Bellevue students demonstrate again why this is a district to watch.

Share story

AN influential international exam has provided another good reason to take a closer look at how students are being taught in the Bellevue School District.

Although the results are for only a random sample of 15-year-olds taking a similar but not identical test that kids in other countries routinely take to measure reading, math and science abilities, Bellevue students had impressive results. Nearly 40 percent of Bellevue students who took the Program for International Student Assessment test in 2015 scored in the top two of seven levels in math.

Only 6 percent of 15-year-olds in the U.S. performed as well, slightly lower than the international average of 11 percent.

Bellevue’s student population is decidedly less poor than the statewide average, with only 18 percent of students qualifying for free- or reduced-price lunches. Poverty is a reliable indicator of student success. About 44 percent of students statewide qualify for free- or reduced-priced lunches.

A higher share of Bellevue students also outperformed the U.S. and international averages in reading and science.

Naomi Calvo, the district’s director of research, evaluation and assessment, says Bellevue’s student population is more diverse than the countries that traditionally score best on the international exam, such as Finland and Singapore.

Eighty-four languages are spoken in the Bellevue School District and 30 percent of students do not speak English at home.

But Bellevue stands out in many other ways as well. Teachers are mentored across the district within their subject areas by master educators. They are given time to coordinate and plan during the school day and make sure the best educational ideas are shared districtwide.

Bellevue uses local levy dollars to extend its school day and buy top-notch technology and curricula. The district’s teacher-created curriculum web portal is a great resource for teachers, parents and students.

District officials note that on other measures of student achievement, such as on the Standardized Testing and Reporting or STAR exam, Bellevue students are not making noticeable progress. Their scores on the STAR exam are consistently good, but not moving upward.

State education officials should continue to keep a close eye on individual district test results and then share the best practices with lower-achieving districts.