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Originally published June 9, 2009 at 10:49 AM | Page modified June 9, 2009 at 11:03 PM

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Five Eastside high schools make Newsweek's top 100

For the third year in a row, five Bellevue high schools have been named to Newsweek magazine's list of top 1,500 public high schools in the country.

Seattle Times Eastside reporter

For the third year in a row, five Bellevue high schools have been named to Newsweek magazine's ranking of the top 1,500 public high schools in the country in academics.

But in a first for the Bellevue School District, all five schools made it into the magazine's most exclusive count — the top 100.

The schools are the International School, ranked 11th; Interlake High, 18th; Newport High, 34th; Sammamish High, 47th; and Bellevue High, 78th.

Two of the five schools, Interlake and Sammamish, moved several places higher in the rankings than last year. The International School, which was 10th last year, moved down to 11th.

The 2009 listing was also a point of pride for Ingraham High in Seattle, which made it on the list for the first time, placing 940th. Ingraham, one of Seattle's smaller high schools, adopted a rigorous International Baccalaureate degree program seven years ago, and that helped the school find a place on Newsweek's list, said principal Martin Floe.

One other Seattle school, Garfield, made it on the list, placing 497th. Garfield has been on the list for five straight years.

The Lake Washington School District, which serves Redmond and Kirkland, was dismayed to learn that its International Community School, which routinely scores among the top high schools in the area on standardized tests, was not even considered for the Newsweek rankings. It was, instead, placed on a list of "elite" schools.

"These top performers ... were excluded from the list of top high schools because, despite their exceptional quality, their sky-high SAT and ACT scores indicate they have few or no average students," Newsweek wrote in an accompanying story about excluded schools. The district disputes that, however.

The International Community School was modeled after Bellevue's International School — which made the list — and just like its Bellevue namesake, it uses a lottery for admission instead of selecting students based on their grades or test scores. It was the only school in Washington excluded for being too "elite."

"It points out how arbitrary these lists are," said Lake Washington spokeswoman Kathryn Reith.

A substantial component of Newsweek's listing is how many students take either Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate exams, which are administered in May, and dividing that number by the number of seniors graduating in May or June. Both AP and International Baccalaureate classes use a rigorous standardized curriculum, and students are encouraged to take the optional exams at the end of the class to earn college credit.

For years, the Bellevue district has offered a full slate of AP classes in its high schools, a philosophy championed by former Superintendent Mike Riley. Riley left the district a year ago to go to work for the College Board, which administers the AP program. He died last fall of a heart attack.

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The Newsweek rankings have been criticized by some observers for putting too much emphasis on AP exams, and Riley's push for AP courses was not embraced by everyone in the Bellevue district.

To see Newsweek's list of top high schools, go to www.newsweek.com/id/201160.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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