The school's championship basketball players are among those doing championship academics.

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There is an understandable tendency to see “good-news stories” as a blip, a flattering snapshot that disappears as soon as the cameras and notepads are gone.

In the case of Rainier Beach High School, which garnered enormous attention at news of its early success with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, the effort to elevate student success continues to bear fruit.

The International Baccalaureate program at Rainier Beach High School is run by IB coordinator Colin Pierce, who is focused on bringing high-end programs to low-income students.  (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
The International Baccalaureate program at Rainier Beach High School is run by IB coordinator Colin Pierce, who is focused on bringing high-end programs to low-income students. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Last year, during the school’s maiden voyage into IB’s rigorous college-prep program, a total of seven students sat for the grueling final IB exams. This month, that number shot up to 91, according to coordinator Colin Pierce. No small feat in a school where many students enter with below grade-level skills, and more than 80 percent are poor.

Much of the surge is due to Beach’s strategy of transforming all junior and senior language arts courses into IB English. But sitting in class is one thing. Taking tests that could confer college credit, quite another.

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Pierce noted that standout basketball stars Shadeed Shabazz, Ivy Smith and Vincenzo Reiser were among the students who sat in the school’s gym last week, working through the exams. “It’s a real cross section of our student demographics,” he said. “It was nice to see our championship basketball players doing championship academics on the very same court.”

In addition, 25 students took three or more IB exams. Seven tested for a full IB diploma, which also requires a 40-page research paper.

Final grades are scheduled to arrive on July 5, the day that 10 sophomores will be jetting to Barcelona to participate in the IB World Conference.

Quite a change from four years ago, when Pierce led IB-outreach meetings and spoke to a box of cookies in an empty room.