If you think public education in America has lost its edge, think again. All across the nation, schools are finding ways to engage students, families, and communities inside the classroom by thinking outside the box. Scholastic Parent & Child magazine is proud to celebrate the 25 schools you’ll discover here as inspiring models for all.
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About The Coolest Schools in America

It seems much of the national conversation about public schools focuses on the negative these days. With back-to-school time upon us, the editors of Scholastic Parent & Child magazine felt it was high time to call attention to the positive and change the conversation.

In conjunction with our August/September issue cover story, “The Coolest Schools in America” highlights 25 schools that have brought together educators, community leaders, and families and students to drive innovative approaches to making school more relevant, challenging, and motivating. You’ll find models of student and parent engagement, community involvement, health & wellness, 21st-century skills, the green movement, and much, much more — from classes held in an actual zoo to students growing their own food or investing a $20,000 grant in the stock market. Of course no single list can include all the “cool” schools in the land, but we believe our choices will inspire others to think outside the box.

For comments and inquiries, email PCanswers@scholastic.com.

How We Made Our Selections

Choosing 25 out of nearly 100,000 public schools in the United States was a feat. We began by combing through awards lists and reading hundreds of news articles. We reached out to our contacts in the field and spoke to authors, educators, and administrators. Our research revealed a wealth of activity — teachers and parents all over are working hard to change the playing field for every student in their care. The result? A broad variety of schools from different states, focusing on topics of critical importance to today’s students and families. Here’s what the schools have in common:

  • Each is a public school (see “School Types” below).
  • Each serves children between the ages of 4 and 12.
  • Each addresses topics above and beyond test scores, such as health care, global language, and 21st-century skills.
  • Each is tackling their topic in truly innovative and unique ways.
  • Each has proven with quantitative and qualitative measures that its programs improve student engagement, community impact, and holistic development and achievement.
  • Each will inspire you to bring the Cool School movement to your own hometown!

School Types

Traditional Public School

— a school that employs conventional methods of instruction and is available to all students in the neighborhood or zone

Public MAGNET School

— a school built around a subject focus or theme (such as journalism or engineering), which students choose to attend, often with competitive entry by application

Public Charter School

— a school that is exempt from select state regulations and therefore can employ unconventional instruction models; students choose to attend, and entry is done by application

Theme School

— a public school intentionally built or structured around a particular theme (such as environmentalism); may also be a magnet school

Who We Are

Scholastic Parent & Child magazine helps parents raise smarter, happier families. With a focus on learning as the core of family life, we cover child development; imaginative play; smart family travel; nutrition; and a healthy, active lifestyle. We help young, growing families succeed within the school experience and in life.

On the “thank you” front, a standing O goes to Senior Editor Anna W. Bardaus of Scholastic’s Classroom and Community Group for spearheading and coordinating the research of this project. (You can get some sleep now, Anna.) Thanks also goes to Scholastic Parent & Child digital editors Megan Hess and Tom Booth for working so tirelessly to assemble the accompanying media, and to Art Director Carolyn Veith Krienke and Associate Art Director Jennie Utschig for their designs and diligence. Finally, a note of gratitude to Dom & Tom, our mighty, mighty microsite developer. They are a joy to work with and always show up with good coffee.

—Nick Friedman, Editor in Chief