Rainier Beach High School in Seattle doesn’t have the best reputation, but that’s starting to change. Over the last two years, the school has had a 25-point increase in graduation rates, and in spring of 2016, 79% of seniors there graduated, which is higher than the district average of 74%.
What’s the secret to their success? The International Baccalaureate, a program popular with the children of diplomats, and known for its rigorous academic expectations. Using that program has increase the school’s graduation rates, and its popularity, as the upcoming 2016-2017 academic year has the highest enrollment numbers in a decade. Unfortunately, the program’s funding is expected to dry up in 2017, so it’s unclear how, or if, the school will be able to keep up the good work.
If the funding falls through and the IB program is canceled, we can expect Rainier Beach high to slip back to its old ways. This would be a tragedy because kids living in the area need a good school, and if the, program is working it should be supported and perhaps even adopted in other school and other districts.
The success of the IB program there flies in the face of decades of educational theory, specifically, the idea that some kids simply aren’t cut out for college, so why bother teaching them? The kids who attend Rainier Beach High aren’t wealthy, and they mostly aren’t white, which has traditionally worked against them. Race and class cause a lot of problems in American education, not because these kids aren’t smart enough or good enough for the system, but because they’re all too often given the short end of the stick.
Rainier Beach High School’s International Baccalaureate program has shown that, with the right tools, everybody can succeed—and that attitude has become contagious, with lots of kids clamoring to go to the school. That’s exactly the kind of excitement we want to see.