG GROSHART
Bellevue Reporter Editor, Staff
June 14, 2009 · Updated 4:55 PM
The Bellevue School District is close to achieving mythical standing among the nation's schools.
Again this year, its five high schools have placed in the top 100 in a study by Newsweek magazine.
If your math is sharp, it means that 5 percent of the nation's top schools are public schools here in Bellevue.
The achievement is remarkable, on several fronts.
But first, let's get a few quibbles out of the way.
There is criticism that Newsweek doesn't measure everything a school or school district does. Instead, it takes the total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests given at a school in May, and divide by the number of seniors graduating in May or June.
Critics add that Newsweek also only counts the number of tests given, and not how well the students do on the tests.
Both are true, but there are good reasons for Newsweek's approach.
As you might expect of schools looking for a high academic ranking, researchers say most American high schools fudge the numbers by allowing only top students to take the most challenging courses. In other instances, they opened the courses to all but encouraged only the best students to take the tests.
Bellevue schools are different. The district not only encourages ALL students to take AP courses, but also to take the test.
Again, there's good educational reasons for that.
AP and IB courses are important because, as Newsweek says, they give average students a chance to experience the trauma of heavy college reading lists and long, analytical college examinations. In fact, studies by U.S. Department of Education senior researcher Clifford Adelman in 1999 and 2005 showed that the best predictors of college graduation were not good high school grades or test scores, but whether or not a student had an intense academic experience in high school.
Equally telling is the fact that a Texas study showed that even low-performing, low-income students who got only a 2 (out of 5, not a passing grade) on an AP test did significantly better in college than similar students who did not take AP in high school.
The Bellevue schools shining in the Newsweek study are the International School (11th nationally), Interlake (18th), Newport (34th), Sammamish (47th) and Bellevue (78th). The next closest school in the state (Edmonds Woodway) was ranked 318th.
Thank former Bellevue school superintendent Mike Riley for believing that all students can succeed. And thank the teachers and parents for supporting the idea and sticking with it.
It is obvious that students can rise to a challenge. Bellevue students show that every year in the pages of Newsweek.
Craig Groshart, Editor, Bellevue ReporterContact Bellevue Reporter Editor, Staff Craig Groshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-425-453-4233.