Academic themes/area of focus

Arts (all)

School integrates arts into its academic curriculum beyond dedicated art periods and significantly beyond what is required by state standards.


School integrates the art, history, language, geography, and culture of other countries and how they connect to students significantly beyond what is required by state standards.

Performing arts

School integrates performing arts — such as drama, music, and dance — into academic curriculum beyond dedicated art periods and significantly beyond what is required by state standards.

Service learning

School integrates community service with instruction, with the goal of enriching learning and reflection, teaching civic responsibility, encouraging civic engagement, and strengthening community.

Special education

More than 50 percent of students receive special education services, and the school’s core mission and culture is designed to serve students with special needs. Learn more about special needs programs and schools.

Social justice

School emphasizes the promotion of social justice across the curriculum, often with a focus on equality across race, class, ability, language, gender, and sexual orientation.

Instructional and/or curriculum models

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

High school offers Advanced Placement courses to more than 80 percent of it students, providing them with college-level courses and examinations (AP tests) in specific subjects, for the purpose of earning college credits. Learn more about Advanced Placement.

Classical (e.g., focuses on the “classics”)

School integrates classical texts in the Greek and Roman tradition throughout the curriculum, significantly beyond what is required by state standards.

Core Knowledge

School offers the Core Knowledge curriculum, providing a solid, sequential, and specific grade-by-grade core of common knowledge with the goal of developing cultural literacy, a more empathetic world view, and higher literacy in the early grades. Learn more About Core Knowledge.


School offers an alternative to a comprehensive high school, primarily for students who are considered at risk of not graduating at the normal pace.

Direct instruction

School offers an instructional approach that is teacher-directed and skills-oriented, following sequential steps such as demonstration, modeling, guided practice, and independent application.


School has a program that specifically prepares students for a General Educational Development (GED) test credential in lieu of a high school diploma. (School can also have a diploma track program.)

Hybrid/blended learning

School offers a mix of in-classroom learning with student-teacher interaction and personalized instruction through online learning. Learn more about hybrid/blended learning.

Individually guided instruction

School offers personalizes educational programming to meet the needs of individual students, often utilizing differentiated staffing and multi-age grouping of children.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

School offers an internationally certified International Baccalaureate option, and at least 80 per centof students in the program test in one or more subjects. Learn more about International Baccalaureate.


School uses a Montessori instructional approach to learning, a child-centered approach that encourages children to be independent and learn at their own pace. Learn more about Montessori schools.


School uses project-based learning curriculum, where students engage in long-term projects using technology and inquiry to relate concepts to their everyday lives. Students must organize their own time and work, and projects are used to assess students’ subject matter competence. Learn more about project-based learning.

Reggio Emilia

School uses the Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum, where classroom projects reflect the interests and curiosity of students

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

School integrates curriculum that focuses on one or more of the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math),) significantly beyond what is required by state standards. Learn more about STEM schools.


Teachers share responsibility for a wide range of decision-making at the school, including curriculum, school culture, discipline, and staff evaluation.


School offers a therapeutic educational program with specialized structure and supervision for students who have emotional and behavioral problems, substance abuse problems, or learning difficulties.

Virtual school

School offers an online-only learning program. (If your school offers a mix of online and in-classroom instruction, please mark “Hybrid / Blended learning” and not “Virtual school”.) Learn more about virtual schools.


School uses a Waldorf approach to learning, which focuses on predictable routine and emphasizes creative learning. (A Waldorf school should be affiliated with a local Waldorf organization.) Learn more about Waldorf schools.

Bilingual/language immersion programs

Bilingual/language immersion

School teaches core academic content in a language other than English to all students in the program. Learn more about language-based schools.


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