Top-rated middle schools in Phoenix, Arizona 2024

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Thanks to its warm weather, great job opportunities, growing population, and strong local economy, Phoenix is a great place to live. There are plentiful entertainment options, including great outdoor recreation, a variety of museums, zoos and cultural centers, plus professional sports teams to cheer for.

With many family-friendly neighborhoods, Phoenix offers quality schools, parks, and community events.

What to look for in a Phoenix middle school

Selecting a middle school in Phoenix, Arizona can be a complex process. As the fastest-growing big city in the United States, there is a diverse range of education options with 325 public schools in 30 school districts, along with more than 200 charter and private schools.

Arizona is an open choice state, meaning students can attend any public school they prefer.

It’s crucial to consider factors such as location, specialized focus, academic programs, specific offerings like STEM or language programs, and proven student success data.

Middle school is a crucial time in students’ academic and social development, so it’s important to find a school that provides personalized learning to prepare them for college, careers, and life – in a supportive environment that values diversity and supports success for all learners.

The best local middle schools in Phoenix, AZ

When it comes to choosing the best middle schools in Phoenix, we selected schools with a track record of student success in college prep programs, personalized support, and a focus on preparing students to reach future academic milestones.

Beyond academics, the best local middle schools feature a positive and inclusive school culture, where students feel safe, respected, and engaged in their learning.

1. ASU Prep Academy Phoenix Middle School

ASU Prep Phoenix Middle School students in hallway

ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix Middle School stands out as the premier choice for middle school education in Phoenix, offering a personalized, tuition-free, PreK–12 public charter school experience that sets students on the path to college and career success.

Personalized curriculum allows learners to work at their own pace, developing critical thinking and social-emotional skills through relevant projects and activities.

Along the way, students can choose to get ahead by completing high school courses for credit while still in junior high school, learning to set goals and becoming active participants in their own education. Chartered by Arizona State University, the school provides unparalleled opportunities for students to earn university credits and internship opportunities while in middle and high school, along with a diverse and supportive community of learners.

ASU Prep Phoenix Middle School boasts a range of opportunities to get involved. Whether it’s participating in a student club like Robotics, or attending an ASU Prep community event with fun for the whole family.

The school’s rigorous yet inclusive approach, combined with its focus on early college opportunities and personalized learning, positions it as the top choice for families seeking an exceptional middle school education in the Phoenix area.

ASU Prep Phoenix provides continuity of exceptional education, starting in kindergarten and extending through elementary school, middle school, and high school all in one campus.

Name: ASU Prep Phoenix Middle School

Address: 735 E Fillmore St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

Contact Number: 602-496-3100


2. ASU Prep Academy South Phoenix Intermediate

ASU Prep South Phoenix Intermediate students

ASU Preparatory Academy South Phoenix Intermediate School, a tuition-free public charter school, is an ideal middle school choice, offering a personalized path to college and career success in a diverse community. ASU Prep South Phoenix provides continuity of exceptional education, Pre–K through grade 12.

A rigorous curriculum allows learners to work at their own pace, developing critical thinking and social-emotional skills through relevant projects and real-world activities. Students at ASU Prep South Phoenix can earn high school credit in middle school. Once entering high school, they have the opportunity to take Arizona State University courses for credit at no cost to them. This allows students to explore college majors and earn university credit, reducing both time and cost toward their future degrees.

ASU Prep South Phoenix Intermediate features small class sizes, and a supportive environment with a community-focused approach to education. There are several student clubs, including: Student Government, Yearbook, Robotics, and Marketing. Students also have paid internship opportunities through Chicanos Por La Causa. 

Family involvement is encouraged, including ASU Prep community events. Currently, students benefit from a special partnership with The Salvation Army Kroc Center Phoenix, reinforcing the community’s dedication to holistic student development. 

Overall, ASU Prep South Phoenix’s mission to make academic dreams a reality, combined with its comprehensive educational approach and community-focused initiatives, makes it the ideal destination for students aspiring to achieve academic and career success.

Name: ASU Prep South Phoenix Intermediate/High School

Address: 4445 S 12th St, Phoenix, AZ 85040

Contact Number: 602-842-1722


3. Basis Phoenix

BASIS Phoenix Middle School students in hallway

BASIS Phoenix Middle School, a tuition-free public charter school, serves students in grades 6-12 and is part of the globally recognized BASIS Charter Schools network. BASIS Phoenix Middle School aims to empower students to achieve at globally competitive levels and foster a love of learning, natural curiosity, and a desire to excel.

Established in 1998, BASIS charter schools have consistently been named among the top schools in the nation, with 10 of the top 20 charter high schools in the U.S according to U.S. News & World Report 2023 rankings. 

The school offers a transformative K–12 academic program that combines a STEM-infused, liberal arts curriculum designed to cultivate critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creativity.

The middle school curriculum progressively moves students toward a greater understanding of fundamental concepts in each subject, with classes led by knowledgeable Subject Expert Teachers. Students are exposed to advanced material typically taught in high school. By grade 8, students are mastering complex concepts, taking responsibility for their educational goals, and focusing on their post-BASIS future. The curriculum prepares them for a variety of Advanced Placement exams.

Beyond academics, BASIS Phoenix Middle School offers a range of extracurricular activities, including sports teams that have won state championships, and a highly awarded Speech & Debate team. These activities enhance the learning experience, providing opportunities for enrichment, socialization, and achievement beyond the classroom.

To learn more about BASIS Phoenix Middle School, please visit their Facebook.

4. Great Hearts Academies – Archway Chandler

Great Hearts Academies - Archway Chandler students

Located in the thriving city of Chandler, Great Hearts Academies – Archway Chandler is a state-chartered, tuition-free public school committed to delivering a comprehensive liberal arts education, grounded in the rich traditions of Western Civilization. 

Great Hearts Academies – Archway Chandler offers a college preparatory experience, marked by a dynamic and rigorous curriculum that prepares students for success in higher education and beyond. 

The curriculum is a tapestry of the liberal arts and sciences, designed to challenge and inspire students in grades 6–12. Classical education aims to cultivate the minds and hearts of students through the pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

A Great Hearts education prepares students to be more than just proficient test takers, but rather, to become great-hearted leaders capable of success throughout their higher education and professional careers.

Great Hearts Academies schools, including Archway Chandler, are often highly rated, indicating a strong academic program and positive community feedback.

To learn more about Great Hearts Academies – Archway Chandler, please visit their Facebook.

5. Madison Traditional Academy

Madison Traditional Academy trophy

Madison Traditional Academy, named one of U.S. News Best Middle Schools in Arizona, is the only preschool through 8th grade school in the Madison School District. Their motto is “Inspiring Passion for Learning and Leading in an Ever-Changing World.”

With a focus on academic excellence, character development, and a supportive community, the school provides a well-rounded education that prepares students for success. 

All grade levels receive math instruction at a one year accelerated level and a nurturing environment fosters a strong foundation for students’ future endeavors. 

Additionally, the school’s commitment to personalized learning and extracurricular opportunities ensures a comprehensive educational experience. Signature Programs allow students to develop their talents and explore new opportunities in addition to their regular academic classes. This helps students become more engaged in their classes and have a more rounded educational experience. Programs include International Baccalaureate, Gifted, Spanish Immersion, and STEAM. 

Families must meet the behavior, attendance, and family volunteer requirement to continue enrollment each year.

To learn more about Madison Traditional Academy, please visit their Facebook.

6. Adams Traditional Academy

Arizona State Champions Flag Football

Adams Traditional Academy, a public charter school in north Phoenix, offers a traditional back-to-basics education for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. 

