Our Northwest

New teaching method thrives at Sammamish

Sunday, April 10, 2016by  Jon Osterberg

Students at Sammamish High School in east Bellevue are thriving in a new hands-on learning approach, matching or outperforming students taught by traditional methods, according to an independent assessment.
     What began as a pilot with Advanced Placement classes now includes 35 courses. The main difference: students solve relevant, real-world problems instead of studying textbooks to pass tests.
     Sammamish is my alma mater, but the Lake Hills-area school – located two miles north of I-90's Eastgate exit – differs from when I graduated in 1972. Back then, students were often reminded by teachers how proud they were to work in a school district where voters had never, ever failed a levy. School funding was not an issue.
     Today's redesigned Sammamish curriculum was made possible, in part, by a $4 million federal grant.
     We also simply looked different. SHS Totems were almost entirely white, middle-class kids from Boeing families. Like much of Bellevue at the time, ethnic diversity wasn't evident.
     Check out the Ford ad from the 1972 Sammamish yearbook. This group was chosen to pose with the Mustang because they were representative of the senior class – and the entire student body, for that matter.
     Today, Sammamish is the most diverse of Bellevue's high schools, with 46 languages spoken among its students.
     Indeed, Bellevue differs greatly from the pre-Microsoft era. Two years ago, U.S. Census data showed just 33% of its population was white.
     The point being, it's nice to see that my old school, once an example of unremarkable blandness, now stands out for its innovative academics and a diverse populace.
     Read The Seattle Times story.

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