SDSU

2024 America's Best Schools
Award Winners

A.X. Benavides Elementary School

A.X. Benavides Elementary School

At Benavides Elementary, celebration isn’t just reserved for big victories—it’s woven into the fabric of their school culture, embracing every milestone the incredible students, teachers, and staff achieve. Daily updates showcase the vibrant tapestry of each classroom, the energy of extracurricular pursuits, and most importantly, the individual recognitions and accomplishments that make each student’s journey unique. This interconnected approach ensures every success, big or small, is embraced, celebrated, and cherished within their tight-knit community.

Benavides Elementary School prioritizes the comprehensive development of every student by aligning their teaching methodologies with the district’s curricula and state standards. To achieve this, the school employs a multifaceted approach that integrates various instructional methods, such as fluency trackers, all-inclusive tutorials, and after-school homework assistance. Each classroom is designed to support varied learning styles. Regular PLC meetings with grade levels ensure that lessons are not just educational but also fun, challenging, and innovative.

Brownsville Independent School District

Brownsville. TX
Grades PK-5
Principal: Anabela Almanza

ENROLLMENT: 868

Latino/ Hispanic
98%
Other
2%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
83%
Students With Disabilities
8%
English Language Learners
28%

Charles Stillman Middle School

Charles Stillman Middle School

Stillman Middle School ensures all students have access to a rigorous curriculum in every subject. Several of their 8th-grade students conclude their middle school years with high school credit by passing their End-of-Course (EOC) Biology and English 1 high school state exams at an impressive 100% rate. 

At Stillman MS, teachers are observed on a rotating basis by administrators through walkthroughs and formal observations, receiving feedback to improve lessons, student engagement, and differentiation. The instructional coach meets with each grade level to ensure that lessons are tiered and differentiated to meet the needs of below-grade-level, above-grade-level, special needs, and English learners in each subject area.

The administrative team, counselors, and instructional coach collaborate to help 6th-grade students acclimate to the middle school schedule, transitioning to several teachers and classrooms. As students progress to grades 7 and 8, teachers continue to challenge them with engaging, student-centered lessons that effectively increase literacy across the curricula and enhance numeracy by incorporating math skills in science and elective courses.

Brownsville Independent School District

Brownsville. TX
Grades 6-8
Principal: Sandra K. Cortez

ENROLLMENT: 1047

Asian
1%
Latino/ Hispanic
98%
White
1%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
68%
Students With Disabilities
14%
English Language Learners
26%

Dr. Albert Schweitzer
Leadership Academy

Dr. Albert Schweitzer Leadership Academy

Dr. Albert Schweitzer Leadership Academy is a Leader in Me school, a program that encompasses three key facets: culture, academics, and leadership. The overarching school-wide objective is to enhance writing abilities, a goal achieved through targeted instruction and specific feedback. Celebrations of achievement are a regular occurrence, with a steadfast focus on growth. To promote continuous improvement, Schweitzer conducts an annual survey encompassing students, parents, teachers, and staff. The survey includes questions strategically designed to ensure that everyone feels valued, respected, and included in the school to the fullest extent possible.

At Dr. Albert Schweitzer Leadership Academy, the core instructional program is provided to all students at the Tier I level with fidelity. All teachers utilize effective strategies and tools, such as Thinking Maps, to make instruction accessible to all students. Thinking Maps are a set of eight visual patterns that correlate to specific cognitive processes. Staff provide engaging lessons, direct teaching, and feedback through checking for understanding strategies. The Instructional Practices Coach provides regular training and professional development to all staff and models lessons for teachers during District Thursday professional learning days.

Magnolia School District

Anaheim, CA
Grades TK-6
Principal: Marcy Chant

ENROLLMENT: 524

Asian
8%
Black/ African American
3%
Filipino
4%
Latino/ Hispanic
75%
Multi-Racial
1%
Pacific Islander
1%
White
5%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
77%
Students With Disabilities
17%
English Language Learners
43%

Dr. Americo Paredes Elementary School

Dr. Americo Paredes Elementary School

Staff at Paredes Elementary are committed to ensuring equitable access to rigorous and challenging curricula for all students, regardless of their academic level or individual needs. Teachers use differentiated instruction techniques to tailor their teaching methods to accommodate various learning styles and abilities within the same classroom. The school provides an Extended Day Program after school for two hours daily. Students can participate in reading activities, computers (Chess, Sports, iStation, Think Through Math, and SumDog), physical activity, and homework help. Paredes Elementary has a nationally recognized Chess program in which students (PreK – 5th) participate with distinction at the local, regional, state, and national levels.

