International School, a Bellevue, WA high school serving grades 6-12, is small, with barely 500 students. Their current senior class only numbers 64. But their student performance is among the best in the nation, scoring 100% in both reading and mathematics proficiency. US News labels them the 26th best school in the country. Newsweek puts them higher, at 12th.
International is a public school, but a tight hold is kept on their admission numbers by the school’s policy: new students are admitted by lottery. Interested families must live in the Bellevue School District and apply when their child is in the fifth grade. Each year, there are approximately 80 openings, with as many as eight times that number of students vying for them. Siblings of students are automatically enrolled, limiting that pool of availability even further.
Compare International’s numbers to others in the district, and it’s easy to see why families subject themselves to those odds. District-wide, the average math proficiency is only 86%, and the College Readiness Index, a score based on how well graduates do in their freshman year of college, is only 72%, a far cry below International’s 97%. Every other school in the district is more than twice as large, with larger class sizes and more generic teaching.
Those scores aren’t only due to the more personalized attention of a smaller school. International students are pushed hard. Many AP courses are mandatory, and all are available to all ages, not only juniors and seniors. An art track is required, be it fine arts, orchestra, or choir. Annually, there is a week of required outside courses, with many choices such as international travel or environmental study. The school has extracurriculars like drama and robotics, science club and JSA, but no sports. Anyone over 8th grade wishing to participate in sports can do so at other local schools.
The school’s model is intended to graduate young adults who are “global citizens,” aware and invested in the world around them, not only their own sphere of experience. If only there were a way to accurately measure that!