Friday Harbor High rated 9th best in Washington state

By Steve Wehrly/Journal reporter

Hard classes and even tougher tests pay off for Friday Harbor High School students who take the challenge of enrolling in advance placement classes.

The payoff?  For students, college admission and college credit. For teachers, school and the community, national recognition as the ninth best school in Washington state (out of 626), and 317th in the nation (out of 22,000).

U.S. News and World Report issued its "best high schools" report this week. The International School in Bellevue ranked number one in Washington and number nine nationally. Orcas High School also placed well, 15th statewide and 571st nationally.

Principal Fred Woods credits the high school's eight AP-certified teachers and parents who encourage their children to challenge themselves with AP courses. But many deserve praise, he said.

"This recognition also reflects the work of all the teachers in grade school, middle school and high school who work hard to develop the students to the point they can succeed in AP coursework," Woods said.

Rick Thompson, superintendent of San Juan Island School District, is more than pleased by the rankings. "Fantastic, exciting," he said. "A tribute to the leadership and commitment of the  staff, and well-deserved recognition for all the students.

Guidance counselor Gordy Waite seconded Woods.

"Two-thirds of the student body take one or more AP classes before they graduate," he said. "If they didn't work so hard on these very difficult courses, if they didn't pass the tests, none of this would happen."

One result of this dedication: most Friday Harbor High graduates go on to college, and more than 90 percent continue their education after graduation.

Waite said AP classes "are important if not required for college-bound students." Any student can choose to take an AP class, but Waite points out that either a counselor or the teacher must approve—and one or the other will tell a student how much work the class is and how difficult the test is.

"Very few kids don't complete their chosen AP classes," he said.

District school board Chairman Brent Snow identified another part of the community that should be commended. "Taxpayers, especially taxpayers who vote for school levy increases, because the state basic education funding doesn't pay for things like AP classes," Snow said. "Students (and their parents) pay for their own AP textbooks, but other costs for AP classes and teachers come from levy increases."


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