Below are profiles featuring the top eight high schools in the Seattle Metropolitan Area. In order to be featured as a Top High School, the school must have a 2010 Education.com TestRating of 10 out of 10. The TestRating compares a school's standardized test scores for a given year with scores from other schools in the same state. Find your school and see how it compares.
Highline School District
At Aviation High School, students apply STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) fundamentals to an aviation theme and learn critical thinking skills. The innovative curriculum helps students learn to explore and be curious about the world around them.
With a diverse school and a high free-reduced lunch population, the school stresses respect of one another and it is cool to be smart at the school. With only 100 students per grade, there is a spirit of kindness and students help each other whenever possible.
Students focus on engineering concepts and many projects revolve around the aviation theme. For example, a recent assignment in English involved students writing a persuasive essay on why the space shuttle should be housed in Seattle. The school subscribes to the philosophy that the teachers are not the ultimate assessors of the students' work, but rather the experts in the field are. Many local partnerships provide students with real world experience.
While the school does not have athletic teams, students can play sports at their base school. Alternatively, school spirit revolves around academic teams and pep rallies celebrate academic accomplishments. To make sure the students have some of the traditional high school elements, the school hosts events such as prom and has spirit weeks.
“Our goal is to keep relevant, applicable and be responsible to needs in the workforce,” said Reba Gilman, Principal. “We tell our students that they need to use their hands, head and hearts.”
If you walk through the halls at Bellevue High School during classes, you will see student artwork lining the walls and bulletin boards full of reminders for clubs and events. The school is very active and students take a lot of pride in what they do. However, during class time, you will find students in class and focused on their studies.
The school is currently building a new high school building to open in 2012 that will include state-of-the art technology. Each classroom with have a smart board and computer labs with the latest technology will be installed throughout the building. Students can play on the many winning sports teams, become a member of a variety of clubs, or take the stage in the performing arts programs including drama, choir, orchestra, and band.
The school also provides a large Career Tech program including Culinary Arts and Radio and Television. The Auto Shop program at the school has a reputation in the region for being top notch and students wanting to be an auto technician come to the school for this program.
“This is academic place but also students take part a host of different things,” said David Wellington, principal. “We take a lot of pride in the work that our students do.”
Eastlake High School is full of school spirit and the town shuts down when the school plays the rival high school a mile away. The school currently educates 10th through 12th graders and will be adding ninth graders in the fall of 2012.
An active PTA raises money for teacher grants and booster clubs for all activities, including drama, band, choir and each individual sport. Because each student must pay $270 to participate in a sport in the conference, the booster clubs help provide financial support to students unable to pay the fee.
One of the staff's priorities is to make sure that at least one adult knows each student well, and the school works towards this goal through the Homeroom program. Three times a week, each students meets in a multi-grade home room class for announcements, assemblies and once a week-study hall, where the students tutor each other. To ensure that each student performs to their ability, the school offers a math lab several evenings a week, during which students can get extra tutoring.
“Kids who are involved at school tend to perform better, so we stay involved in activities and as a result have high academic performance,” said Brad Malloy.
Federal Way School District
Federal Way Public Academy’s unique sixth to 10th grade structure allows each grade to flourish and reach their potential. Since ninth grade can often be a challenging transition, the school allows them to adjust to the rigors of high school in a familiar environment. In the 10th grade, students are able to mentor students in the sixth grade, which is a year that students are often overlooked at a traditional school. The curriculum focuses on study skills and traditional college preparatory studies.
Admission to the school is through a lottery and there is usually a waiting list to get in. The staff stresses leadership and encourages 10th graders to take AP courses. While the school does not offer PE or music, there are opportunities for students to get involved through the academic clubs and the After School Adventure Club, which is for ninth and 10th graders. Students can also try out for the golf and cross country teams, and the drama club is popular among theatrically inclined students.
“The school focuses on relationships and works to find the best place for each child,” said Kurt Lauer, principal.
Peninsula School District
Gig Harbor High School provides a challenging curriculum for its students. Students can enroll in one of more of the 11 AP courses offered to earn college credit through an exam. As part of graduation requirements, seniors must complete and present a Senior Exhibition on a topic of interest that includes a paper, project, and community service.
Students can narrow their studies to one of five different focuses; Arts and Communication, Business and Marketing, Engineering and Technology, Health and Human Services, Science and Natural Resources. Students select their courses, both core and electives, on their career pathway to help with future education and employment. In addition, many of the pathways offer opportunities for shadowing and internships.
The school provides a lot of activities after school including a host of athletic teams and clubs. The performing arts programs often take home top honors and have been recognized on a national level. Clubs available for students include Citizens of the World, Magic Club, and the Sign Language Club.
