School Design for Success

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History of Bellevue International School

Bellevue International School was the sole creation of six visionary teachers, and has consistently ranked in the top tier of schools nationwide...Read more

History of Kirkland International Community School (ICS)

Kirkland International Community School had no computers the first year, and our students were housed in portables with little shelter from the rain...Yet, by the second year we achieved the highest writing scores on statewide exams...Read more

Humanities Curriculum at Bellevue International School and Kirkland ICS

Quarterly grading periods, winter breaks and summer recesses were mere interruptions in one continuous curriculum...Read more

How Social Promotion Gives a "Pass" to Schools that Fail

Ask any teacher whether social promotion "works", and you will receive a clear answer: It doesn't...Read more

First Test Scores from Bellevue International School and Kirkland International School

These scores were achieved by schools that were untried, built on promises, and which had yet to acquire a reputation for rigor and success...Read more

Creating A Powerful Teaching Culture

If the teaching culture is not transformed, then "school renewal" will be an empty promise...Read more

Making it Better vs. Making it New

"Better" and "different" may sometimes be confused as charter schools describe their mission...Read more

How Marysville Arts & Technology H.S. Began

"We don't have tennis courts. We don't have a gym. We don't have a lot of things," Principal Bruce Saari said. "We do have a small school culture."Read more

Small School Success Stories:
Boosting Student Achievement by Design

In 1990 six Bellevue teachers* came together to envision and propose a new public school in the Bellevue School District: The International School.

Working on our own time during the first year, and later on partial planning release, the six of us hammered out instructional and program values that would set the standard for what public schools can aspire to become.

Despite resistance from teachers and administrators, we won school board support as well as Washington State start up funding ($300k) to develop the program. This school is now in its 24th year of operation.

At the conclusion of our sixth year, and as the last of the founders remaining at the school, I accepted an offer from Kirkland founding parents and district administrators to create a "clone" of B.I.S. in the neighboring Lake Washington school district: Lake Washington International Community School.**

These standardized results were achieved in the earliest years of each school--at a time when test score inflation had yet to become commonplace. Perhaps more important, these scores were achieved by school programs that were new, untried, built on promises, and which had yet to acquire a reputation for academic rigor and success.

As a result, our first students came from all backgrounds and ability levels: the few who were gifted, the many who were normally ambivalent but curious, and those who had enjoyed little success in public school, but who enrolled in our program nevertheless--as a last resort.

We did not get these results by preparing for tests by any means. Our belief was that expert instruction, coupled with vibrant, participatory classrooms would be sufficient preparation for any test that might come our way. Standardized testing was but a brief interruption of our more important educational journey--the journey toward discovery and growth, toward building student confidence, understanding and the ability to evaluate and to think.

These scores are paired with in-district and state level scores on the same tests. Since the enrollment during the earliest years at both schools matched the demographics of larger in-district programs, these scores demonstrate what schools with a vibrant teaching culture can achieve.

I invite you to follow the links in this website in order to learn more about why these programs have been so successful.

* Bellevue I.S. founding teachers: Rick Hart, Patricia McLean, Rita Lowy, Terry LaRussa Banton, Karen Kurle, Bruce Saari.

**Inaugural teaching staff at ICS: John Heil (Science), Damaris Bartlett (Spanish), Andrew Ivy (International Studies), Sophia Hindley (Fine Arts), Ella Johnston (Math), and Bruce Saari (Humanities).