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Seattle’s most troubled high school gets elite academic degree program

Rainier Beach High School will become the third Seattle school to offer the International Baccalaureate program, district officials announced.

IB was originally developed to educate the children of diplomats in Europe, but is gaining popularity as a way to help turn around struggling urban schools. And Rainier Beach is one of those, with chronic under-enrollment and the lowest test scores of any comprehensive high school in the district.

Now it has a major new selling point, which district officials say will help draw more students to Rainier Beach. But IB coordinator Colin Pierce says the program will also benefit the students already there.

“It’s important for students who are traditionally denied access to high quality instruction and curriculum to have access. And in southeast Seattle, we have a high number of students who are traditionally underserved, and we want to make sure that they have every opportunity that other students have,” Pierce said.

Students can take a full load of IB classes, which are akin to Advanced Placement courses in their rigor, and work toward a special diploma. Or they can just take a class or two — something principal Dwane Chappelle said he hopes every Rainier Beach student will do. Many colleges and universities offer credit for passing IB exams.

Classes will be available to juniors and seniors starting next year. Seattle’s Ingraham and Chief Sealth High Schools also offer the IB diploma.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.
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