Bellevue High School marching band

Cue the parade, Bellevue High.

We’re still a few more weeks—and raindrops—away from caps and gowns, but some local schools have reason to celebrate a bit early. U.S. News and World Report dropped its 2022 rankings recently, and the annual report card places the Seattle area near the top of the class: About 42 percent of the region’s public high schools were in the top quarter of schools countrywide.

Our strength is in numbers, not national standouts; only one area institution cracked the 50 best in the U.S. That was, no surprise, Redmond’s Tesla STEM High School, which landed at 12th in the nation.

The reigning top school in Washington was followed in the state rankings by Bellevue’s International School, one of a handful of institutions representing the edge city; Newport High School, Bellevue High School, and Interlake High School all snagged spots in Washington’s top 10.

Aside from Bellevue’s concentrated cluster across Lake Washington, the state’s top 20 schools are spread across the map, with top marks awarded to classrooms in Tukwila, Mercer Island, Lakewood, Bainbridge Island, Vancouver, Issaquah, Redmond, and Sammamish. In Seattle proper, Garfield and Roosevelt High Schools showed up at 12th and 13th in the state, respectively.

Though there wasn’t much of a shake-up in this year’s pecking order, Lakewood did make a move up the chart this year, with previously unranked Harrison Preparatory School now holding down the eighth spot. Also south of Seattle, Tukwila’s Raisbeck Aviation High School once again appears at No. 3 on the list.

The U.S. News rankings weigh measures of seniors’ college readiness, curriculum breadth, state assessment proficiency and performance, underserved student performance, and graduation rate.

But lately, the full methodology takes a straight-A stats student to untangle. Data from recent years has been unavailable for some standard assessments of mathematics and reading thanks to Covid-related cancellations (testing data from the three previous years acted as a substitute for those exams). Also different this year: Most states' science assessments scored during the 2018-2019 academic year factored in for the first time.

But what’s in a number, anyway? Among the areas of the high school experience not considered by U.S. News: dining hall food quality, classroom safety, and student mental health. As schools inch closer to Before Times conventions, that last one might be the most important measure of all.

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