Rainier Beach High School is proud enough of its rising standardized test scores and other improvements to create T-shirts in the school’s Crayola orange-and-blue colors with the message: “Our Future’s Trending Up.” On Saturday, we’re publishing an editorial notebook that captures some of the exciting changes at Rainier Beach, including the first year of its rigorous International Baccalaureate program.
More Rainier Beach students are doing better and passing the reading, writing and mathematics sections of the state test. Enrollment is up above 500, crucial for a school criticized for attracting too few students. Nearly all of the teachers have been trained in the IB method. All students are required to take at least one IB course.The higher level of teaching and learning is paying off. Juniors in Adam Christopulos’ IB math class are preparing for college by tackling algebra, trigonometry and calculus. When I sat in on Colin Pierce’s IB Language Arts and Literature class, students were poring over a famous photograph, “Falling Man,” to see how they’d describe the horrific image from September 11, 2001 to a blind person. Two football players relaxed on the couch and talked about a related poem by a Polish Nobel Laureate.
This is the new Beach. One would have to recall where the school once was to appreciate where it is now. Rainier Beach’s troubled leadership and scarce resources were documented in my more than decade-old Times story about a student at the Bush School pondering a transfer to Rainier Beach and in another Times story I wrote about the Cunningham family who sold their Seward Park house to avoid their daughter attending Rainier Beach.
So when a recent Times story noted Rainier Beach’s impressive jump in test scores at a time when the trend statewide was flat, I called the PTSA president Rita Green. IB has been a positive influence on the school, but so has the PTSA, an organization unapologetically lobbying lawmakers and local education groups for assistance. It has paid off. Last year, the Legislature gave Rainier Beach $1 million to help its improvement efforts. The White House called the PTSA one of the nation’s 12 “Champions for Change.” Their new motto: “Not your Mother’s PTSA” fits to a T.
Scroll down to see some photos from my visit to Rainier Beach, located at the southern edge of Lake Washington in south Seattle. I sat in on classes, talked to teachers and students and had a great time. Enjoy.