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3 Innovative ways high schools are supporting today’s learners recognizes public high schools across the United States that excel at preparing students to enroll and succeed in college. Here, CEO Jon Deane highlights best practices from award-winners that any school could adopt.
2 May 2022 – 08:00 AM EDT
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GreatSchools is the leading nonprofit providing high-quality information that supports parents pursuing a great education for their child, schools striving for excellence, and communities working to diminish inequities in education. Crédito: SDI Productions/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Inside Evelyn Lara’s advanced English class, you might be surprised to find picture books. Yes, children’s books with simple plots, colorful illustrations, and wholesome messaging comprise the beginning of her class syllabus at IDEA Frontier College Prep in Brownsville, Texas. Though unconventional, the reasoning is entirely brilliant: teach students — the majority of whom are learning English as a second language — the basics elements of fiction through a simplified story, so they can later apply these concepts to advanced texts.

To Evelyn, this method is not simply a form of accommodation but rather adaptation to best meet the needs of her students (90% are from low-income families and 97% identify as Hispanic/Latino). Through this culturally-responsive approach, Evelyn observes noticeable improvements in student outcomes at the year end — a fact that is substantiated by the school’s strong college readiness data.

Since 2018, GreatSchools has honored thousands of public high schools that excel at preparing students for college and career with our College Success Award, based on data from state education agencies. IDEA Frontier has earned the award three years in a row, demonstrating a strong record of success. Award-winners earn a College Success Award badge on their GreatSchools profiles, allowing families to see the school’s commitment to fostering college- and career-ready graduates alongside its college readiness data.

While this data is important for all parents to understand, it holds even more meaning among Hispanic parents, 87% of whom say it’s “absolutely essential” that their child attend college. By comparison, approximately 72% of white parents and 82% of Black parents say the same. Despite these high expectations for postsecondary achievement, only 16% of Hispanics over age 25 actually have a bachelor’s degree.

Our new, bilingual Transforming High School collection seeks to change this — by connecting parents and educators with best practices and stories from schools across the country that are innovating to create more equitable and effective experiences for their students.

Take a look at La Joya, Texas’ Jimmy Carter Early College High School, for example. Here, all students benefit from academic accommodations that are traditionally reserved for students with learning differences. “We always give our students the opportunity to submit late assignments,” says Principal Claudia Gomez-Perez. “They may go home and not have internet, parents that speak English, or an environment that is going to help them be successful. We try to control for those variables.” The school’s flexibility allows students to choose how and when to submit assignments to best suit their academic and social-emotional needs.

At South Florida’s Mater Performing Arts Academy, their “Lion Strides” program recognizes students who fall in between those struggling to succeed and those performing at exceptionally high levels. “We take from one grading period to the next and compare the grades of each individual student,” says Principal Jose “Tiger” Nunez. “If the kid shows marked progress, he becomes a Lion Strider.” The school honors Lion Striders at an assembly with personalized certificates, which give these often-overlooked students a jolt of confidence and pride.

These are just a few of the ways schools are reinventing our education systems of old to meet the needs of today’s diverse learners. Through the Transforming High School collection, we hope to inspire parents and educators to see what is possible and demand it in their own communities, from culturally-affirming curriculums to equitable grading and more. One day, we will hopefully see these practices in all communities — and, most importantly, every child will have the opportunity to live up to their full potential in school and in life.

Learn more about how to support your child’s learning and advocate for transformation in your community at

Jon Deane is the CEO of, a national education nonprofit that supports parents through every stage of their child’s education. He brings over two decades of experience in K-12 education, previously serving as a math teacher and school administrator.


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