The school’s philosophy, safe environment, and commitment to academic excellence create a strong foundation for student success. 

Rigorous curriculum goes beyond state standards, featuring Core Knowledge, Spalding Integrated Language Arts, Singapore Math, Excellence in Writing, and Latin programs, as well as a robust science lab component.

The school received an “A” rating from the Arizona Department of Education, recognizing the expertise of its teachers and the students’ success. 

The school’s mission is to provide students with a solid knowledge foundation, foster critical thinking, and develop good citizenship and leadership skills. 

Emphasizing academic excellence, individualized attention, and a focus on developing future leaders, Adams Traditional Academy offers a compelling educational experience for families seeking a nurturing and academically enriching environment for their children.

To learn more about Adams Traditional Academy, please visit their Facebook.

7. Sonoran Foothills School

Sonorans Foothills School students

Sonoran Foothills School, a K-8 Deer Valley public school is committed to creating a challenging and diverse learning environment through engaging instruction tailored to individual differences. 

According to U.S. News & World Report, Sonoran Foothills School is ranked #18 for middle schools based on state test scores. Maintaining a favorable student-teacher ratio of 18 to 1, Sonoran Foothills School ranks better than most elementary schools in Arizona, highlighting its dedication to providing quality education.

Sonoran Foothills School offers a diverse range of activities for its students, including Athletics, Band, Chorus, National Junior Honor Society, Reptile Club, Robotics, and Student Council. Chief Science Officers are dedicated to igniting new opportunities in STEM and innovation. These activities cater to different interests and provide students with opportunities for personal growth, skill development, and community involvement. 

Additionally, Sonoran Foothills School students are engaged in STEM initiatives, coding, and teacher resources further enrich the educational experience for students.

To learn more about Sonoran Foothills School, please visit their Facebook.

8. Reid Traditional School Valley Academy

Reid Traditional School Valley Academy students and faculty

Valley Academy, a tuition-free public charter school within the Reid Traditional Schools family, offers an accelerated back-to-basics, traditional education for students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. The school has consistently ranked among the best in Arizona, reflecting its commitment to academic excellence and student success.

The school’s traditional education provides a challenging, sequential, teacher-directed, standards-based, textbook-driven curriculum supported by individual accountability and high academic and behavioral standards.

Valley Academy’s comprehensive middle school program serves as the capstone of a nine-year course of study, emphasizing a challenging and enriching educational experience for students. The curriculum focuses on language arts, reading, and math, providing a strong foundation for further academic pursuits. Additionally, the school offers various before- and after-school programs, fostering student enrichment and development.

The school provides diverse activities and clubs, including Athletics, Band, Chorus, National Junior Honor Society, Reptile Club, Robotics, and Student Council, contributing to a well-rounded educational experience and personal growth for students.

The faculty and staff at Reid Traditional Schools are dedicated to personalized education, utilizing student data to promote growth and success. Valley Academy’s structured curriculum and nurturing environment further enhance its reputation for academic excellence and holistic student development.

To learn more about Reid Traditional School Valley Academy, please visit their Facebook.

9. Stetson Hills School

Stetson Hills School building

Stetson Hills School, a Deer Valley public school, offers a top-rated comprehensive middle school program for students in grades 6–8, focusing on academic excellence and holistic student development. The school has been recognized for its outstanding academic performance, ranking #23 among Arizona middle schools. 

With a strong dedication to student success, the program creates a nurturing and conducive learning environment for students to excel both academically and personally.

The school’s commitment to academic excellence and student well-being is further highlighted by accolades such as the A+ School of Excellence award. Furthermore, the school’s vision focuses on creating a community of lifelong learners, while its mission is to provide extraordinary educational opportunities to every learner.

Stetson Hills School’s philosophy underscores the importance of an excelling staff, successful students taking responsibility for their learning, a collaborative community involving families and community partnerships, and an embracing school culture that values all individuals and promotes good character.

Stetson Hills School provides a variety of extracurricular activities like Athletics, Choir, Student Council, Band, and National Junior Honor Society, as well as before- and after-school programs.

To learn more about Stetson Hills Schools, please visit their Instagram.

10. Union Park School

Union Park School students at book fair

Union Park School’s middle school program is committed to fostering an inclusive and culturally aware environment, placing a special emphasis on Spanish language literacy and diverse cultural awareness. As the first school in the Deer Valley Unified School District to offer a Spanish Immersion program, students have the unique opportunity to earn high school credits during their middle school years, with the option to take Spanish 1-2H.

The school’s commitment to nurturing academic achievement is further demonstrated through its Renaissance program, which aims to boost student performance and acknowledge academic accomplishments.

In addition to its academic focus, Union Park School offers various extracurricular programs like Athletics, Choir, Student Council, Band, and National Junior Honor Society. The school emphasizes academic success, physical fitness, character development, discipline, and good sportsmanship. 

Furthermore, the school’s middle school program reflects a dedication to providing a well-rounded education that not only emphasizes academic excellence but also encourages cultural awareness and inclusivity. 

The school anticipates rapid growth due to the ongoing development of new homes and apartments in the surrounding area.

To learn more about Union Park School, please visit their Facebook.

Comparing top-rated Phoenix middle schools?

ASU Prep Phoenix Middle School and ASU Prep South Phoenix Intermediate are tuition-free public middle schools offering personalized paths to college and career success. 

We believe all students can achieve success at the highest levels, and it’s why our education is personalized, project-based, and delivered at a pace that meets students where they are. The pathway to higher education and career success continues through high school at ASU Prep Phoenix High School and ASU Prep South Phoenix High School. 

Our goal is that each ASU Prep student will graduate with a minimum of 12 ASU college credits at no cost to our families. We offer every student the chance to take university or concurrent courses while in high school, saving them time and money when they get to college. 

Chartered by Arizona State University, ASU Prep Academy students are Sun Devils from day one, receiving regular opportunities for mentorship by ASU students and faculty. It’s how we’re helping students discover and pursue their passions, achieve their goals, and build a lifelong love of learning on their journey to success.

To learn more about ASU Preparatory Academy, please visit our website.

ASU Honors Black History Month with Community Events

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Black History Month is an annual celebration of the profound contributions that African Americans have made to all facets of society. Throughout this month, we come together to honor the legacies and ongoing achievements of Black individuals. Here is a sampling of Black History Month events hosted by our ASU community:

George Floyd Global Memorial to present ‘Twin Flames’ exhibit

This arts experience is a unique partnership between the ASU Art Museum, the ASU Center for Work and Democracy, and the George Floyd Global Memorial. Enjoy an insightful guided walkthrough in addition to a food truck with delicious bites, mocktail bar, and entertainment.

Color Cabaret by Music Theatre and Opera

This entirely student-led cabaret helps provide an opportunity for composers, lyricists, librettists, and performers of color, formed through personal connections, friends, and colleagues from all over ASU, to share their creativity.

Black Liberation Through the Marketplace with Rachel Ferguson

Join author Rachel Ferguson as she discusses Black Liberation Through the Marketplace, and come away with a better understanding of Black history and creative ideas for how to make this nation truly one with liberty and justice for all.

International Jazz Day AZ Foundation’s co-presents JADE

Jade Johnson has performed beloved renditions of the National Anthem at Suns, Mercury, Diamondbacks, Clippers and Lakers games, and landed acting roles on TV’s “Blackish” and in theater Off Broadway. From jazz and pop to R&B, hear a focused singer-songwriter hitting her stride.

This is Melanin

Step into a world brimming with entertainment and education. This all-ages extravaganza includes food trucks, music, games, vendors, speakers – and good vibes. Brace yourself for thought-provoking panel discussions and workshops focusing on vital community empowerment topics such as finance, home-buying, and more.

