Foss High School, an IB World School


A challenging International Baccalaureate program creates global opportunity for students

Blending into the crowd proves difficult in the capstone Socratic seminar class of the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program at Foss High School. 

Teacher Daniel Erickson poses probing questions to the 20 students gathered in a circle for Theory of Knowledge, a critical thinking course that evaluates how people build knowledge and how it varies between cultures and time periods. 

Erickson pushes the students to evaluate current events, make connections to their other IB classes and expects them to pose their own questions. ​​​​​

​Grace Lee participates in 
IB capstone course Theory of Knowledge.
  “There’s always more to the story. Every world event, every event in your life is a teachable moment. It gives you an opportunity to reflect and to think deeper,” Erickson tells his students as they discuss media coverage of protests in Baltimore, Maryland. 
Theory of Knowledge demonstrates the uniqueness of the rigorous IB diploma program at Foss. The class, like the overall program, demands analytical thinking, college-level time management skills and multidisciplinary learning. 

Foss offers one of the state’s few IB diploma programs for high school students. Initially created in the 1960s for the children of diplomats, now more than 4,800 schools in 143 countries ​offer the respected IB curriculum. 

Students who complete the IB diploma program more often earn admittance into top universities. Colleges respect the high IB diploma requirements to take classes in six core subject areas, including a foreign language. 
Student Beatrice Wilson picked Foss IB because she wanted a challenge at school. Now she juggles enough homework, independent research projects and extended class schedules to keep her intellectually stimulated and ready for college.

“With IB, you have to learn how to manage your time and what you’re capable of doing,” she said. “If you don’t manage your time right, you don’t get to do things like sleep.”

Proven results 

Research shows great benefits to the IB program. Students who complete the diploma program – regardless of their background or socioeconomic status – more frequently attend and complete college and often perform significantly better than their peers who didn’t participate. 
​Foss seniors celebrate college admittance.
​ ​​College admissions officers in Washington and across the country praise the program for fostering skills that help students thrive in college.  

“What’s very unique about IB is that through its curriculum it allows students to be able to satisfy the requirements of the types of students we’re looking for,” said Dr. Kedra Ishop, former director of admissions at University of Texas at Austin. “We’re looking for students who are engagers – students who are maximizing opportunities in and out of the classroom.”

​​​Most colleges and universities in the U.S. have an IB policy granting incoming students college credit and/or placement for qualifying high school IB exam grades. Some institutions grant up to a full year of college credit (sophomore standing) to students who earn an IB diploma.

Sticking with it 

IB coursework at first overwhelmed Foss student Grace Lee. She decided to drop the optional diploma program track at Foss. Juniors and seniors can take individual IB classes without following the full diploma program. 

But Grace signed back up for the diploma program after deciding she’d rather push herself hard to get into her preferred college, where she wants to study computer science. 

“Normally you can try to wing your way through class, but not with IB,” she said. “The teachers are strict.”

Grace sees other benefits in IB too. The bonds between her and her classmates are unbreakable, she said. “IB is tough, but having friends with you is rewarding. We study in the halls together, we collaborate and support each other.” ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Get to know Foss     

​Innovation Model: Offering an International Baccalaureate diploma program, a challenging and internationally accepted college-prep curriculum. Students may take single IB courses or pursue a full IB diploma. Diploma candidates must select one subject from each of the six IB groups: Language A1, Second Language, Individuals and Societies, Experimental Sciences, Mathematics, and the Arts. Students then take exams in each subject, write an extended essay, complete a Theory of Knowledge course and 150 Creative, Action, and Service hours. 

Students best served: Any student willing to do to the work IB requires. The program aims to prepare students for college, and McGuire says those who complete it are more than ready for their next step. Students interested in IB prepare by taking honors courses in their ninth and tenth grade years. 

Grades: Ninth through Twelfth 

Students: 1,036 

Teacher training: IB teachers have receiving special IB training. Many teachers the program also have doctoral degrees. 

School report card

School Web site

Special clubs and after-school programs: Athletics • AP/IB/Honors • Achievers Scholars • Back On Track • Broadway Center for the Performing Arts • Chinese Club • Comic Club • Communities in Schools • Drama Club • ELL - English Langauge Learners • Falcon Power Vocabulary • FBLA - Future Business Leaders of America • Food Club • French Club • GSA - Gay Straight Alliance • HERO - Higher Education Readiness Opportunity • JROTC/Air Force • Key Club • Knowledge Bowl • Math Team • Mentoring & Tutoring • MESA - Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement • Native American Club • National Honors Society • Running Start - College in High School •​ Upward Bound

Related links:

International Baccalaureate Organization

Foss IB Program Frequently Asked Questions

National Merit Scholar thrives at Foss​

Designated Innovative School - Washington State