Seattle High Schools

A request was made for a thread about high schools and parents' experiences with them.  I did a quick check and it appears most high schools are having at least one daytime tour and one evening tour (Roosevelt and Hale seem to be the only ones with a single tour.)  Again, while the tours aren't always the most fun, it is a very good way to get a feel for a building, see what gets emphasized, and, if it is during the day, to see the energy at the school. 

My students attended Hale and Roosevelt.  I think they both received a good education and were prepared for college.  Each was a good fit for each son.  (This is one reason I really feel unhappy about the lack of 10% set-aside seats under the NSAP.   High school IS a big deal and you want your student to feel good about the school he/she attends.  They need to feel a part of that tribe.  That said, I know people who easily switched high schools so it can be done.)

One observation I have about high school is the ownership the teachers feel for their building.  Maybe it's because it is a bigger staff with department heads but they truly feel invested in their school and its organization. This can have good and bad aspects but I believe it makes for a stronger school when you have teams of teachers working together. 

Before I start with my experience, one caveat.  This is one family's experience but my experience is that school culture doesn't change that much.  However, a principal can really make a difference so ask other parents about the principal.  Ask some students what they think. 


Hale has a new building which is quite nice.  They have their own full-sized sports field (they are one of the few high schools to have one).  

When my son was there, it had quite a solid teaching corps and counseling office. 

I was not at the school with the current principal (Hale has had quite a few principals over the last 8 years).  I note that the district was recently found guilty of unfair labor practices around actions the current principal took against an employee.  The principal changed a staff member's evaluation several times to reflect badly on the employee.  This is troubling.  But I know little about her abilities as a principal so maybe a Hale parent could weigh in. 

Hale has an inclusion model for both classes and sports.  This means that they have few separate classes for honors or AP.  This is model they had been working towards for years and many parents like it.  They did want to do away with separate AP classes altogether (except for foreign language and math) but I believe they ended up with something in the middle.   You have to decide for yourself if a separate AP class matters.  I think it does matter in terms of getting through all the material at the same pace. 

My experience with inclusion in sports wasn't great.  While it is true that no one gets cut, it is also true that they don't play everyone.  When my son was on the Ultimate Frisbee team, he never got to play in a single game and was told he never would as they were competitive and he wasn't a good player.  You can imagine how hurtful that was (especially as he is a special needs student).   I doubt this happens in all sports but I would imagine that for students who are not especially athletically gifted, it would be a hard thing to be on a team and know you won't be competing at all.  This could have changed by now. 

Hale has started up musical theater in the last couple of years and I hear the shows have been great.  They have the only FM radio station in the district and it is a real point of pride.   It's the mighty C89.5 and they have a beautiful new studio (and I note that parents raised the funds for the equipment).  

They also have a Horticulture program and share a new greenhouse with Jane Addams. 

Hale has a reputation for having an inclusive student body.  It is less cliqueish than some other schools. Hale has a reputation for some students using pot.  (This is in contrast to Roosevelt's reputation for alcohol use among some students.) 

Hale has a steady and fairly strong parent base. 

In recent years, I know of two people who transferred their children out of Hale because of a perception of less rigor but I know of one person who transferred in (from Roosevelt) because of Hale's student culture. 


One of the oldest of Seattle's high school, Roosevelt has a long and storied history (I helped organize the archives and it is fascinating.  They also maintain a library of every single yearbook.)

Roosevelt also had a rebuild and it maintained the original facade so the school has that "grand old lady" look.  My one beef with the building is that the numbering system is wacky and you tend to wander a lot (and so do the freshmen).  

Roosevelt also has a solid teaching corps.  I was a little less impressed with the counseling (and you hear this from other parents as well).  I will say, though, that most counselors at ANY high school are generally dealing with about 350-400 students EACH and that's a lot for any human being.  It can be difficult to get the class schedule you want (just as it is at Garfield and Ballard). 