Strong foundations start in Kindergarten.

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ASU Prep Academy is hosting several Kinder Round-Up information sessions at our four elementary locations in the metro Phoenix area.

At the event, families will have an opportunity to meet our teachers, tour our campuses, and learn more about our Kindergarten program, which features:

  • Tuition-free full-day options
  • One-to-one technology devices
  • Individualized learning plans
  • Gifted program options in Spring semester
  • After-school programming

To learn about Kindergarten eligibility and VIP on-site enrollment, click here.

Día de los Muertos event celebrates the magic of tradition and community

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Recently, ASU Preparatory Academy South Phoenix transformed into a vibrant fiesta of colors and sounds, paying homage to the rich tradition of Día de los Muertos. The community gathered for a night bursting with entertainment.

On November 4, the campus filled with families, their faces painted in vivid designs and many had heads adorned with floral crowns, eager to participate in the festive activities offered throughout the night. Guests danced alongside the lively mariachi, watched the twirling baile folklórico dancers and marveled at a daring aerialist performance.

There was authentic cuisine and craft stations to create sugar skulls and paper flowers, but the heart of the celebration was the breathtaking Cihuapactli Collective Altar, where guests paid tribute to loved ones.

The event was a chance for attendees to soak in the spirit of the ASU Prep community as the South Phoenix campus buzzed with excitement. Student Nataly Garcia shared what makes the school special, and therefore, the event: “It’s a small school and everyone here knows each other. The teachers and staff support each kid individually.” Alejandro Bonfil added how fun it was to hang out with friends and classmates at the celebration.

About the festivities, student Zain Gehrig said, “I would totally recommend this. It’s so much fun being here. I’m having the time of my life.” The pictures and memories of this year’s event will linger on, and are already fueling anticipation for next year’s celebration. As Garcia puts it, “You want to make sure you come next year because you don’t want to miss this fun, amazing party that ASU Prep South Phoenix has offered to everyone!”

To see a recap of the event, please visit our YouTube channel.

No need to wait until next year to join in the fun. ASU Prep is hosting more free community events, including the upcoming Creative Fusion Fest at ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest and Let it Snow at ASU Prep Phoenix Downtown. Find out more about upcoming events here.

The legacy lives on: celebrating Native American Heritage Month

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November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native Americans and to acknowledge their valued contributions.

In his National Native American Heritage Month proclamation, President Joe Biden stated: “Native Americans are essential to the fabric of the United States. They serve in the United States armed forces at higher rates than any other ethnic group. They continue to steward so many of our great lands. Their contributions to science, humanities, arts, public service, and more have brought prosperity for all of us. Their diverse cultures and communities continue to thrive and lead us forward.”

This month, and all year long, take the time to educate, advocate, and raise greater awareness for the rich traditions and histories of Indigenous communities.

The history of Native American Heritage Month

The journey to recognition was not an easy one. It started with Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a descendent of the Seneca tribe and the director of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, who was one of the first proponents of an American Indian Day back in 1915. His efforts, combined with the relentless work of Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, led to the declaration of the second Saturday of May as American Indian Day by the governor of New York.

Years later, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month”. Since then, this commemoration has evolved into what we now know as Native American Heritage Month. It is an opportunity to educate the public about tribes, raise awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and honor the vital role they play in enriching our nation.

From the Iroquois Confederacy’s influence on the U.S. Constitution to the Navajo Code Talkers’ contribution during World War II, the impact of Native Americans is deeply woven into the fabric of American history.

Honoring the vital role of Native Americans

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month can come in many forms. One of the most meaningful ways is through education. Take the time to learn about the different tribes, their histories, and their contributions. Many museums, libraries, and educational institutions like ASU offer exhibits, discussions, and resources during this month.

Participating in cultural activities is another great way to honor this month. Many communities host powwows, dance exhibitions, craft fairs, and other cultural events. These gatherings are not only fun but also provide a deeper understanding of the rich cultural diversity of Native Americans.

Consider supporting Native American businesses and artists to show respect and appreciation. By purchasing Native American art, jewelry, food, and other goods, you’re helping to sustain their traditions and support their communities.

Learn about the important contributions of barrier-breaking Native Americans who continue to shape our society, lead their communities, and impact our culture today. Research Marine Colonel Nicole Mann, the first female Native American to travel to space or Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who became the first Indigenous Cabinet member in U.S. history, among countless others.

Lastly, advocacy is a powerful way to celebrate. Stand with Native communities in their fight for recognition, rights, and respect. Advocate for policies that protect their lands, cultures, and identities. Arizona State University has taken steps to increase awareness & appreciation, as well as motivate advocacy, through the ASU Indigenous Land Acknowledgement, recognizing its campuses are situated on the homelands of many indigenous communities, many of whom continue to live in the area.

Continue to celebrate, learn, and honor

Native American Heritage Month is a reminder of the enduring and resilient spirit of Native people. The richness of their cultures, the depth of their wisdom, and the strength of their spirit continue to inspire us all. In honoring their heritage, we enrich our own understanding and become more compassionate and informed citizens.

This November, let’s take the opportunity to celebrate, learn, and honor the first people of this land. Let’s remember that every day is a good day to respect and appreciate the diverse cultures and contributions of Native Americans.

ASU Prep’s Science of Reading training program is empowering educators and achieving student success

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Ensuring students can read proficiently is a critical goal for schools and educators. ASU Prep is proactively addressing literacy challenges with its Science of Reading training program, which aims to empower educators and improve student literacy. The program is approved by the Arizona State Department of Education, demonstrating the commitment to science-backed teaching methods and student-centered learning.

The primary goal of the program is to equip teachers with the knowledge to make data-driven decisions in the classroom, aligning curriculum with research and data. ASU Prep’s program recognizes many students enter early grades without strong foundational reading skills, relying on pictures rather than phonics-based skills. Teachers are shifting their focus toward addressing the unique needs of their students, as opposed to strictly adhering to a predetermined curriculum or scope and sequence. This shift signifies a move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to education, promoting a more student-centered learning environment.

By focusing on early intervention and equipping teachers with the tools to identify and address struggling readers’ needs, ASU Prep aims to ensure students are proficient readers by the time they reach third grade. This proactive approach can help prevent reading difficulties and empower young readers to become lifelong learners, even though the transition may be challenging. ASU Prep fosters open dialogue and peer collaboration among educators to ease the process.

The success of the program will be measured through pre- and post-assessments for teachers and student outcomes, evaluating knowledge growth and literacy proficiency improvements, and promoting a student-centered learning approach. Student assessments will help determine whether the program leads to increased literacy proficiency.

The Science of Reading training program comprises nine sessions, each focusing on essential components of effective reading instruction, including research findings, structured literacy, phonological awareness, word study, scaffolding instruction, understanding dyslexia, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, and language structure. The program also offers further learning opportunities through an asynchronous Camp Reading course and a book study on Equipped for Reading Success A Comprehensive, Step-By-Step Program for Developing Phonemic Awareness and Fluent Word Recognition by David Kilpatrick.

Ms. Heidi Morton, Training Specialist and Professional Learning Program Manager, has already observed a notable benefit in the evolving mindset of the teachers enrolled in the training. Within finishing one session, Ms. Marilyn Monroy, a teacher in the program, noted a correlation between Science of Reading lessons and improved test scores among her students. Ms. Monroy praised the implemented mini lessons for improving student assessments, with her students improving on spelling tests and even achieving perfect scores.

The initial 45 hours of the Prep Reading Endorsements are scheduled from August 2023 to May 2024, with the next 45-hour segment happening in the subsequent year for a total of 90 hours, further enhancing student-centered learning opportunities.

