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School programs that work in Seattle and beyond or why we don’t need charter schools in the state of Washington

Someone asked me yesterday about programs that have been successful in Seattle in terms of meeting their goals and having an established track record. I quickly named off the top of my head schools that I could think of and sent the e-mail.

When I arrived in Seattle I was impressed with the programs that Seattle had to offer all students. I refer to them as the gems in the Seattle Public Schools system and they are available to all.

I decided to post the list and everyone in our state is welcomed to add to this list.

This was my response:

In Tacoma there is the School of the Arts (SOTA), the Science and Math Institute (SAMI) and Lincoln Center, an extended day program. All are high schools. These schools serve a diverse population both in ethnicity as well as socio-economics.

Aviation High School in Highline.

Lakewood IB program.

The following schools in Seattle usually have waiting lists:

Nova High School: Project based and student oriented, meaning that the students along with the staff and principal take part in the decision-making process from who will teach at the school to how the school budget will be used. Nova was established about 30 years ago and STEM collaborated with Nova on developing STEM’s project based learning approach. Nova students scored highest on the SAT in the city for the last two years in the language arts.

STEM: Opened last year and their focus is on Science, Math and Technology.

TOPS Elementary: Great elementary school, I call it a progressive alternative school. They develop some great independent thinkers based on the TOPS students that I have had in my architecture classes. This holds true actually for all of the progressive alternative students that I have had in my classes.

Salmon Bay K-8: “Option School” and another student oriented progressive alternative school. There is a site based council made up of parents and staff that determine the course of the school. Same at TOPS.

Center School: A high school with a focus on the arts.

APP-Advanced Placement Program: Dispersed among various schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade.

International Baccalaureate program at Rainier Beach High School: Will start in the fall.

International Baccalaureate program at Ingraham High School: Has a great reputation.

SBOC-Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center: Great program bringing in recent immigrants and providing them with an introduction to the American school system before placing them in the Seattle Public School community.

Pathfinder, K-8: Student oriented elementary school.

South Shore Elementary

Thornton Creek elementary: An “alternative progressive” option school.

The option schools are open to any student in the city and transportation is provided.

For a full listing of schools with special, innovative and/or unique programs, go to the Seattle Public School directory and scroll down to “Option Schools”. Each school has a link to their own web page.


5 comments on “School programs that work in Seattle and beyond or why we don’t need charter schools in the state of Washington

  1. Karin Engstrom
    July 10, 2012

    Thank you for this! Now these educational communities need to come out in force to campaign against the initiative for charter schools. Get out and walk your neighborhood. Talk to people you meet and know about these excellent educational communities. Write a “letter to the editor”. There’s lots of money backing this initiative. Look what happened in Wisconsin. We need our students from these schools to practice their civics and give voice to their educational experience. It is even more important because they can’t vote. Or if they are 18 – then I hope they would.

  2. seattleducation2011
    July 10, 2012

    This is great information!



  3. Tacoma also has an arts based elementary school (dance, drama,art, music) Grant center for the Expressive Arts, Geiger Montessori (k-5) and Bryant Montessori (k-8), Also not sure if it is just at Grant, or across the TPS district, but Grant will be using the ASD Nest program with our autistic students.
    Jason Lee Middle School does looping with their advisory, science, math and language arts teachers-kids stay with the same teachers all 3 years.

  4. Robert Valiant
    July 10, 2012

    Here in the Tri-Cities we have Delta High. The 3 school districts and Columbia Basin College collaborated with Pacific Northwest National Laboratories to develop this project-based STEM school. It is open to students from Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland. For more info, see

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