Roosevelt's principal has been there five years and I found him a good person to work with and the kids generally like him.  I give him a lot of credit because in his first years at Roosevelt he exited two poor quality teachers.  He knew what had to be done and did the work to get it done. 

Roosevelt is a fairly rigorous school.  In 10th grade all sophomores are required to take a year-long AP Human Geography class.  (Dorothy Neville has weighed in on this a couple of times.  It gets mixed reviews.)  Roosevelt is the only high school to offer Latin and regularly attended Latin competitions.  It has one of the highest numbers of AP and honors classes in the district.  There is one oddity in the LA department where they refuse to offer AP classes.  They have a strong computer science department with a full lab.  They also offer a UW in the Schools class. 

Roosevelt is, of course, known for its powerhouse music and drama departments.  The drama department offers theater classes as well as producing plays and a musical each year. 

Roosevelt also has a strong sports program (along with club sports like Ultimate Frisbee and Lacrosse). 

My observation about Roosevelt and its student body is that (1) they have a lot of kids who are involved in the life of their school in one way or another and (2) it can be cliqueish.  You tend to have some fairly strong groups come out of Eckstein and I think for kids who didn't go there, it can be a hard thing to break into.  That said, I do see plenty of interaction between groups.  

One note about Roosevelt is that it has a very strong parent base but that it splinters depending on what activity your child is in.  Roosevelt's PTSA has a No-Bake bake sale for fundraising, meaning, they ask you to write a check.  No buying anything, no auctions, just whatever you can afford.  Meanwhile the various music, drama and sports groups raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support those activities.  So parents have their own tribes just as the kids do.  I think Hale's example of more school-wide fundraising might offer more opportunities for all parents to be together.  Just an observation. 


Anonymous said…
Latin is VERY strong at Garfield and as in music, they certainly compete on the same level as RHS.

Sidney D
Linh-Co said…
Our daughter loves Ingraham. It has been her favorite Seattle public school. She is a pre-IB student. We are happy with the rigor and she has had some excellent teachers. No fuzzy math is another plus for the school. In fact that was one of the reasons we chose Ingraham even though Ballard is our reference school.

Everyone seems accepted and the diversity is amazing.
I know several people who are at/went to Ingraham and are very happy. This school has had a slow but steady trajectory upward. They open their new addition next week and by all accounts, the APP program seems to be fitting in well.

I have heard good things about the diversity and welcome feel of Ingraham. I also will say the last time I walked through that building, it was quiet. I mean virtually no kids straggling in the halls and it was silent. These people are working.

I think Ingraham, like Franklin, flies a bit under the radar but both schools are filling up and doing well.
Anonymous said…
Our sons attended two high schools of very different sizes and cultures. They have both gone on to college and careers but here are my thoughts.

Our older son attended the Center School in Queen Anne. We were impressed by the principal and the teachers were excellent. Because it is a small high school it is not for everyone. But the students there really feel like the teachers care about them. The classes were challenging and teacher Jon Greenberg in humanities was fabulous. They have wonderful plays in collaboration with the Seattle Rep Theatre. I believe the Center School is an all city option now and I would certainly check it out if your child would consider a smaller high school.

Our other son had an excellent experience at Ballard High School. He enjoyed sports and was in the biotech academy. He became very close to the students in that program and it was a positive peer group. Even though Ballard is a pretty big place, he felt like the teachers and principals knew him since he served on the student council.

My only criticism of Seattle Schools is the confusing discovery math curriculum. It really bugs me that the School Board did not listen to the parents and the math pros on the curriculum. It does not measure up to the dedicated teachers who work within the Seattle schools.

S parent
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
I would agree with almost everything that Melissa said about Hale with the exception of this "This means that they have few separate classes for honors or AP".