ASU Prep’s Science of Reading training program represents a forward-thinking and proactive approach to addressing literacy challenges in education. ASU Prep aims to transform students’ reading outcomes and equip educators with the skills to meet the diverse needs of each individual student. As the program continues to evolve and gather data, its impact on students’ literacy development will become increasingly evident.

For more information about ASU Prep’s training programs, including the Science of Reading training program, visit

Exciting news: ASU Prep Global named a 2023 Yass Prize Semifinalist!

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ASU Prep Global is proud to be named a 2023 Yass Prize Semifinalist, selected from nearly 2,000 applications representing 27 million students in grades PreK–12 across all 50 states.

The prestigious $1 million Yass Prize, to be announced December 13 in New York City, is considered the “Pulitzer of Education Innovation.” The Yass Foundation for Education, powered by the Center for Education Reform (CER) in partnership with Forbes, calls the 33 distinguished semifinalists “the guiding light…who deliver the most innovative education across the country.”

Semifinalists: influence and impact

Celebrated in style at the inaugural Yass Summit, the Yass Prize semifinalists each received $200,000 as they await the next stage of the Yass Prize journey. Semifinalists, including ASU Prep Global leaders, are invited to a four-week business accelerator program, gaining exposure to top-tier resources and collaborating with other industry innovators and entrepreneurs, as well as experts in journalism, finance, and politics. This is an opportunity for ASU Prep Global to strengthen the mission to provide innovative education that raises academic achievement for all learners.

The semifinalist cohort will also have the opportunity to collaborate even after the initial program is over, accelerating educational change through national exposure and access to the media, attendance at global events, contributions on and sharing with policymakers how best to replicate their good work.

If awarded the $1 million Yass Prize, ASU Prep will continue to expand its own ASU Prep Microschools, in addition to launching the Microschool Fellowship Program, which is designed to empower parents, educators and local entrepreneurs to design customized microschools powered by ASU Prep curriculum, adaptive tools, teachers and Learning Success Coaches. “ASU Prep is deeply committed to accelerating new models of education that raise academic achievement for all learners,” said Amy McGrath, ASU Vice President of Educational Outreach and Managing Director of ASU Prep.

PLEASE VOTE: Parents Choice Award

This year, each Yass Prize semifinalist is in the running for the Parents Choice Award, chosen by a nationwide vote through November 25. The winner will be announced at the December Yass Prize gala, receiving an additional $100,000 for school community or organization improvements.

Please vote today – and EVERY day until November 25! Encourage your family and friends to vote as well!

ASU Prep Global’s 21st century, personalized approach

The Yass Foundation for Education recognizes “best in class education providers who can tackle the big education challenges of the day and deliver an education for students that is Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless.” Let’s highlight some of the ways ASU Prep Global’s personalized, online education earned this significant honor.

Sustainable education

With Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) funds, families have the flexibility to choose educational offerings that best meet their learners’ needs. ASU Prep’s Global microschools offer the convenience of online courses plus the benefits of in-person interaction.

Transformational learning

The blend of digital and in-person learning in our microschools offers students ultimate choice in their day. Each learner’s academic journey is supported and guided by passionate teachers and Learning Success Coaches. With immersive and innovative technology, students can explore a living cell in biology class or interact with a museum statue during history.

Outstanding results

ASU Prep Global’s model has proven outstanding, with a 96% retention rate and a 90% overall satisfaction rating in the 2022-2023 school year. Parents are actively engaged in their children’s learning, providing feedback, and supporting their academic journey. Learners have the flexibility to self-pace and blend learning styles, leading to improved engagement and success.

Permissionless innovation

ASU Prep Global microschools can adapt lessons based on student interests and choice. This fluidity fosters an environment where pace, place, and experiences are personalized, not standardized.

What’s next

As ASU Prep Global waits for the Yass Prize finalists and $1 million winner to be revealed, we look forward to engaging in unique conversations with industry experts and advocating for change. We are excited to continue fueling new pathways that enable more students to access our offerings and transform their educational journeys.

Learn more about the Yass Prize here, and be sure to vote every day through November 25 for ASU Prep Global to win the Parents Choice Award and an additional $100,000.

To Be Globally Competitive, the U.S. Must Value STEM as Much as Literacy

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Originally published on The74.

K-12 education needs to be rethought and redesigned: The engine for STEM learning is curiosity and imagination.

Curiosity is king. Students start their educational journey curious, creative and thirsty for knowledge. This is what drives STEM, particularly science. Our job is to cultivate that and not let a standardized approach to education quash those highly valued traits of a learner.

The world is dependent on innovations, systems and equipment that are designed and sustained using science, engineering, technology and mathematics. This means the nurturing of STEM talent cannot be reserved for a slice of our student population but, instead, an essential component of every student’s educational journey.

It turns out, industry agrees.

Our colleagues in the semiconductor community report the need for curious and creative professionals who can work in teams to solve the toughest problems encountered in the fabs and labs of our most advanced workplaces.

Because innovation is happening at a quickening pace, readying students through the curriculum for every workplace scenario will be impossible. The ability to design solutions from scratch, in real time, is necessary to the innovation enterprise.

Whether this is perceived as an issue of equity or economics, the goal is the same: To value STEM knowledge in the same way we value reading.

K-12 needs to be rethought and redesigned or it will not only fail to meet the needs of a STEM-dependent world, it will fail to meet the needs of a unique generation of students who learns, thinks and engages with the world around them differently than any before.

Millennial and Gen Z parents are tech-integrated and experience-driven. Their children are hard-wired to be the same. Practically, this means they innately use technology to learn anytime, anywhere. But it also means they want to learn by doing. They consider technology their guide but want in-person engagement for connection, collaboration and support.

These were the trends and challenges we had to consider when designing ASU Prep. ASU Prep is a P-20 system of schools and educational services embedded in a larger learning enterprise at Arizona State University. The needs and preferences of our student body is what drives our iterative design. Students become masters in various learning domains from home, at a K-12 campus, on a university campus, at their parent’s workplace or even with peers at a coffee shop.

Thanks to the innovative K-12 policy environment in Arizona, students who can do a day’s worth of school work in less time can fill the remaining hours getting ahead in courses, catching up on concepts where they struggle, working, pursuing an interest in music, theater, Olympic sport or even launching their own small business.

Online learning should not be remote from people. We pair students with Learning Success Coaches to help students build personalized educational pathways into their desired future career. From kindergarten on, ASU Prep students build their own learning plans in concert with a guide and present it to their parents.

Our students are exposed to ASU courses as soon as they are ready and can take any of the 4,000-plus courses on the ASU catalog: in person, online or through our Universal Learner Platform. High school students at ASU Prep are applying their learning via paid internships and hybrid high school/university schedules.

It’s working. With graduation and college-going rates that exceed the averages and large numbers of students matriculating to STEM careers, we believe that we are the school system of the future. As part of ASU’s New American University, ASU Prep is wired like no other K12 system in the country and is poised to design and open access to a K12 model fit for the future of work.

We do all these things not to simply grow enrollment but to develop a knowledge base of what works to share with the broader community and the ASU teams that are increasing university enrollment in underrepresented communities.

Stakes are high for both our country and the families striving within. We embrace the efforts laid out in the New Essential Education Discoveries (NEED) Act to evaluate what is happening right now in the most innovative systems in the United States and apply those lessons rapidly for the benefit of all students.

There is brilliance in every household. We believe it’s our job to design new educational models that value curiosity and show every student that they do, in fact, have a path to a successful future.

Amy McGrath is an educator, vice president for ASU, and managing director of ASU Preparatory Academy, a system of schools and innovations designing new models for all learners.

