Local high schools earn high marks in national poll

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Newsweek Magazine recently released its annual list of the best high schools in the country, and one local school district is proving to be at the head of the class.

On the day before the year's biggest test -- the advanced placement art history exam -- teacher Rob Prufer made a final push to his Newport High School students. Prufer's class is just one of many that helped Newport earn praise in a recent national poll.

"Rigor doesn't begin in high school. It has to begin before," said Lance Balla, the K-12 English curriculum developer for the Bellevue School District.

The school's number of accelerated classes, its graduation rate and its college acceptances make it number 80 on the list of Newsweek's top 1,000 U.S. High Schools poll.

Newport isn't the only school in the area getting high marks, either. All five of Bellevue's high schools made the list. Joining Newport are Interlake, Bellevue, International and Sammamish high schools.

High school senior Laura Lin said she didn't end up in school at Newport by accident.

"My parents actually moved here intentionally because of the Bellevue School District," she said.

Other students also realize how good their school is.

"I'm prepared for college, and that's what high school's for -- is just preparing you for the world," said senior Nick Taylor.

That's one component of the curriculum the staff feels helps Newport -- and other Bellevue high schools -- top the list. They say students and teachers start preparing for advanced placement classes as early as elementary school.

"What does college readiness look like and how does AP help facilitate that readiness and, more importantly, how does that AP program begin before the high school years?" Balla said.

Seven other high schools in western Washington made the Newsweek poll. Of those, Kirkland's International Community School ranked the highest at number 29.