Paredes Elementary School prioritizes creating a positive and inclusive learning environment where every student feels welcome and supported. Students are greeted every morning as they come into the school. Every classroom provides a safe welcoming, print-rich environment. It is evident that both adults and students care about each other. The students enjoy coming to school, as evidenced by their attendance rate of 98%, the highest in the district. The school prioritizes a student-centered approach, incorporating feedback, innovative teaching methods, and professional development for educators. Teachers co-plan and develop collaborative lesson plans, sharing ideas and best practices.

Brownsville Independent School District

Brownsville. TX
Grades PK-5
Principal: Felipe Barrera

ENROLLMENT: 776

Asian
1%
Latino/ Hispanic
96%
White
2%
Other
1%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
83%
Students With Disabilities
8%
English Language Learners
34%

Horace Mann Elementary School

Horace Mann Elementary School

Horace Mann Elementary is a powerful example of a school community of learners and leaders that ensures every student succeeds. The school employs two key strategies to help students develop their potential: a) instilling a growth mindset and explicitly teaching social-emotional skills, and b) empowering students to take charge of their learning as leaders. Horace Mann has a strong instructional focus on strengthening students’ reading comprehension. For the last 20 years, they have steadily improved student achievement by concentrating resources and dedicating their best efforts to improving the quality of teaching. They built collective expertise as a whole school, avoiding distractions from countless initiatives.

Adding to the strength of Horace Mann’s professional learning communities is the site-based staff development provided during collaboration meetings to enhance reading comprehension instruction. They plan training that specifically addresses instructional needs identified by the principal and leadership team during classroom walkthroughs and address specific student needs identified from assessments of student learning. Their best practices include a focus on using high-quality lesson design to teach standards and several reading comprehension strategies, such as reciprocal teaching and Question-Answer Relationship (QAR).

Glendale Unified School District

Glendale, CA
Grades TK-5
Principal: Rosa Alonso

ENROLLMENT: 665

Asian
2%
Black/ African American
1%
Latino/ Hispanic
29%
White
63%
Filipino
4%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
76%
Students With Disabilities
15%
English Language Learners
42%

Montebello Gardens
Elementary School

Montebello Gardens Elementary School

Montebello Gardens Elementary promotes having BEAR P.R.I.D.E., which stands for being Prepared, Respectful, In Control, Determined, and Exhibiting Safety. This model program uses a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), defined as a data-driven, problem-solving framework to improve outcomes for all students. Montebello instills a rigorous curriculum that challenges students to think critically, problem-solve, and engage deeply with the material they are learning. The practice of student-accountable talk and academic vocabulary is exemplary at Montebello.

Teacher collaboration is well-defined and focused, with teachers serving as true instructional leaders. To ensure that all students have access to a rigorous curriculum, Montebello Gardens Elementary employs several strategies:

  • Differentiated Instruction: Teachers differentiate instruction to meet the diverse learning needs of students. 
  • Support for Struggling Learners/English Learners: Additional support and interventions are offered for students needing extra help to access and succeed in rigorous coursework. 
  • Professional Development for Teachers: Ongoing professional development is provided to educators to enhance their ability to design and deliver challenging and engaging instruction.
  • Engaging Curriculum: The curriculum is relevant, engaging, and aligned with academic standards, offering opportunities for interdisciplinary learning and real-world application.

Montebello Unified School District

Pico Rivera, CA
Grades TK-5
Principal: Jose Avila

ENROLLMENT: 275

Pacific Islander
1%
Latino/ Hispanic
97%
White
1%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
81%
Students With Disabilities
16%
English Language Learners
21%

Ortiz Elementary School

Ortiz Elementary School

Ortiz Elementary School believes that for students to be successful, parents, students, teachers, administrators, and staff must be in sync with daily habits and supports to ensure students feel appreciated and cared for. The CARE group, consisting of parents, students, and teachers, shares the school’s values, love for one another, and dedication to helping students excel. 

Ortiz Elementary creates a safe and welcoming environment where students master challenging content. Teachers always strive for excellence, ensuring all students receive the education needed to become successful leaders of the future. Teachers are dedicated curriculum writers for the district and implement these curricula in their classrooms. Ortiz Elementary School adheres to and supplements the district’s curricula and state standards to ensure that all students along the learning spectrum, including special populations, are taught rigorous and relevant lessons.

