Staring into a bin filled with cow eyeballs, high-school principal Trevor Greene felt the twitch of an idea.
He’d been touring the slaughterhouse across the road from Toppenish High with students from an agriculture class when it occurred to him that science teachers at his high-poverty school might be able to use the leftover body parts — hearts, pancreases, joints — for their new biomedical courses.
At the time, in 2011, Toppenish in Yakima County was in the midst of a five-year overhaul, transforming itself from a dropout factory, where only 19 percent of students passed state algebra exams, into a regional model for science and technology education.
Today, most of the school’s 830 students — all of them low-income — have taken courses in engineering, biomedical science or aerospace. Enrollment in advanced math has tripled. And the four-year graduation rate is 94 percent — a figure enviable even among the state’s most privileged districts.