George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why We Chose YES Prep

A checklist of essential qualities for Edutopia's Schools That Work series.
Edutopia Team
Related Tags: 9-12 High School
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Our Schools That Work series explores what goes on at some of the most innovative, successful schools around the country. These range from schools with long-standing records of high performance to turnaround schools now on the road to substantially higher achievement. We visit each school to take a close-up look at its best practices and the specific challenges it faces, then we assemble a package of stories and hands-on tools that you can use to replicate some of the school's successes.

Even before we choose a school, we give it a hard look to make sure it delivers the kind of creative, effective, replicable practices that Edutopia can stand behind. Here's a quick look at the standards and the strengths we saw at YES Prep North Central.


  • Cohesive school culture with high expectations
  • Focus on 21st-century skills and themes
  • High student achievement and engagement
  • High or improving scores on standard measures
  • Use of authentic assessment with real-world application
  • Collaborative planning among teachers
  • Personalized instruction and regular use of assessment to shape teaching and learning
  • Close, trusting relationships between staff and students
  • Empowerment of teachers to help lead school improvement
  • Relevant, ongoing, job-embedded teacher training
  • Track record of sustained success for at least two years
  • Eagerness among staff to share best practices and help other schools replicate their success


  • Use of project learning and integrated studies
  • Availability and meaningful use of technology
  • Emphasis on inquiry and student-directed, rather than only teacher-directed, learning
  • Meaningful involvement of parents and community members

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John Ramirez's picture
John Ramirez
Girls Varsity Basketball Coach

After looking over the chart that measures YES Prep North Central's strengths and weaknesses, I have come to the conclusion that the Edutopia staff may want to re-consider the moderate scores they gave to North Central in reference to the use of project learning and intergrated studies, availability and meaningful use of technology, and emphasis on inquiry and student directed, rather than only teacher-directed learning. Our school is geared towards the needs of the students. I would say that our average student could possibly be at least a year behind in math and science coming into their first day at North Central. So, we have to spend time getting the students up to grade level. Also, since our school starts at the 6th grade level, we have to establish the YES Culture that permeates the school day. This means we have to break old habits that some of the students bring from 7 years of education (if you include pre-k to 5th grade)prior to their entry into our school. With that in mind, you must understand that we only have so much time in our school day, and our school day is very long. Project learning and intergrated studies may not be appropriate until the students prove they can handle interacting on such a regular basis. It takes maturity from the students to get up and walk around the class without becoming a distraction to other students. So, in this case, I think that less is more. As to the availability and meaningful use of technology, you can't always tell a book by its cover. Our students are very proficient in the use of technology that could get them employment if they chose to enter the job market today. The emphasis on only teacher directed learning is one of the keys to our success because the teachers are the role models for our students and the teachers are there to teach, the students are there to learn. I think that the use of constructivism at our school is adequate to meet the needs of our students. A lot of attention is paid to ensure the learning environment is consistently stable which allows the students to work within a comfort zone that is to their best interests.

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