It is true that Hale has inclusive honors classes, but that is not true of AP. Hale has MANY self contained AP classes. And those are in addition to the requirement that all Hale students take AP LA in both 11th and 12th grades. Interested families can refer to the Hale course guide here

As for the principal, I like her very much. And my perception from talking to parents in the hall and teachers at school is that most of them like and respect her very much too. I can say without any hesitancy that she is a very effective principal, and Hale is very lucky to have her.

As for Hale being rigorous. I can tell you that it is extremely rigorous, but you can't always feel it in a tangible way. Kids don't get tons of worksheets, or time consuming projects that don't really teach them much, or materials to "memorize" for a test. What they get instead are Socratic seminars, and mock trials, and debates. They perform skits, and give presentations, and do tons of research. They deeply analyze current and world affairs, and discuss in depth how they (we) can impact change. They write essays, and read great novels, and so much more. And they LOVE school.

anonymous said…
Sorry above link doesn't work


Then click on course cataloge on the menu bar on the right.

Anonymous said…
My daughter loved Hale for the two years she took classes there. she loved the welcoming student culture there. She chose Hale for its feeling of inclusion and lack of cliquishness, and her initial impressions proved correct.

Her chief gripe -- and mine -- about Hale was its insistence on Discovery Math. My daughter got straight As in math in 9th and 10th grades, then found to her horror that when she took the Compass test for Running Start, that she couldn't pass it and had no clue.

Three remedial math courses later -- which cost me $1200 out of pocket because they were not college credit courses -- at North Seattle CC, and she finally qualified for the college-level math.

She front-loaded all her classes at North in the morning so that she could hang out with her buds at Hale. She participated in drama -- that was a STRONG program -- and was a part of the Hale community, and graduated with her class, even though she took no more classes there after 10th grade.

She's at UW now -- on a full scholarship -- and excelling. She owes some of it to Hale, but Running Start, which is not for everybody, was the key for her academic development.
-- Ivan Weiss
Charlie Mas said…
My older daughter is finishing up at The NOVA Project this month. She accumulated all of the credits she needs to graduate in three and a half years.

My daughter became de-motivated about school in middle school. At NOVA she re-discovered her motivation. I think that is the best thing that anyone can say about any school. It is the greatest thing any school can do.

People think that NOVA is all one type of student, but that isn't so. There are all kinds of students there. Go visit the school and see. Actually, a visit is required before you can choose it.

NOVA is an option school. You have to choose it. There are students there from all over the city. It is a liberal arts high school that uses project-based learning. The students design their own projects - no NTN required. The school is democratically run, mostly by the students. They set the budget, they set the schedule. They teach some of the classes. Each semester when my daughter told me the names of her classes I wished I could take them.

Students don't have to be self-motivated, self-directed and self-managing when they arrive at NOVA; they can learn it when they are there. And wouldn't you rather they learned it during their first year of high school than during their first year of college?

NOVA does have a low floor - students who want to slack will be allowed to slack (until they slack themselves right out the door). There is no attendance taken at NOVA. It also has a high ceiling. Students who want to do amazing things will be supported all the way up. There is all the rigor that students want. Students are free to take as many classes as they can handle. It's a great place for credit recovery because students can earn more than six credits a year.

There are no grades (they will invent some for a transcript), but don't worry about it. Colleges are used to it. NOVA has some of the highest average SAT scores in the district. Every year students leave NOVA for competitive colleges - including Ivy League schools.

NOVA is, of course, a safe school for sexual and gender minorities. It's a small community (about 330) where it seems that everyone knows everyone else. Freshmen and sophomores know juniors and seniors because students of all grades are in all of the classes.

NOVA has two sports teams that I know of - ultimate frisbee and the skate squad (which they are not allowed to call roller derby). NOVA students can join any other schools' sports teams if they like. NOVA doesn't have a band - it has lots of bands and they play at the Vera Project. It's not Mr. Holland's Opus, it's School of Rock. NOVA doesn't have AP classes or honors classes. A lot of NOVA students take running start classes at the nearby Seattle Central Community College. Students are free to create any class they want that NOVA doesn't offer.