Here’s how Arizona teachers are adapting — not attacking — AI

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Originally published on AZ Big Media.

A teacher’s response to learning about artificial intelligence is comparable to a child’s face after eating ice cream, bulging eyes and happy smiles. “We’re like the happy cheerleaders for AI,” said Janel White-Taylor, clinical professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

From K–12 classrooms to university lecture halls, artificial intelligence continues to be tested and Arizona State University is taking a lead in discovering the untold world of AI.

At Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, instructors are formulating a training program that can prepare students who are going to be teachers in a few years to use and understand the technology. In order to teach the students that artificial intelligence is still learning new algorithms, the goal is to identify what it isn’t accomplishing, Jennifer Werner Instructional Designer Senior at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College explained.

Taylor adds that ASU faculty are exploring new methods to incorporate AI into courses, particularly one on problem-solving using digital technology applications, in which students can learn how to write a script or create a piece of artwork using intelligence.

Arizona State University Preparatory Academy partnered with Khan World School, a virtual learning platform teaching grades 6 through 12 virtually at the charter school. The instructors who are apart of this learning environment refer to themselves as guides rather than teachers.

“Their (guides) in a digital environment and are actually facilitating the learning,” Rachna Mathur, the STEM strategist for Arizona State University Preparatory Academy said.

The goal is for instructors to include AI in their classes and begin modifying their lesson plans. Teachers claim that rather than worrying about students cheating, they should be worried about whether their assignments are motivating them.

Taylor gave an illustration of how teachers might revamp their lesson ideas. Instead of merely having a student summarize an article, educate them to request the summary from artificial intelligence. Then, let the student evaluate if the summary was accurate.

“What educators are increasingly seeing is that it is an incredible teaching can help foster the creative process,” Punya Mishra the Associate Dean of scholarship and innovation and professor at Mary Lou Fulton teachers college said.

AI has advanced to an extent where it is now the new kid on the block within certain workplaces.

Are educators worried about losing their jobs?

Professors expressed that students will always need a human connection in order to fully learn and there is a possibility that artificial intelligence might have a bigger role in lessons.

“A large reason of why we go to school is to learn how to engage and interact with people, learn views, it’s not just about learning math and chemistry,” said Mirsha.

The accepted norm today in education is for kids to learn how to use computers “before” they learn how to compose sentences.

“It’s more of a new relationship with this learning system…its a different type of thinking,” said Mathur.

It can also be a era of going back to basics and having children read books out loud and having a designated writing time, “its all about strategy,” said Taylor.

Schools Worth Visiting

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Originally published on Getting Smart.

For many years (at least until 2020), we visited about 100 innovative schools a year. It’s the most important form of professional learning we do for ourselves and for the educators that accompany us. It’s how we create and update a shared vision of powerful learning.

This page features some of the most innovative schools that exhibit best practices — schools that, on one or more dimensions, illustrate the path forward. We most appreciate practices, supports and environments that promote deep engagement. We’re most interested in schools that serve historically marginalized groups — or whose practices have the potential to promote equity at scale. This list is only a segment of the many great examples of learning that exist, and we are going to continue adding exemplars of deep learning experiences as we are made aware of them.

If you’d like to visit schools (physically or virtually) contact Jessica. If there is an innovative school that we should know about, send information to Info.

Elementary (K-6)

Horace Mann Elementary

Classic Rehab. Horace Mann Elementary School, in northwest Washington D.C., is a joy-filled student-centered personalized learning environment serving a diverse student body. The new and modernized historical facility reflects thoughtful programmatic values: Collaboration and Connection, Sustainability and Stewardship, and Choice and Invention. (See podcast with principal Elizabeth Whisnant.)

Project-Based. Epic Elementary SchoolLiberty Public Schools in north Kansas City, is a project-based school serving 300 learners in the renovated district office. EPiC features double classrooms and partner teaching. Many of these studios have big roll-up doors and share common space and quiet small group rooms. (See feature.)

Early Leadership. Mukilteo Elementary, north of Seattle, makes great use of the Leader in Me program to empower student leadership. They finish each year with a family portfolio picnic where they review quality student work. Students also help to develop a nature preserve with trails and a two-acre outdoor classroom. (See feature.)

KM Explore

Microschool. KM Explore is one of four district-sponsored microschools west of Milwaukee. The open-plan multi-age blend features high engagement projects, place-based learning and collaborative teaching. They also figured out what to do with those old textbooks.

Mandarin IB. Wade King Elementary School in Bellingham, Washington features the IB Primary Years Program. Students have the opportunity to learn Mandarin and benefit from individualized instruction, access from home, and coaching from a native speaker.

K-8 Schools and Paired Elementary & Middle Schools


New Model. Design39Poway School District in north San Diego County, is a spectacular K-8 school featuring design thinking and personalized learning. Check out this podcast episode with Joe Erpelding, formerly of Design 39 on why this is such a magical school and how they live into their motto: “Life ready thought leaders who elevate humanity.”

Team Taught PBL. The 200 school New Tech Network (NTN) includes a growing number of project-based, STEM-focused middle and elementary schools. The movement began in the Evergreen School District in San Jose with Katherine Smith Elementary, a joyful project-based school with a great student ambassador program. (See feature). Bulldog Tech is a purpose-built middle school with double classrooms ideal for integrated project-based learning. New Tech Network has a handful of the most innovative schools. (See feature.)

Career Education. Cajon Valley USD in east San Diego County features elementary and secondary schools that feature the World of Work in 54 immersive community-connected experiences that explore career options and conclude in reflection on strengths and interests (see feature). They have a great middle school career center developed with the San Diego Workforce Partnership.

Cajon Valley USD

Data-Driven. Cesar E. Chavez Multicultural Academic Center is a neighborhood P-8 in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood on the south side. Despite nearly 100% poverty and nearly half of the students new to English, the school has been a top academic performer in Chicago for a decade. Principal (and data ninja) Barton Dassinger was a teacher at Chavez and has kept a veteran staff focused on getting better every year.

Lit Magnet. Burley School is a Chicago literature, writing and technology magnet school. Visitors see students discussing, reading, thinking, exploring, questioning, experimenting, creating and collaborating. Students have access to iPads and laptops and a full art and music program.

Personalized Performing Arts CBEMetropolitan Arts Academy, part of Westminster Public Schools in Denver, Colorado, is a visual and performing arts public innovation school that has a focus on artistic expression through project-based instruction within the context of visual and performing arts. This learner-centered environment with a rigorous competency based learning model, partners with artists, professional organizations, and community partners to provide authentic learning experiences.

4 Pillars. Caliber Beta opened in 2014 in Richmond, California, with personalized learning plans, a flexible rotation model for math and English and project-based learning for science and social studies. Four pillars include a safe and supportive environment (HEART) so that students can engage in rigorous learning (SMART) and develop the skill set to be critical thinkers (THINK) who then become agents of change in their communities and world (ACT). ​Students participate in computer programming, engineering and robotics classes. 

Competency. Washington Elementary SchoolLindsay Unified School District in California’s Central Valley, is a leading example of a personalized and competency-based K-8 school. Every student has a personal learning plan and sets daily goals–a great example of developing and engaging student agency and social emotional learning. (See podcast, and report.)

Montessori. Magnolia Montessori for All educates the whole child, focuses on leadership, embraces diversity, and welcomes families as partners. The Austin muti-age P-8 charter school is organized in four grade spans.

Montessori. Urban Montessori Charter School in Oakland combines Montessori’s pedagogy with Design Thinking and Arts Integration in a diverse community.

