Where Are The Best Schools?

Finding the right home in a good school district is a big deal and a recent survey conducted by Realtor.com proves it. 91% of nearly 1,000 respondents said that locating school boundaries were important when searching for a new home, but figuring out which school district is the best for your family can be tough.

Often, homes set in the boundaries of the best school districts in Washington state sell for more than a similar-sized or styled home in a lesser desirable Seattle school district. A good healthy school can even benefit homebuyers who do not intend to send children to the classrooms as they provide for a stable community and good property values.

Three great sources to consider when comparing schools and school districts is the annual reports from Washington Achievement Index, the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings and Private School Review.

Washington Achievement Awards

The Washington Achievement Award is based on the Washington Achievement Index. Schools must meet the 95% participation rate on state tests to be eligible. Schools are recognized in seven categories

•  Overall Excellence

•  High Progress

•  English Language Arts Growth

•  Math Growth

•  Extended Graduation Rate (awarded to high and comprehensive schools only)

•  English Language Acquisition

•  Achievement Gap

 

U.S News 2016 Best High School Rankings

In the 2016 U.S. News Best High Schools rankings, there are six Washington schools with gold medals, 59 with silver medals and 87 with bronze medals. The top-ranked school in the state is Aviation High School, part of the Highline School District.

Private School Review

Private School Review can help educate you about how to find the best private schools in the nation. Currently, the national average school acceptance rate for elementary students is 86% per year and 80% for high schools. Washington state’s average acceptance rate for both is 81%.

The Local School Districts

Seattle School District

The Seattle School District is Washington state’s largest serving at least 47,000 students. The district has 58 elementary schools, ten Kindergarten-8th grade schools, nine middle schools and 13 high schools. In 2015, 16 of these schools received the Washington Achievement Award. GreatSchools has given the district an overall score of 9 (out of a possible 10). In addition, three schools have been named in the 2016 U.S. News Best High Schools in Washington State. Roosevelt High School ranked #6 (with 90% graduation rate and a 62.3 score for college readiness), Garfield High School ranked #7 (with 87% graduation rate and a 54.3 score for college readiness) and Ingraham High School ranked #9 (with 76% graduation rate and a 50.4 score for college readiness). According to Private School Review, there are 114 private schools in Seattle serving 23,850 students. The average private school tuition is $13,165 for elementary schools and $12,583 for high. The average acceptance rate is 62%. 45% of schools are religiously affiliated (most commonly Roman Catholic and Christian). Private School Review has selected Amazing Grace Christian School, Lakeside School, The Evergreen School, The Bush School, The Valley School and University Child Development School as some of the “Most Selective Private Schools for 2015-2016.”

Bellevue School District

The Bellevue School District includes 15 elementary schools, one Spanish immersion elementary school, five middle schools, four high schools and two district-wide choice schools (grades 6-12). In 2015, ten of these schools received the Washington Achievement Award. In addition, two schools have been named in the 2016 U.S. News Best High Schools in Washington State. Newport Senior High School ranked #2 (with 95% graduation rate and a score of 74.5 for college readiness) and Bellevue High School ranked #4 (with 91% graduation rate and a score of 70.1 for college readiness). According to Private School Review, there are 40 private schools in Bellevue serving 5,965 students. The average private school tuition is $14,615 for elementary schools. The average acceptance rate is 72%. 33% of schools are religiously affiliated (most commonly Roman Catholic and Christian). Private School Review has selected Open Window School as one of the “Most Selective Private Schools for 2015-2016.”

Highline School District (Tukwila)

The Highline School District includes 18 elementary schools, four middle schools, two 7th-12th grade schools and 12 high schools. In 2015, two of these schools received the Washington Achievement Award. In addition, Aviation High School has been named #1 in the 2016 U.S. News Best High Schools in Washington State (with 98% graduation rate and a score of 78.6 for college readiness).