It's a wonderful amazing place, but I won't pretend that it is right for everyone.
SE Mom said…

Would you feel OK about sharing your other daughter's experiences at Sealth?
Patrick said…
Where else but this blog can you choose your high school based on the recreational drug of choice?
Anonymous said…
How is West Seattle High School? I have son who will start middle school next year. We are in the feeder pattern to WSHS. He may test into APP at Washington MS and I would consider sending him to Washington to get him on the track to go to Garfield. I like the idea of neighborhood schools, but will WSHS meet his needs if he qualifies for APP?

- Thinking ahead in West Seattle
juicygoofy said…
Off track, but does anyone care to post about middle schools? Our choices are Whitman (feeder), Hamilton (APP) or option schools (mainly Salmon Bay). Thanks!
Anonymous said…
Our daughter is a 6th grader at Hamilton (APP) and loves it. She went to a neighborhood school with a strong ALO program and made the transition to APP easily (we did cover 6th grade and 7th grade math at home so she'd be ready for the 8th grade curriculum). Our daughter has a really nice mix of friends - some new that she's made this year; some from her elementary school; and some from her sports team. We've only been at Hamilton since September but so far, so good. Jane

p.s. this is purely anecdotal - but my daughter's sense is that Hamilton is a little less cliqueish than some of the other middle schools since it draws kids from all over the north end (rather than from 3 or 4 elementary schools).
Anonymous said…
Some changes in Roosevelt & Hale.

With the new boundaries, more Eckstein students are going to Hale. Roosevelt is getting more students from Hamilton. That means more social mixing for 9th graders at Roosevelt than previously. Also more Jazz at Hale. (Though not sure they have enough musicians for a symphony at Hale yet.)

Roosevelt is standardizing more academics. A required LA AP Language & Compositions year long class for all students.

NE Parent
Anonymous said…
You can find school healthy youth survey results for Eckstein, Hale &Roosevelt, at

Some Highlights – for 12th grade

Marijuana in the last 30 days– Hale 33%-Roos 27%

Alcohol – Hale 43% - Roos 44%

Drunk/ high at school in the last year – Hale 21% - Roos 17%

Enjoyment of school- Hale 41% - Roos 48%

Opportunities for school involvement - Hale 78% - Roos 71%

NE Parent
Maureen said…
Can anyone address science at Ingraham? It's my understanding that Roosevelt does not offer a pathway to skip 9th grade Physical Science -- except possibly for APP students? -- that's unclear to me) and I know it does not offer Honors science classes. I want to know if IHS is more flexible in 9th grade placement and if challenging Honors science classes are offered.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for all of the comments about Hale. I would appreciate any information that parents or students could provide about their experiences with science there.

I've seen some great things in LA and social studies classes at Hale, but the info I've seen about their physical science and bio courses makes me wonder if the science classes will not provide enough challenge/rigor. Does the honors option help make the classes more substantial?

Thank you,
Potential Hale Parent
Anonymous said…
High School Information Night at Hamilton
Monday February 6 in the Hamilton Commons, 6:30-8:30.
Come and meet counselors and students from several high schools. This will be a great opportunity to get some of your questions answered and find out more about the different opportunities and programs available in high school.
6:30-7:15: Presentations about APP high school options given by counselors from Garfield and Ingraham.
7:15-8:00: Open House featuring representatives from Roosevelt, Ballard, Ingraham, Garfield, Nova, Center School Nathan Hale and more! Mark Your Calendars!

HIMS Parent
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
To answer the question about sciences at Hale: I have a college sophomore son who loved his science classes at Hale, and has found them to have been excellent preparation for his college level physics and chemistry classes, in which he's receiving As. We weren't as impressed with the LA classes at Hale while he was attending (he never really got one of the "stellar" LA teachers), but again, his high school preparation in LA has served him well at college (private, highly selective college across the state).

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