The school's mission statement details, "GHHS creates a respectful and positive learning environment in which students, staff and community encourage the intellectual, physical and emotional growth of individuals."
Bellevue School District
Students at Interlake Senior High School start each morning with a high five at the school's entrance. The school is a welcoming place where students hold the door for each other and make new students feel welcome. The school has undergone tremendous growth with open enrollment growing from 900 to 1500 students in the past five years. Over 58 different languages are spoken amongst the students and the school embraces its diversity.
The AP and IB programs are open to all students and over 82 percent of seniors in a recent class had taken at least one IB or AP course. While students can take either one class or the whole IB program, over 1/3 over a recent graduating class had earned the full diploma.
The school is also home to a gifted program that allows students to earn an IB program at the end of their junior year. The school has a large population of special needs students that are provided strong support to reach their potential. Many extracurricular programs and teams have good reputations, such as the music department, robotics team, DECA, chess team, and Future Problem Solvers Team.
“Our students have embraced the academic challenge. We tell them that you can do this and we will support you” said Russell White, Principal.
Lake Washington School District
At International Community School, students receive a rigorous education with a focus on global studies and international issues. The magnet school was founded in 1997 by teachers and parents to educate students from seventh through 12th grade, and admission is based on a lottery. At the small school of 385 students, teachers and students are able to easily develop relationships, and students have the opportunity to personalize their education based on their interests.
The school is based on mastery of concepts and building on this competency over the years. The school focuses on six different academic subjects and students study each area for all six years on campus: humanities, international studies, art, science, mathematics and a foreign language. The international theme is woven throughout students' education, including focusing on ancient cultures in humanities and social studies, and studying Asian in the Humanities for a year in high school. Students also develop fluency by studying a foreign language for six years and have the opportunity to study abroad for a semester through a foreign exchange program.
As stated on the school website, “ICS graduates have the skills to become active participants in a global community. Teachers, students, and the parent community cultivate intellectual growth, creativity, and problem solving skills in a respectful school environment where students are valued as unique individuals.”
Bellevue School District
The International School provides opportunities for students to learn about the world around them both in and out of the classroom. Students enter the school in the sixth grade and admission is based on a lottery. Students benefit from personal interaction with both their instructors and other students due to a small student body.
The International theme is integrated through courses and extracurricular activities. Students study seven different areas; International Studies, German or French Language, Math, Science; Humanities, Arts, and Physical Education. Students can also study abroad through partnerships with other schools and many students become fluent in languages through a very strong world languages program. Each spring students spend a week outside the classroom getting real world learning experiences, such as studying Geology in Oregon, learning about theater in NYC, or traveling in Europe.
Students can also enjoy the traditional high school experience through dances, socials, and a spirit week. Musically inclined students can participate in band, jazz band, choir, orchestra, and voice ensemble. Several clubs are also active on campus, including Model UN, International Thespians, and Robotics Club.
Issaquah School District
Issaquah High School has a long tradition of educating students in the community and provides students with an enriching, balanced education. The school has an active career center to help students explore potential careers and tailor their education to those interests. Students can earn college credit through a variety of ways at the school, including taking one of the numerous AP courses available. Students accepted to the Running Start program can take certain courses to earn both college and high school credit simultaneously.
Students can explore their interests through a variety of after school activities. Fine and performing arts programs are active and include the band, choir, orchestra, and theater. Students can choose from a variety of interest clubs like Art Appreciation, Fantasy Gaming, and Ping Pong Club. Service clubs, such as the Key Club and International club, are also popular. In addition, students can participate in academic clubs such as DECA, Robotics, and Math Olympiad.
The school offers many athletic teams including gymnastics and wrestling. Teams are competitive and the school was recognized in recent years as one of the top athletic programs in the state.
Mukilteo School District
While the school has a large student body, students often comment that student-teacher relationships and connections make Kamiak High feel a lot smaller. The AP program offers over 18 classes. Teachers view the school as a destination job and positions typical open up only when a staff member retires.
Kamiak was recently awarded the most spirited high school in the league based on the school’s commitment to help others. The school promotes student leadership and students actively participate in most school events.
Around 150 students sing in the show choir and the drama program is known as one of the best programs in the state. Students can also participate in an orchestra and choir that is competitive on both the regional and state level.
“If there is a need at the school, everyone steps up. Everyone works together for a common goal, not only students but the community,” said Allison Mead, head of counseling at the school. “We have a unified collection of students who feel like together we are meaningful and recognizable.”
