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### 6 Strategies to Identify the Best High School for Teenagers’ Future Success

By The 74

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High schools serve as more than just educational institutions where students spend approximately seven hours a day working towards earning a diploma. They are integral parts of our communities, catering to students from diverse cultural backgrounds and neighborhoods. The seemingly awkward teenagers you encounter joking around in local stores or engaging in playful banter at bus stops all nurture aspirations and ambitions for their future endeavors.

However, their success is contingent upon being embraced as members of a larger community. This underscores the importance of advocating for increased attention and support for high schools to adequately equip every student for college, career paths, or whatever pursuits lie ahead. Since 2017, efforts have been underway in collaboration with numerous schools and systems nationwide to assist high schools and their surrounding communities in crafting learning experiences that align more closely with the demands of the 21st century. This includes fostering partnerships with local organizations to demonstrate to young individuals how their academic pursuits translate into real-world applications.

An illustration of this approach can be observed at [school name], where the course “X” led by filmmaker Lee Hirsch (known for “Bully”) chronicles the journey of students from ninth grade to graduation at this innovative public high school in Memphis. Here, students engage in projects such as sustaining life on Mars and conducting interviews with refugees, blending elements of history and English into an interdisciplinary endeavor.

Community collaborations represent one of the six research-supported principles developed by XQ to enhance high school education by creating compelling and rigorous learning opportunities. These design principles, akin to the [project name], were initially formulated for educators and communities involved in establishing or revamping educational institutions. However, they also serve as valuable resources for parents and students seeking insights into the efficacy of their local high school in catering to student needs. Below are key inquiries to consider during a school visit.

  1. Are there consistent high standards and equitable opportunities for all students, irrespective of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or special requirements? Do the enrollment patterns in Advanced Placement (AP) and honors classes reflect the diversity of the community?

These indicators signify the presence of a cohesive school culture, characterized by shared values and principles that instill a sense of collective purpose and a fundamental belief in each student’s capacity to achieve greatness. [School name] in Tennessee, for instance, prioritizes fostering students’ sense of belonging within the community, as evidenced by a sociology class that has evolved into a podcast series. Additionally, assessing the availability of dual enrollment programs for postsecondary courses can be beneficial for all students.

  1. Does the school implement an interdisciplinary curriculum that integrates subjects like mathematics, science, English, and elective courses? Are students and educators encouraged to delve deeply into topics through project-based learning?

These practices exemplify the utilization of research findings that highlight how students learn through a combination of various elements such as curriculum, relationships, challenges, and support. By offering more dynamic learning methods, schools can enhance the educational experience. For instance, students at Purdue Polytechnic High School in Indiana constructed a hydroponic system as part of a science project, engaging in extensive research to design a sustainable and cost-effective method for cultivating produce.

  1. Does the school ensure that every student has at least one mentor who can provide academic and emotional support? Is there a structured system in place to facilitate student-mentor interactions, fostering a sense of safety, value, and recognition?

These practices align with the concept of student-centered learning, where students are empowered to make choices regarding projects, subjects, and presentation formats. Schools that emphasize building meaningful connections with students, both within and beyond the school environment, establish a foundation of trust that positively impacts academic performance. For instance, at [school name] in Oakland, California, co-founder Christian Martinez emphasizes creating an environment where students feel empowered to navigate their academic journey with personalized guidance and support, particularly during the college application process.

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