In Park. Environmental Charter School at Frick Park in Pittsburgh uses their theme to build systems thinkers, explore complexity and develop problem solving skills in a multidisciplinary, “out-the-door” learning approach that builds active, engaged, and empathetic citizens.

Environmental Charter School

Chinese. Mandarin Immersion Magnet School in Houston features a state-of-the-art facility, cohesive culture, blended learning and student supports. Elementary students spend half of the day in a Mandarin class and the other half in an English class.

PRIDE. Ingenuity Prep opened in Southeast Washington, D.C in 2013. It helps PK-8 students develop civic leadership, strong relationships and an inclusive community. Their “kid friendly” spell PRIDE: positivity, resilience, integrity, discipline and empathy.

Competency. New Emerson School is a demonstration site for Mesa County Valley School District 51, a district featured by CompetencyWorks for their high engagement transition to personalized and competency-based learning.

Bricolage Academy

Art + Competency. Metropolitan Arts Academy is an Innovation School in Westminster Public Schools north of Denver. Visual and performing arts are integrated into a rigorous learner-centered and competency-based environment. Working with local artists and arts advocacy groups provides authentic learning experiences. (See podcast.)

Innovation. Bricolage Academy in NOLA is a diverse, active learning K-8 school focused on creative problem solving. Teachers model design thinking and rapid iteration across the curriculum.

Homeschool Hybrid. DaVinci Connect is a TK-8 school in Hawthorne, California (profiled here) that combines homeschool with two days per week of on-campus project-based and social emotional learning.

Middle (6-8)

Beacon Network Schools

Greenfield Design. Achievement First operates 41 schools in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. AF Providence Mayoral Academy is one of four Greenfield Design middle schools. Students create advisory “Dream Teams” for goal setting and support, enjoy enrichment opportunities, and have two-week expeditions in an area of interest every term.

Turnaround Network. Grant-Beacon Middle School is a transformed middle school in Denver featuring blended learning, character development, critical thinking and extended learning opportunities (featured here). Kepner-Beacon Middle School is the second school in the network (featured here). Both have great student ambassadors.

Middle and High Schools (6-12)

Equity for Underserved Learners. Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School serves low-income students in the heart of Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle. Rigorous academic courses are supported by small group tutoring, a college-ready culture, social-emotional learning and strong support particularly for learners with complex needs. LAB co-founded the Educating All Learners Alliance and has been a leader in pandemic precautions.

Competency. Highland Academy in Anchorage is a 6-12 learning environment that promotes mastery learning through integrated project-based learning. Guiding ideas include shared leadership, shared vision, and personal mastery through standards-based instruction with systemic and systematic continuous improvement (featured on CompetencyWorks).

STEM Partnerships. School of Innovation, part of Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools (east of Cleveland), is a 3-8 school (growing to 3-12) in a former corporate training facility.

School of Innovation

Compass Human Development Model

Compass Circles. Valor Collegiate Academies in Nashville has two middle schools and a high school powered by Compass, a human development model that is incorporated into the advisory system and rigorous academics. More than 50 schools have adopted the Compass. (See video.)

STEM + Values. Denver’s DSST may be the best open access STEM network in the country but it’s also a values-driven organization that incorporates six core values into everything they do. Visit the flagship Montview Middle and High School. (See feature.)

Language. Young Women’s STEAM Research & Preparation Academy in El Paso is the only dual language girls school in the New Tech Network which is known for team taught project-based learning.

Museum. Grand Rapids Public Museum School is a partnership between a museum, three colleges, the city, and the school district. The middle school is in a science museum (below) and the XQ winning high school is in a renovated art museum. Both feature design thinking and community connected project-based learning.

Grand Rapids Museum School

Learner-Centered. Making Community Connections (MC2) in Manchester, New Hampshire, is an innovative 7-12 school with two campuses that share an understanding of motivation, engagement and student agency. Experiences include personal learning, field experiences, internships and challenge activities. Students prepare portfolios and a presentation in order to pass through gateways onto the next phase. (See series and feature.)

Team-Teaching. Intrinsic Schools has two Chicago high schools that feature big integrated team-taught blocks in open pods with three teachers and 60 students who rotate between teacher-led instruction, independent and small-group work, and project-based learning. The Belmont campus is in a cool converted lumber yard and the new campus is in a downtown high-rise. (See feature.)

Design. Nuvu, in Cambridge Massachusetts, is an innovative microschool based on a project-based studio model led by coaches who are leaders in their industry, experts in diverse fields, and passionate thought leaders. The independent school is developing a partner network through a fellowship program.


Young Women's College Preparatory Academy

Leadership. Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders serves 800 girls in grades 6–12 in Austin, Texas. The focus is on leadership, college readiness and STEM. Sophomores do a big project, juniors participate in an internship, seniors conduct a capstone project. All graduates attend college, most in STEM fields.

Women in STEM. Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy opened in 2011 in Houston in partnership with the Young Women’s Preparatory Network (one of eight other similar schools in Texas including Ann Richards School).

Community Center. Gary Comer College Prep and Gary Comer Middle School are part of the 18 school college prep focused Noble Network. They share a campus with Comer Youth Center and together they offer extended learning opportunities and youth and family supports. Campus and rooftop gardens support an urban agriculture program. (See feature.)

High School (9-12)

Internships. The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (Met) was founded in Providence in 1996 by Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor with the goal of teaching one kid at a time. Today the Met is six small Rhode Island public high schools and flagship of the Big Picture Learning network, a leader in internships, individual learning plans, and advisory systems. (See history and feature).

Early College + Internships. San Diego Met on the campus of San Diego Mesa College is a San Diego USD high school and member of the Big Picture Learning network. Learners take college classes three days a week and conduct internships two days a week.

Competency. Del Lago AcademyEscondido USD in north San Diego County, is a health sciences focused school featuring interdisciplinary projects. Business partners help define competencies and assess student work. To assess what students were doing throughout the scientific process they created Competency X, a badging system. (See tenth grade examplefeatureop-ed, and podcast.)

Del Lago Academy

Real-World Focus. Energy Institute High School in Houston is creating opportunities for students to engage with engineers and business leaders in the field of energy through high-quality project-based learning. (See feature.)

Design Thinking. Freshman at LEAD Innovation Studio in the Park Hill School District , north of Kansas City, learn design thinking and develop leadership skills. A new facility for the 2020-21 school years was designed to support collaborative, project based learning and display student work. (See feature and video of new facility.)

Network for Good. DaVinci Schools is a network of seven innovative Los Angeles schools including three campus schools just south of LAX. DaVinci CommunicationDesign, and Science are all good examples of personalized and project based learning. Each school has three career pathways rich with professions-based learning.

The DaVinci network also includes Connect (mentioned above) and XQ grantee RISE High, a unique three campus school helping youth navigate foster care, housing instability, probation and other complex challenges .


Playlists & Projects. Summit Everest in Redwood City is the flagship high school of Summit Public Schools (@SummitPS), a network of 16 schools in California and Washington. Through a nonprofit affiliate, nearly 400 schools use the Summit Learning platform which serves up individualized skill-building playlists and challenging projects. A student dashboard helps learners monitor progress and builds self-direction. (See podcast with founder Diane Tavenner.)

Coding. Washington Leadership Academy “graduate graduates are college-ready, have career-ready tech skills, and lead change in their communities and the world.” The DC school in an old seminary requires four years of computer science. (See feature and XQ profile.)

Art. Tacoma School of the Arts (SOTA), opened in 2001, is a great example of city-as-campus with theaters, museums, and a university as partners. Adjunct performers and artists support depth and application (See feature and feature.)

Zoo. Science and Math Institute (SAMI) at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma is a great STEM school with built in zoo internships and outdoor science. They collaborate with SOTA (above) on academic and extracurricular opportunities. (See feature and feature.)

