Bellevue’s five high schools made Newsweek’s list of “America’s Best High Schools.”
International School outranked the other local schools on the list, taking 31st among the 2,000 best public high schools in the nation and second in the state. The other Bellevue schools on the list were Newport, Interlake, Bellevue and Sammamish high schools.
Within the state, all five schools were within the top 20, with all but Sammamish making it on the top 5.
So what's the secret? Bellevue School District's Director of English Curriculum Lance Balla says it starts early.
"Rigor doesn't begin in high school. It has to begin before. And opening the doors to advanced placement for everyone doesn't work if students are underprepared for AP,” she said.
"It's really easy to get a passion for the classes, I mean there's really something for everyone in every class," said Newport High's Nick Taylor, a senior in Rob Prufer's AP Art History class. "I've been here all four years and I've loved every minute of it."
Newsweek’s ranking is based on six components, including four-year on-time graduation rates, average SAT and/or ACT scores and Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) tests taken per student.
"This isn't the kind of thing teachers plan for and they don't put up big signs and throw parties," said Balla. "We believe in preparing kids for college and success in career and life. This comes as kind of an outgrowth of that."
Bellevue schools, which consistently make Newsweek’s list, offer AP classes to all high school students and more than 90 percent of Bellevue graduates complete at least one AP or IB course.
The district pays for teachers to participate in a weeklong summer course at the AP Institute.
"Our middle school teachers don't think of themselves as just middle school they think of themselves as preparing their kids for AP experience in high school," said Balla.
These Eastside high schools are also listed among the best in the nation the Washington Post list of “America's Most Challenging High Schools” and in U.S. News and World Report's “2013 Best High Schools.”
Where Bellevue schools stand on Newsweek’s list of America's best public high schools:
- National Rank: 31
- State Rank: 2
Newport High School
- National Rank: 80
- State Rank: 3
Interlake High School
- National Rank: 111
- State Rank: 4
Bellevue High School
- National Rank: 242
- State Rank: 5
Sammamish High School
- National Rank: 1337
- State Rank: 19
KING 5's Meg Coyle and Katie Scaff contributed to this report.