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Topic: Colin Pierce

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May 7, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Warts-and-all: merging an elite program with a high-needs school

Rainier Beach High School (Seattle Times photo archive)

Rainier Beach High School (Seattle Times photo archive)

It’s a deceptively straightforward question, yet akin to the Holy Grail in education: How do you change a school’s culture?

How do you recast its reputation among parents? Supercharge the expectations of students?

An attempt to find answers led a delegation of nine teachers from Portland, plus two students and a principal, to spend a day at Rainier Beach High this week. They had read recent articles and an Op-Ed describing steady change at the oft-maligned South Seattle school, and wanted to see if there were lessons they might bring back to Oregon.

At their home base, Madison High, math and reading scores linger well below the district average, and only 62 percent of freshmen graduate in four years.

Those are problems that teachers at Rainier Beach know well. But their response has been counter-intuitive. At Beach, teachers are now asking more of students, not less. Last September, they began offering the demanding International Baccalaureate program, asking every junior and senior to take at least one of the college-prep classes.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Colin Pierce, International Baccalauerate, Rainier Beach