E3 Civic High

Library. e3 Civic High is located in San Diego’s high rise downtown library. Students learn through a mixture of self-paced online instruction, teacher or student-led small-group instruction, direct instruction, and problem-based and project-based work. They benefit from strong supports and extended learning opportunities.

Challenge. NYC iSchool combines core experiences (literature seminars, writing workshops, and scientific thinking and laboratory experiences), challenge-based modules (nine-week interdisciplinary courses developed around real-world challenges), online learning and advisory in support of core values of innovation, individualization and personalization, and metacognitive skill development. Students choose an Area of Focus as a junior and it guides course taking and a Senior Project.

Expeditions. Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine is an EL Education school which keeps the school’s goals “clear, ambitious and essential.” Casco juniors engage in a long-term interdisciplinary project that results in demonstration of learning. (See 4 part series.)

Gradual release. Huntley High School, northwest of Chicago, features a blended learning program where teachers set the number of days in class needed from week to week depending on how the class is doing, or how individual students are progressing. Students can study in the HUB in individual or team spaces. (See feature and podcast with Superintendent Scott Rowe.)

Science Leadership Academy

Inquiry. Science Leadership Academy is an inquiry-driven, STEM-focused, project-based school formed as a partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute. Shared instructional values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are evident in every classroom. (See feature.)

Alternative. Eagle Rock in Estes Park, Colorado, is an initiative of American Honda, is both an alternative residential high school and a professional development center for educators–and a beautiful place to visit. (See podcast.)

Competency-BasedBuilding 21 operates public high schools in Philadelphia and Allentown and has four network affiliate schools. The personalized learning model (below) features problem-based learning, real work experiences, and competency-based assessments. (See 2020 feature, 2018 feature, and 2018 description.)

Building 21 Learning Model

Art+. While in Boston, visit Boston Arts Academy which creates great art learning and exhibition opportunities with the Professional Arts Consortium and other community partners. It cohabitates with Fenway High, another great small school.

Alt Mashup. Boston Day and Evening Academy has proficiency-based pathways that allow students to progress based on demonstrated mastery rather than seat time. Students benefit from wraparound services, digital tools that help create a personalized approach, and a school open 12 hours a day. Self-paced alternative ed meets adventure-based leadership training meets blended learning. (See feature.)

Early College. Bard College at Simon’s Rock is “a small, selective, supportive, intensive college of the liberal arts and sciences in the middle of the Berkshires.” Students enroll after 10th or 11th grade. Simon’s Rock was the basis for the seven school Bard Early College network, where students can leave high school with an Associate’s Degree and an leader in the early college movement.

Service. Sconzo Early College High School in Humble ISD (north of Houston) has a great student-led service learning program. About 40% of graduates (many first generation college goers) earn at least one year of college credit and 25% leave with a high school diploma and an AA degree. (See podcast.)

Early College STEM. Metro Early College High School was launched in 2006 in partnership with the Ohio State University and Battelle. Students tackle big ideas, do real work, and take classes at OSU. Metro anchors the Ohio STEM Learning Network. (See feature.)

Early College STEM

Micro Kickstart. Kettle Moraine School District west of Milwaukee kickstarted its transformation by developing three small schools inside a comprehensive high school: KM Perform with a performing arts focus, KM Global, a global studies school, followed by the School of Health Sciences. ​​A remodeled facility created collaborative learning spaces that better support personalized learning in the academies and the comprehensive school. (See 2020 podcast and 2018 feature.)

Tech Jobs. IBM launched the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn in 2011 in partnership with CUNY and City Tech. The model combines early college and tech work experience and has been replicated to more than 200 innovative schools with more than 600 industry partners. Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy in Chicago is a good example (See 2021 podcast and 2017 feature).

Work Study. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago anchors the 37 school network of Catholic schools. Students take a full college prep course load and work one day each week in a Corporate Work Study Program to fund the majority of their tuition. Initiated out of financial desperation, the work study builds valuable success skills and work experience.

Advanced Manufacturing. RAMTEC in Marion, Ohio (an hour northwest of Columbus) at Tri-Rivers Career Center runs career and technical high school programs in advanced manufacturing, engineering technologies and welding. Through corporate partnerships, RAMTEC is able to offer high school students, community college students and adult workers some of the most current job training in the country. With a state grant, RAMTEC developed a network of 23 sites around Ohio .(See feature.)

Career High. Dubiski Career High in Grand Prairie ISD (between Dallas and Ft Worth) offers 15 career pathways in three academies: business and communications, health science and engineering, and human services and transportation. Most of the students have internships and more than half of these are with organizations outside of Grand Prairie. The school provides transportation to the internships, while also providing six on-site enterprises. (See feature.)

Finance. Southwest Miami High Academy of Finance, a member of the NAF network, has a 17-year track record of business partnerships that support student work experiences. The problem-based curriculum prepares students for careers in finance and includes dual enrollment courses.

Hospitality. Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Academy of Hospitality & Tourism in North Miami is also an NAF academy. Every student completes a 150-hour internship between their Junior and Senior years. The school has a productive dual enrollment relationship with the adjacent Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism at Florida International University.

Miami-Dade offers 58 NAF academies in the five career themes of Engineering, Finance, Health Science, Hospitality & Tourism and Information Technology. (See feature on NAF.)

Design. Design Tech High School ( on the Oracle campus blends design thinking with a focus on success skills to help students forge an identity that will help them as students, professionals, and citizens. (See podcast tour.)

Design Tech High School

One Stone

Design for Good. After a decade of innovative after-school and summer learning experiences, Boise nonprofit One Stone opened Lab51, a small innovative high school to help young people make the world a better place. (See design summaryfeaturevideo and 2021 results from advisory pilot.)

Learner Centered Portfolio. Latitude High School has intentionally designed their offerings, schedule, and curriculum around a thorough set of competencies. Students develop and refine these competencies through community-engaged project-based learning, and graduate with a portfolio of accomplishments and work products to back up their learning.

Competencies that Matter. Purdue Polytechnic High School, created in partnership with Purdue University, awards credit based on student attainment of competencies. The school’s schedule is organized around 6-week project cycles in which teachers “pitch” projects and students are able to select projects based on their interests and needed competencies. The school’s agreement with the University means that all students are able to graduate credit toward Purdue University, and almost all do. (See feature.)

Community Connected. Students at Crosstown High spend most of their school day on the fourth and fifth floor of Crosstown Concourse, a million-square-foot renovated Sears office and distribution center opened in 2017 just east of downtown Memphis. The building is home to health providers, universities, theaters, businesses and retailers that support Crosstown projects and internships. Learners at the XQ grantee school progress on 12 competencies. (See feature and XQ profile.)

Crosstown High

Humanities. Humanities Preparatory Academy is one of hundreds of new small coherent high schools formed in New York City in the last decade. Launched in 1997 with support from New Visions for Public Schools, the Humanities Prep team embraced a mission “to provide a philosophical and practical education for all students, an education that features creativity and inquiry, encourages habitual reading and productivity, as well as self-reflection and original thought.” As a democratic community, they strive to exemplify the values of democracy: mutual respect, cooperation, empathy, the love of humankind, justice for all, and service to the world. It’s also a member of the New York Performance Standards Consortium.

ELL. Bronx International High School, opened in 2004 as part of the NYC small schools initiative, was the fourth school in the Internationals Network for Public Schools which serves immigrant youth new to English. The network of 18 schools integrates language development and academic content while building student and family capacity for integration into American society. (See feature.)

