Mount Rainier High School
22450 19th Avenue South Des Moines, WA 98198

Office Hours:

Monday-Friday: 7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is International Baccalaureate?

The Highline School District is privileged to be one of the few high schools in the State of Washington authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme to its students. This highly intensive college preparatory curriculum designed and monitored by the International Baccalaureate Organization is offered in the Highline District only at Mount Rainier High School.

How is IB different than AP and Running Start?

The best current data on all college preparatory coursework can be found at OSPI. Learn more here

How is the IB curriculum different from the regular school curriculum?

It is a unified, world-recognized, two-year, pre-university curriculum package designed to give the student a broad academic preparation including areas of choice and varying intensity. Emphasis is on process and depth; the IB student studies fewer items in greater depth so as to be able to apply what is learned in greater breadth. Assessment is performance based. Integration of curriculum is required, though varying in degree from subject to subject. Parts of the curricula are college level. It has a strong international point of view anchored by a strong sense of local identity.

What is the IB Diploma and how is it earned?

The IB Diploma certifies that the student has completed the full IB course of study, and can be earned in addition to the regular high school diploma by meeting the IB requirements. IB Diploma students must complete coursework that prepares them for 6 IB Exams (3 Higher Level and 3 Standard Level) over 2 years, while also fulfilling the Theory of Knowledge, CAS, and Extended Essay requirements.

What is the IB community service requirement?

Only IB Diploma students are required to engage in community service, and as a one part of the larger CAS component of the IB Diploma. CAS (creativity, action, service) plays a central role in the educational mission of IBO to educate the whole student. IBO feels that traditional academic learning, though useful, is incomplete if the student’s imagination is not engaged, their physical body not developed, nor a connection to their community fostered. IB requires that a student engage in a continual cycle of goal setting, action, and reflection in each of the three areas continually over the 2 year participation in the program. 

What is the IB Theory of Knowledge?

Theory of Knowledge is a required course for those students pursuing the IB Diploma. This course is a keystone experience for the IB Diploma student that highlights the connectivity between the other coursework and outside activities that IB Diploma students engage in. The course is largely an exploration of epistemological issues arising from everyday experiences. Students explore how knowledge is formed, the role of language in shaping our experience, and many other multidisciplinary issues.

What is the Extended Essay requirement?

The Extended Essay is a required element for IB Diploma students but NOT for part-time IB students. This essay counts as the Senior Project/Culminating Project requirement for the District. IB has designed this project to reflect a high degree of choice and independent work on the part of the student. MRHS Diploma students begin work during the 11th grade year and finish work midway through the 12th grade year. Students select a topic from a within a wide ranging number of disciplines stipulated by IBO and work with a self-selected faculty advisor to write a 4000 word investigation of their topic.

What good is an IB Diploma?

An IB Diploma is valuable for a number of reasons.

The first is that it quite possibly represents the highest degree of achievement available in the US public school system.

Furthermore, it is the only internationally recognized educational credential widely available to American students.

The Diploma is also of significant value throughout the college application process. Students who are enrolled in this level of coursework and are demonstrating proficiency are recognized for their ambitious goal setting and their solid academic preparation by colleges and universities across the nation.

Lastly, successful achievement of the IB Diploma is a noteworthy accomplishment achieved by a relatively small number of students at MRHS (about 40/year) and in the State of Washington (about 500/year). 

What is the difference between an IB Diploma and an IB Certificate?

An IB Diploma and an IB Certificate are both legal transcripts issued by the IBO to the student. Certificates are issued to part-time IB students or those Diploma students who fall short of the requirements of the Diploma. IB Diplomas are issued to those students who complete all requirements for the IB Diploma (6 exams, CAS, EE, & ToK). Each document is a record of the courses and the performance level within those courses for each IB student. These documents are those required by post-secondary institutions to potentially grant college credit. Any IB student who pays to take IB exams will be issued a Certificate or Diploma regardless of performance level. It is the obligation of each student to submit these records to the Registrar of their college/university for possible college credit. Replacement records are available directly from IBO if the originals are misplaced.

What enrollment requirements and prerequisites are there for IB courses?

The main requirements for enrollment in IB courses are that students are in 11th or 12th grade AND that they have successfully passed their previous coursework in that subject area. Many IB classes do not have specific skill-based enrollment requirements, but some do. These requirements are detailed in the MRHS Course Catalog. Be sure to refer to this document as well as seek the advice of your teachers (past and future), your school counselor, and/or the IB Diploma Coordinator to ensure that you are placed in a class that you are not only ready for but also one that best benefits your future plans.