Lake Washington School District (Kirkland)

The Lake Washington School District includes 27 elementary schools, seven middle schools, four high schools and five “choice” high schools (which serve specific needs and interests including academic rigor along with an increased pace of study, graduation support, vocational programs and project-based learning.) In 2015, 26 of these schools received the Washington Achievement Award. In addition, three schools have been named in the 2016 U.S. News Best High Schools in Washington State. International Community School ranked #3 (with 98% graduation rate and a score of 72.1 for college readiness), Juanita High ranked #26 (with 90% graduation rate and a score of 35.4 for college readiness) and Lake Washington High ranked #31 (with 89% graduation rate and a score of 33.7 for college readiness). According to Private School Review, there are 14 private schools in Kirkland serving 1,617 students. Private School Review has selected The Overlake School and Lake Washington Girls Middle School as some of the “Most Selective Private Schools for 2015-2016.”

Issaquah School District

The Issaquah School District includes 15 elementary schools, five middle schools and five high schools. In 2015, 11 of these schools received the Washington Achievement Award. In addition, two schools have been named in the 2016 U.S. News Best High Schools in Washington State. Liberty Sr. High School ranked #11 (with 94% graduation rate and a score of 45.1 for college readiness) and Issaquah High School ranked #12 (with 93% graduation rate and a score of 43.6 for college readiness). According to Private School Review, there are 15 private schools in Issaquah serving 1,832 students.

Tacoma School District

The Tacoma School District includes 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools and nine high schools serving more than 30,000 students. While at one time the district faced a low graduation rate of just 55%, 2015 was the district’s most successful year in terms of graduation rates (82.6%) since tracking began in 2003. In 2015, four of these schools received the Washington Achievement Award. In addition, Franklin Pierce High School has been named in the 2016 U.S. News Best High Schools in Washington State (with 93% graduation rate and a 23.6 score for college readiness). According to Private School Review, there are 35 private schools in Tacoma serving 5,781 students. The average private school tuition is $5,152 for elementary schools. The average acceptance rate is 92%. 66% of schools are religiously affiliated (most commonly Roman Catholic and Christian).

 

Deciphering Seattle School District Ratings

The above data highlights the results from four different sources for finding school rankings  (Niche, School Digger, Neighborhood Scout and GreatSchools) and below we explain how each compile their scores for school rankings in WA.

Niche
Niche’s 2016 Best School Districts ranking includes a variety of factors, each given a different weight, to conclude a comprehensive assessment of each school district. Those factors and their weights include:

Academics Grade:                                                 50%
Health & Safety Grade:                                          10%
Student Culture & Diversity Grade:                         10%
Teachers Grade:                                                    10%
Resources & Facilities Grade:                                    5%
Extracurriculars & Activities Grade:                         2.5%
Sports & Fitness Grade:                                         2.5%
Parent/Student Surveys on Overall Experience*:       10%

(*Parent/Student Surveys is self-reported by Niche users)

School Digger
School Digger’s stats first breaks down which school district each city belongs to and gives the approximate number of students in that district, the number of elementary schools, middle schools and high schools in each district, the rank score for each district (for 2015) and if the ranking went up or down since 2013. Ranking updates are done yearly. The most recent one was done on August 17, 2015.

(Note: Students who opted out of taking the Smarter Balanced tests are classified as "not meeting the standard" when the scores are reported at the school level. Because of the high number of opt-outs in Washington State high schools, many of the scores for 2014-15 are wildly different from previous years and do not necessarily reflect school quality.)

Neighborhood Scout
Neighborhood Scout is probably best used for those seeking school information across the states. The site analyzes test scores, class sizes, learning environment, types of students, educational expenditures, and more if you are willing to pay for it. For the free level, parents will be able to see at a glance how their school district measures up to others with a “top 10” of the best school districts and a map of the state highlights which districts that are doing the best job.

GreatSchools
GreatSchools is an excellent resource giving ratings to individual school with each district. Each school receives a 1-10 rating score with 10 being the best score possible and 1 being the lowest and broken up as follows: 1-3 = below average (red), 4-7 = average (yellow) and 8-10 = above average (green). The ratings are compiled from standardized test scores and were last updated on June 2015.

 

For more information about our compiled rankings of best school districts in the Greater Seattle area, see the related article here for 2016.