Brownsville Independent School District

Brownsville. TX
Grades EC-5
Principal: Julie Pena

ENROLLMENT: 533

Latino/ Hispanic
99%
Other
1%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
93%
Students With Disabilities
10%
English Language Learners
31%

P.S. 31 Samuel F. Dupont

P.S. 31 Samuel F. Dupont

When entering P.S. 31 each morning, students are greeted with smiles and welcomed by name. P.S. 31 understands that to be truly successful, students, staff, and families must be equal partners in education. P.S. 31 encourages this dynamic by ensuring every member of the community has a voice and feels safe to show up as their authentic self every day.

One way this is achieved is by adopting restorative practices as a foundation of P.S. 31. Each classroom collaboratively creates its own “Community Agreements” on the first day of school to set the tone that every student belongs and has a voice. Students conduct monthly group circles with teachers to build community, discuss equity, attendance, culturally responsive teaching, discipline, and share ideas. Through restorative practices, P.S. 31 prioritizes not only rigorous instruction but also social-emotional learning, equity, and community building.

In the classroom, students are placed in flexible, tiered, differentiated groups while engaged in core subject areas, ensuring every child is met where they are with the promise of academic growth. Teachers often use the reciprocal teaching method, where students guide one another through a lesson. In math, students work together to collaboratively break down and solve word problems. The creation of exemplars and a focus on examples of mastery are evident in every classroom. Students embrace their learning goals and can clearly articulate what they should be learning.

District 14

Brooklyn, NY
Grades PK-5
Principal: Mary Scarlato

ENROLLMENT: 525

Asian
7%
Black/ African American
7%
Latino/ Hispanic
37%
Multi-Racial
4%
White
45%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
68%
Students With Disabilities
16%
English Language Learners
5%

Richard Gahr High School

Richard Gahr High School

At Gahr High School, an art pathway produced by students proclaims “We belong,” draped over the wall of the building. Inclusivity is also reflected in the curriculum. Using the Culturally Relevant Teaching ethos, teachers are refining their lessons to include more examples relevant to the Latino, Black, and Filipino populations that make up the majority of the students. With over 20 campus clubs, all students can pursue their passions and interests.

The combination of data analysis, collaboration, and high expectations for quality instruction has created systems that encourage teachers to hold professional conversations with each other and administrators to ensure the best possible lessons are delivered daily in each course. Regularly scheduled and structured opportunities to discuss instructional choices have fostered an environment where teachers openly and collegially share their instructional challenges and best practices while focusing on student success.

ABC Unified School District

Cerritos, CA
Grades 9-12
Principal: Jeffrey Hernandez

ENROLLMENT: 1623

Asian
13%
Black/ African American
13%
Filipino
10%
Latino/ Hispanic
53%
Multi-Racial
4%
White
6%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
58%
Students With Disabilities
12%
English Language Learners
9%

Veterans Memorial
Early College High School

Veterans Memorial Early College High School

At Veterans Memorial Early College High School, the staff believes that for students to be successful, everyone must be in sync with day-to-day routines and support to ensure students feel appreciated and cared for. The school’s numerous accomplishments span academics, fine arts, athletics, and Career and Technology Education (CTE). Veterans adhere to the district’s curricula and state standards to ensure that all students, including those along the learning spectrum and special populations, are taught rigorous and relevant lessons that promote increased academic achievement. The goal at the campus is to create student-centered, hands-on lessons that offer opportunities for students to engage in active learning, demonstrating more engagement than traditional teacher-led instruction. They achieve this through structures such as: 

  • small group interventions to help students learn and interact with each other while using content and academic vocabulary; 
  • one-on-one instruction to address the root cause of a particular student’s weak area(s); 
  • intentional grouping; 
  • after-school tutorials for immediate re-teach, practice, and enrichment of regular content courses to AP and Dual; 
  • peer tutoring of subject concepts and language acquisition; and 
  • implementing the use of research-based software programs.

Brownsville Independent School District

Brownsville. TX
Grades 9-10
Principal: Norma Jean Canales

ENROLLMENT: 2,172

Latino/ Hispanic
98%
White
1%
Other
1%
Students Meeting Low-income Criteria
67%
Students With Disabilities
10%
English Language Learners
18%
Concourse Village Elementary School
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