Young Men of Color. EPIC North is one of three New York City schools opened in 2014 as a result of the Open Society sponsored Expanded Success Initiative designed to make sure that young men of color will thrive. As the EPIC Playbook describes, it combines competency education with youth development, cultural relevance and high engagement learning. (See feature.)

EssentialFrancis W. Parker Charter Essential School, west of Boston, has been in the vanguard of progressive, student-centered public education for over twenty years. It’s based on the beautiful design principles from the Coalition of Essential Schools including “learning to use one’s mind well, less is more, goals apply to all, personalization, student as worker, demonstration of master, tone of decency, and democracy and equity. (See Springpoint profile.)

Flexibility. iLEAD Academy is a small blended and project-based high school with career connections and college credit opportunities. It’s located in a converted strip center an hour north of Louisville. (See feature and podcast.)

Coding. Phoenix Coding Academy, part of Phoenix Union High School District, focuses on computer coding and multiple technology pathways through an inquiry-based instructional design. Students address big problems and learn how to use computation as part of the solution.

High School for Recording Arts

Urban. Urban Academy Laboratory High School uses performance-based assessment tasks as graduation requirements. The school was a founding member of the New York Performance Standards Consortium that share a rich performance assessment system. It was approved as an alternative to state tests by the Board of Regents in 1995 and reaffirmed in 2008 when additional schools were added (see feature). Founder Ann Cook negotiated an early and nationally visible co-location of six schools at the Julia Richmond Education. Cook also co-founded the NY State Standards Performance Consortium. (See our feature.)

Hip Hop High. High School for Recording Arts, a public school in St. Paul, pioneered the concept of connecting with at-risk students through music and related businesses. It helps young people develop agency and change-making skills to tackle real-world problems. For the full backstory, see Hip Hop Genius : Remixing High School Education by Sam Seidel (at Stanford and check out the facility designed by Fielding International.

K-12 Schools and Systems

Multiple model university high school partnerships: ASU Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, AZ is a multi-modal network of public charter schools that offers a range of options from on-site to full virtual through ASU Prep Digital. With options of hybrid microschools located on the campus of ASU, students begin their college journey during high school. Additional options are available through a partnership with Khan Academy via the virtual Khan World School.

Show & TellHigh Tech High has 16 schools on four campuses in San Diego County. They are all world class examples of integrated project-based learning and spectacular student art.

High Tech High

PBL District. Winton Woods City Schools, in northern Cincinnati, serves students living in poverty. With support from a state-level innovation grant, the district adopted the team taught project-based approach from the New Tech Network. (See Winton Woods feature and El Paso feature.)

Equity & PBL. iLEAD is a Southern California network where students are learners and teachers are facilitators. They focus on high quality project-based learning and recently have doubled down on racial inequality. (See PBL feature and feature on fighting inequity.)

Progressive. Harlem Village Academies is a progressive PK-12 public charter school network that creates learning experiences that inspire and require the highest levels of intellectual sophistication.

Acton Academy

Hero’s Journey. Acton Academy is a student-centered K-12 microschool in Austin that spurred more than 200 global replications. The promise is that through Socratic dialogs and experiential learning, each member of the Acton community will begin a Hero’s Journey and discover precious gifts and a commitment to mastery. Learners take on real world projects and life changing apprenticeships. (See feature and podcast.)

Real World Learning. Crossroads Preparatory Academy is a Kansas City high school featuring project-based learning, internships and service learning. It is fed by two K-8 that value authentic learning and have a creative culture. The Crossroads system is a leader in the Kauffman Foundation sponsored Real World Learning initiative.

Interest-Based Learning. Minnesota New Country School opened a teacher-powered learner-centered secondary school west of Minneapolis in 1994 with the goal of leveraging the power of purposeful relationships, community, student-led project-based learning, and experiential education. An elementary school was added in 2013. MNCS spurred development of the Edvisions network of small teacher-led schools featuring self-directed project-based learning and authentic assessment.

World Class Focus. Northern Cass School District believes every learner can change the world and is committed to providing a “world class education.” This work led to collective commitments that shape all systemic design and budget decisions. Their emphasis on relationships helps to drive continuous improvement, strong instructional practice, self-reflection, and playing off personal strengths.

Eastbay Maker. Lighthouse Community Charter School, a diverse K-12 community, is fast becoming Oakland’s leader in Maker Education through the great work of their Creativity Lab. They believe “young people have the potential to become lifelong changemakers who realize their unique vision — rooted in their identity, knowledge, and skills — to create equity in their own lives and in the community, leading to a healthier, more joyful world.”

Liberal Arts. Renaissance Academy is a K-12 public charter school in Phoenixville, 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Co-located with several businesses and educational service providers in a mixed-use factory redevelopment known as Franklin Commons, it serves 1,060 students. The longer day and year support a strong advisory program, AP and dual enrollment courses, and service learning. (See feature.)

Tutoring. Match Schools in Boston serves 1,250 students on three campuses with daily individual and small group tutoring for every student and an extended day. The schools are also supported by The Charles Sposato Graduate School. 

College Completion. University Academy in Kansas City sends all of its graduates to four-year universities—and is working to ensure that they all graduate. The top performing Missouri school features international travel, drama, music, debate and strong extracurriculars. (See case study and podcast.)

Statewide. Virtual Learning Academy (VLACS) is New Hampshire’s competency-based online school with 30,000 course enrollments. Founded in 2007, it has served predominantly part time high school learners with a variety of courses, projects, and experiences that develop and demonstrate more than 300 competencies (see learning catalog). Funding is based on mastery rather than time. VLACS added Added elementary services in 2020.

Place-Based Education. Teton Science Schools in Wyoming is the leader in place-based education including K-12 schooloutdoor education, a graduate school, and a national network.

Teton Science Schools

Part Time Programs


Professions-based Learning. The Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), south of Kansas City, takes an innovative business-partnership approach to giving its students professional and business skills that help them succeed in a range of industries. A national affiliate program, CAPS Network, has grown to about 75 school districts. (See podcast and feature.)

High Tech Learning. Summit Technology Academy is a half-day program in Lee’s Summit, southeast of Kansas City. It shares a state of the art facility on the Missouri Innovation Campus with the University of Central Missouri. It offers tech and health pathways with college credit and real world learning opportunities.

Community Connected Projects. Iowa BIG students from four partner school districts to two Cedar Rapids locations for a half-day program where students learn core academics and 21st century skills through authentic projects connected to community partners. (See podcast and feature.)

International Schools 

SPARK Schools

Low Cost Private. Inspired in 2012 by visits to American school networks, two MBA students launched SPARK Schools and developed 17 schools in Johannesburg and Cape Town featuring blended and extended learning and design thinking.

Dual Immersion. La Paz Community School is a PK-12 school that focuses on place-based education, culturally responsive curriculum and dual immersion on two campuses in northwest Costa Rica.

Active Learning. Singapore American School. A great school takes a “culture of excellence, possibility and extraordinary care,” said former superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball–and SAS is one of a handful of schools that does all three well. Through school visits and PLCs, the 4000 student school was transformed from a school with great test scores to a place that is preparing great people. (See case study, a feature on facilities, and podcast.)

Singapore American School

Green. The Green School in Bali combines a rigorous K-12 core curriculum with hands-on experiential learning within a Green Studies curriculum and a Creative Arts curriculum. Check out the spectacular bamboo architecture. It’s a boarding school, so you could send the kids and visit a couple times a year.

The Green School

Student-Centered Design. The American School of Paris features design studios and projects in 1:1 classrooms that promote creativity, innovation and connected learning.The leadership team is adopting broader measures of success, supporting more student-centered learning experiences, and striving to make the campus even more inclusive. (See feature and podcast.)