Mercer Island School District
Mercer Island High School benefits from exceptional parent and community support. Parents are very involved the PTA and school events; over 500 parents show up each year for the back to school coffee and 90 percent of parents attend Meet-the-Teachers night. The Mercer Island School Foundation also provides the school financial support, which recently including making up for the deficit in state funding.
With 95 percent of the students college-bound the school provides a challenging college prep course load with plenty of AP and Honors courses and Dual Credit Offerings. The school also intervenes and provides help for struggling students through programs like the Alternate Crest Learning Center on campus.
The school boasts stellar visual arts and drama programs. The music program is extensive and includes 20 different ensembles; over 700 students take music courses (300 of whom are in the marching band!).
The school wins 3 to 5 state championships each year in various sports and has won the conference Scholastic Cup, which is awarded for combined athletic and academic achieved, for 4 out of the past 6 years.
“My wish is that they take the education and support and experience that they have been given at the school and use it to make the lives of others better,” said John Harrison, Principal.
Bellevue School District
Students are reminded of Newport Senior High School's core values of Balance, Community, Discovery, and Honor each time they walk through the Commons, where the values are painted on the walls. With such a high achieving student body, the administration works to find ways to help students find balance in their studies.
The school offers numerous AP courses, and students can also learn career skills through the Culinary Arts program and CISCO networking academy certification program.
Students are very active on campus through a variety of programs, including a wide range of interest clubs, and are very involved in supporting each other and the community. The U-Knighted, a student spirit club, can be found at various student events ranging from track meets to concerts in support of their classmates. The ASPEN group (students as health educators) visits other schools to provide AIDs awareness and fundraise for research. The CISCO students also donate and install computers in third-world countries each year. The music department is popular and large percentage of the students can be found playing in the marching band during Friday night football games.
"We recently had a coalition of international educators visit. They were so amazed with the level of rigor and deep thinking that students were engaged in," said Heidi Fedore, Principal.
Issaquah School District
Skyline High School provides students with challenging courses and many opportunities to apply learned skills outside of class. The school focuses on educating students about the world around them through connections with schools in other countries, such as Peru and Uganda, and highlighting service to our own country on Veterans Day. Biology students head to Caribbean to study sea tortoises each year and Spanish students visit Nicaragua to help a local school. Each year the PSTA hosts a Service Learning Fair where community organizations highlight volunteer opportunities available for students.
The school recently completed a large remodel that resembles a community college and brought the ninth graders back on campus after four years of being on a separate campus. The school offers rigorous academics through the IB and AP programs.
Athletic teams are very successful and various teams often compete on the state level. The visual and performing arts programs have also been recognized both state wide and internationally, and student can also choose from the many interest clubs, including the very active Harry Potter club on campus.
“We truly believe that we are developing honorable, thinking, skillful citizens who possess integrity, act with honor and pride, and pursue scholarship and excellence in the service of humanity,” said Lisa Hetchman, Principal.
Vashon Island School District
Located on an island accessible only by ferry boat, Vashon Island High School is the center of the community, which provides tremendous support for the school. The community raises $35,000 annually for teacher grants, the PTA purchases all textbooks for the school and the community provides at least a $500 scholarship for each senior who completes a scholarship notebook.
With a student body of around 500 students, the staff develops relationships with each student. The school focuses on helping students to find their passion in life and to also find the joy in each day.
Instead of having levels, all students take college preparatory level courses and teachers do an intensive section for students who need extra help. The importance of the arts on the island carries over to the school, where local artists teach courses and students participate in the community art show. Students can also participate in many sports, clubs, and performing arts programs after school.
“Our students tell us that the teachers really care if they learn the material as opposed to just being in the class. The dedication of our staff is exceptional,” said Susan Hanson, Principal.
Northshore School District
At a recent staff meeting at Woodinville High School, the principal asked each staff to each write a thoughtful note to a student who was either struggling academically or socially. The school's efforts to reach out to and engage with all students are successful -- the school has an impressive .7 percent dropout rate.
The school is currently finishing a 90 million dollar building project that considered input from both parents and students. The school really works to give the students a voice and involve them in major decisions.
The school has increased its AP program significantly over the past 12 years, and has gone from offering 6 courses to offering 37. Currently, over 81 percent of the students take at least 1 AP course and the school is working to reach 100 percent. The school offers a wide variety of electives, including Game Design, Welding, and Metal Arts. Students can also apply to be in the two-year Health Sciences program, which prepares them for the medical profession.
If you can get all stake holders together, you can create the community school that you want it to be. We are really blessed with supportive students, staff, and parents,” said Vicki Punkett, Principal.
Please note that only schools in the following Washington counties were considered for this article: King, Pierce, and Snohomish.