How does a student register for IB classes?

A student registers for IB courses much as they would for any other course at MRHS. During the registration period each year students choose classes and some or all of those classes may be IB classes. Some IB courses do require prerequisite levels of skill or knowledge and these are spelled out in the MRHS Course Catalog. It is particularly important to make wise choices about involvement in IB courses in respect to the overall academic load of the student, the student’s short and long term goals, as well as the support the student has outside of school. To help gauge these choices it is wise for parents and students to thoroughly read registration materials, consult with teachers regarding their readiness for IB, and to make use the information available from MRHS Counselors and the IB Coordinator.

How many Highline District students transfer to Mount Rainier for the IB Programme?

Up to 15 students per high school service area are allowed to transfer to Mount Rainier on a space available basis. The transfer application window generally runs from January to mid-April. For further details regarding the transfer process please contact the Student Placement Office. 

What is the typical class size for IB classes?

Class size varies depending on the subject, the level, and the school year. The average is similar to the school average; individual classes range from 18-32 students.

What student needs are met by the IB classes?

IB is intended purely as a university-preparatory curriculum. In addition, it meets the need for students desirous of greater challenge and higher standards. At Mount Rainier, we also attempt to meet the affective needs of highly capable students who are attracted to the program.

What kind of student is IB intended for?

IB is intended for any student preparing for college. IB is not a curriculum for highly capable students, although it does attract them and serve them well. It is intended simply to prepare any college-bound student for the most successful university experience possible.  Those students who perform best in IB courses are those who are intrinsically motivated, well-organized, and have good time management skills.

What if a student is not successful in an IB class?

If a student is absolutely unable to find success in an IB class, a switch to a more appropriate level of course can usually be worked out after a meeting of the parent, teacher, and counselor.

Do IB students have time for extracurricular activities?

Yes. Most students in IB classes are involved in variety of other activities in and out of school, including school clubs, organized sports, or community based groups. In fact, IB Diploma candidates are required to be involved in non-academic activities, including community service.

How are IB classes graded?

IB classes are graded like any other high school class; the students receive regular grades at regular periods on regular report cards. IB exam scores have nothing to do with the student’s high school transcript. The regular high school diploma is earned according to the regular District requirements; the IB Diploma is earned in addition to the regular HPS diploma.

What advantage is there for a student to take IB Exams?

There are several. First, the student may use the IB exam scores to secure credit or class waivers at the university of her/his choice. This can result in a significant saving in tuition costs. Secondly, taking the exams tells university officials that the student is serious about her/his education. Third, the exam score tells the student where s/he stands in an international, world-class educational program.

How are the IB Exam fees paid?

Students pay all exam fees. Those students who qualify for Free or Reduced lunch currently qualify to have a State funded grant pay for 90% of their exam fees.

Do IB Exam scores affect university admissions?

Generally, no. Seniors take IB Exams in May and the scores are available in early July. This does not affect admissions to American universities. These scores can and do affect scholarships, placement, and standing at the beginning of freshman year in college. On the other hand, the lack of enrollment in IB classes for a student in an IB school may affect university admissions. For Juniors who take IB exams, a good score, submitted by the student, can show universities that they are capable of university level work.

For students applying to international schools, specifically Canadian schools, initial admissions decisions are based solely on IB exam scores.

How much does an IB Diploma cost?

The rate for the graduating class of 2016 was $842.00 paid over two years. Each year costs rise by a few dollars.  IB Diploma students are also charged $12/year for a ManageBac enrollment fee.  ManageBac is a separate information system that helps us all communicate and track CAS work for IB Diploma students. 

What kinds of universities do IB students attend after leaving Mount Rainier High School?

All kinds. We have IB students attending the most selective private colleges, state universities, community colleges, technical trade schools, as well as entering the military.

How do Mount Rainier High School students fare on the IB Exams?

Generally, very well. There is a high degree of correlation between success in the classroom and success on the exam. For more detailed information please see the IB portion of the MRHS website titled “Program Data”.

Can IB Exams be retaken if the student is not happy with the scores?

Yes, once, the following year.  Retake exams cost the same as a normal exam.

How can I get more information about the IB Programme at Mount Rainier High School?

Please look at other portions of the Mount Rainier High School IB webpage as well as the home page for the IBO ( If you have other questions not answered here please contact the IB Coordinator at 206-631-7068.