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One of the most innovative schools in the U.S. is one whose mission explicitly works toward reducing bullying. At least 50 percent of Milwaukee's Alliance School student body identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Nearly all of its 196 students reported that they had experienced bullying or harassment at other schools
So the schools founders built into the curriculum and extracurricular activities learnings about different cultures and communities, "to raise their awareness, and our students also go to schools in the area to spread our anti-bullying message," cofounder Tina Owen told CNN Money.
The 10-year-old school's students face other challenges, which the school also works to address or support the students in overcoming. As much as 76 percent are from low-income families, 28 percent have disabilities and more than one lives in foster care.
E3 Civic High in San Diego similarly serves a high population of low-income students and is just as innovative. And it's where the charter school serves kids that makes its mission and strategy interesting: the school is within the local public library. The 2-year-old school's 409 students are within steps from 1.2 million books. They have use of the library's auditorium, art gallery and reading rooms. There are dedicated classrooms: the furniture is on wheels, though, so that teachers can configure the rooms as needed. Kids take classes in medical biology, biotech and bio-engineering.
Alliance School and e3 Civic High are among 38 others selected by Noodle, a startup launched by Princeton Review Founder John Katzman. Noodle, not unlike Princeton Review for colleges, is meant to serve as a resource for parents looking for suitable schools for their kids. Editor-in-chief Suzanne Podhurst said the group looked beyond test scores to find where teachers, administrators and school founders were truly innovating. They whittled a list of 140,000 schools to find the ones doing things differently and serving different needs.
Other schools featured include:
A K–8 operating off the grid near Flagstaff, Arizona. Using solar panels for energy and a curriculum without sustainability and environmentalism as foundational, STAR School serves 130 students who are members of the local community and Navajo Nation.
A flipped-classroom high school where students work on problems during class and watch lectures online in the evening. Clinton, Michigan's Clintondale High School has nearly a 100 percent graduation rate and has reduced failure in math and English Language Arts by a third.
Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., serves students for six years, instead of the usual four and leave not only with a high school diploma, but also an associate's degree emphasizing computer science or engineering.