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Federal Way high schools make Washington Post list

The Washington Post's "High School Challenge" list was recently released, and for Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS), it was another cause for celebration.

Thomas Jefferson High School, Decatur High School, Todd Beamer High School and Federal Way High School made repeat appearances on the list. The list ranks schools based on the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests conducted by a school during a given year, and divides it by the number of graduating seniors.

For 2012, only 1,900 schools of the nation's 22,000 high schools made the list.

"This school district, the community, our teachers, our educators, our parents and our students have risen to the challenge of high academic expectations," said Federal Way Superintendent Rob Neu. "The High School Challenge reflects the belief in the ability of every student to learn at high levels."

For the 30 Washington state schools to make the cut, Federal Way High School came in at number 7, Decatur at number 16, Thomas Jefferson at 26 and Todd Beamer at 27.

Beamer and Decatur enjoyed their second year on the list, while Federal Way High School made the prestigious list for the third year in a row, and Thomas Jefferson marked its fourth year on the list.

According to the district, FWHS also had the highest percentage of students who qualify for reduced or free lunch among the Washington state schools, at 56 percent. The only other school that approached that number in the state was Spokane's North Central High School. The rest of the district's schools also made the list with higher than average reduced or free lunch rates, an indicator that often predicts a school's academic success, usually in the negative sense.

The district credits recent policies with the success, most notably the controversial Academic Acceleration policy implemented in the past two years.

"I want to applaud the school district, the people sitting in this room, the educators who have wrestled with academic acceleration and the students. (It's) because this district had the courage to those students that you belong, we have a place for you," Neu said in his comments at the May 22 school board meeting.

The school district plans to continue to challenge students with another innovative program next fall, the "College Readiness Pathway."

The Pathway is aimed at getting students to think about their academic futures as early as middle school, and plan accordingly.

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