What is “Alternative” about TOPS?



TOPS boasts a long history pioneering innovative educational methods, and we continue to create new programs that serve Seattle’s children in ways that extend our alternative educational mission.



An anti-bias, multicultural curriculum. The TOPS curriculum regularly explores the diversity of a community that, through its multi-cluster draw, constitutes a microcosm of the city as a whole.  The Committee for Social Justice provides opportunities for students and parents to become actively involved in issues of fairness in our society.


Celebration of individual self-expression and achievement.  Expressive arts, including public speaking, writing, theater and visual art, are emphasized at every grade level. Frequent public presentations of student work give all students the chance to shine!


Emphasis on the social climate and the social and emotional development of the students.  Physical education at TOPS features non-traditional activities that emphasize individual fitness over competition. Every kindergartner is paired with a 5th grade “buddy,” a relationship enhanced through the next four years through regular shared activities and field trips. In 2005, we instituted a comprehensive K-8 school climate program (C.A.R.E.) to enhance students’ understanding of their relationships with one another and to prevent bullying.


Alignment of curriculum through all grade levels, K-8.  Having students from Kindergarten through Middle School allows TOPS to create an aligned curriculum that emphasizes long-term learning achievement.  TOPS staff work collaboratively in the ongoing development of a nine-year curriculum continuum that guides our work in reading, writing, math and cultural competency and makes district and state standards relevant to the learning at TOPS.


The legacy of the “City School” tradition. TOPS teachers are empowered to bring the resources of the City into the classroom, and to bring the classroom out into the City when they feel it will enhance the educational experience.  The TOPICS program regularly brings parents and others from the community into the classroom to instruct students. Teachers supplement classroom instruction by arranging many field trips that take advantage of our close proximity to downtown, the University of Washington and regional waterways.




TOPS – Quick Facts


TOPS Mission

We are committed to educating our students by using an anti-bias, multicultural approach in a safe and stimulating environment.  We help all students to learn, to understand and honor diversity, to respect and care for themselves and others, to be responsible, and to achieve a high level of academic excellence.  By eliminating the achievement gap, we include students historically underserved by the public school system and help all students to meet or exceed standards.



TOPS Vision

We are creating a school that empowers students to be active participants, leaders, learners, and contributors to social justice.


Core Curriculum:

·   Process Writing: full K-8 alignment with fall and spring building-wide writing samples (in-house alternative assessment program);

·   Reading Blocks: ability-grouped small classes for reading instruction for grades 1 & 2, parent-led literature circles in upper grades;

·   TERC Investigations math (K-5) and Connected Math curriculum (6-8) with K-8 curriculum alignment;

·   Strong K-8 science and art classes taught by curriculum specialists

·   Physical Education every day features non-traditional, non-competitive skills: ultimate frisbee, unicycling, fencing, capoeira, rhythm sticks.


Student Services:

·   Full-time Counselor and half-time family support worker;

·   Full-time reading specialist for compensatory basic skills;

·   English as a Second Language teacher with instructional aides or tutors in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Somali.

·   Special Education Resource Room.


Special Programs:

·   Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Program (American Sign Language and Signing Exact English)

·   Middle School (6-8) Special Education self-contained classrooms


After School Programs and Offerings:

·   Kids’ Company (on-site before- and after-school childcare);

·   Middle school teams: ultimate Frisbee (co-ed), basketball (boys and girls), volleyball (girls), track (boys and girls), soccer (boys and girls)

·   Middle School: chess, drama, study clubs, strings, band, piano, video production, 8th grade Math Enrichment Program, Math Olympiad, sailing;

·   Elementary: Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, chess, music (band and strings), Math Olympiad, double-dutch;

·   “Taste of TOPS” and Art Walk celebrate community and student work;

·   Parent-led Coalition on Social Justice keeps focus on the school mission.