Federal Way schools make ‘America’s Most Challenging High Schools’ list

Thirty-three schools from Washington made the Washington Post
Thirty-three schools from Washington made the Washington Post's 'America's Most Challenging High Schools' list, including Federal Way High School (FWHS) that came in at number eight.
— image credit: Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools

The four comprehensive high schools in Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) were selected as part of the Washington Post’s “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” rankings, according to a press release from FWPS.

Previously known as Newsweek’s “America’s Best High Schools,” the new list “ranks schools by the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests given by the school in 2013, divided by the number of graduating seniors.”

“The America’s Most Challenging High Schools list identifies schools that are creating an environment of high expectations and college-going culture,” said FWPS Superintendent Rob Neu. “The High School Challenge results reflect our deep belief in the ability of every student to learn at high levels.”

Nancy Potter, the College Board senior educational manager for the board’s western region, said the FWPS’s accomplishment is proof of the district’s continued dedication to increasing academic rigor.

“Federal Way is only one of two districts in Washington to have all of its comprehensive high schools appear on Jay Mathew’s Washington Post Challenge Index list,” she said. “Mathews created this list in order to promote equity by comparing the number of AP exams taken to graduating seniors. In every way, Federal Way puts learning first in a district where all means all.”

Thirty-three schools from Washington made the list, with Federal Way High School (FWHS) coming at number eight. The district notes the school’s success comes even with the fact that it has a “free and reduced lunch rate of 62 percent, the second-highest of the 33 (Washington) schools.”

Thomas Jefferson High School (TJ) was ranked 13th in the state, while Decatur and Todd Beamer came in at 15 and 20, respectively. Decatur and Beamer have made the list the last four years, while FWHS has done it for five years now, and TJ for six years.

The district credits a number of recent initiatives for the continued success, among them the Academic Acceleration Program, which was implemented at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year. That program automatically enrolled students into the more difficult classes based on testing results.

On top of this, FWPS credits its “College Readiness Pathway” program, which was aimed at making sure “all students in the district have the opportunity to go to college or get other post-high school training, and to be successful once there.”

This program created an “integrated series of assessments designed for eigth through 12th graders,” to help students at aiming themselves in the right direction after graduation.

Another program the district credits is the College Readiness Day, where all seniors are pre-registered to take the SAT “for free during a regular school day,” which helps eliminate “financial and scheduling barriers to taking the test.” Students from that eighth to 12th grade swath participate in college readiness activities that day.

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