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These 12 Awesome Schools Could Change The Way You Think About Public Education

While public high schools have been called “penitentiaries of boredom” and are believed by some to be failing, there are plenty of public schools that have found innovative ways of delivering education.

Below we have compiled a list of 12 inventive and engaging schools that provide students with more than just a typical education. The list is a mix of charters, magnets and traditional public high schools. These are institutions that prove you don't need to shell out thousands of dollars for a private education.

Do you know an interesting public school that we left off the list? Let us know in the comments section.

Pathways in Technology Early College High School
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Pathways in Technology Early College High School, which opened in 2011, is not your average public high school in Brooklyn, New York. The vocational school is run in collaboration with IBM and goes to grade 14, allowing students to graduate with an associate degree.

Its interesting model hasn't gone unnoticed. In October 2013, President Obama spoke at the school. "You guys have opportunities here that you don't find in most high schools yet. ... You'll be in demand," he said.
Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School
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This public, specialized New York City school is for students gifted in music and the arts. Students enrolled in this school study "studio majors," including art studio, dance studio, drama and technical theatre studio and music studio.

The school gained notoriety in the 1980s as the inspiration for the movie "Fame." Notable alums include Jennifer Aniston, Al Pacino and Liza Minnelli.
Clintondale High School
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In 2010, Clintondale High School , became a "flipped classroom" school, meaning that homework is done during the day, and instruction takes place at night in the home via online videos. Though the school, which is located in a suburb of Detroit, previously ranked among the worst five percent of schools in Michigan, Principal Greg Green says standardized test scores have improved since the change.

We feel we’ve perhaps figured out the structure of the way schools should be set up,” Green told PBS in 2013. “And we’re trying to make it an ideal situation for both the learners and the teachers.”
Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences
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The Chicago High School For Agricultural Sciences is a public school set on the city's last farm, a 55-acre plot which students help maintain. In addition to core subjects like math and English, attendees also study subjects with an agricultural bent. Animal sciences, horticulture and agriculture technology are just some of the fields students can explore, according to The New York Times.

Principal William Hook told NPR in 2008 that he thinks the school prepares students for both college and the workplace. "You'll have students out sixth period in pre-calculus class, and then in seventh period they're out laying sod. I think that they learn just as much from doing either one of those things," he said.

There are several other schools that focus on agriscience around the country, including Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia and Norfolk County Agricultural High School in Walpole, Massachusetts.
The Alliance School
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This Milwaukee, Wisconsin, public school was started in 2005 with the idea of educating students in a safe, bully-free environment. According to a Milwaukee Public Television segment on the school, most of the school's students were bullied at their previous schools, and many of them identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"It's very rare that school is explicitly a gay-friendly school and that's always been part of our mission also because so many LGBT youth are bullied to the point of dropping out of school or committing suicide," said lead teacher Tina Owen in December 2013.
Vergennes Union High School
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Students at Vergennes Union High School in Vermont have the option of participating in The Walden Project. Based on Henry David Thoreau's sojourn to Walden Pond, the project gives students the opportunity to take outdoor classes while exploring their relationship to the outdoors, according to NPR.

High school student Hillary Devoss told NPR in 2008 that participating in The Walden Project made her more involved in her education. "I wasn't very engaged in my education. I kind of was failing all my classes. I really care a lot about my education now, which I didn't before," she said.
Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy
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Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy is a public school in Colorado where students have the opportunity of being full-time athletes. According to its website, "The goal of VSSA is to challenge its student-athletes with a rigorous academic curriculum while supporting a world-class training and competition schedule." In order to get accepted to the school, which is run in collaboration with the local Eagle County School District, students must have first been admitted to the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, a nonprofit that trains young skiers.

Per The New York Times, VSSA is the only public winter sports school in the U.S., and it counts Olympians and members of the U.S. Ski Team among its student body.

The picture above shows Lindsey Vonn, of the U.S. ski team, with Vail student Parker McDonald in 2011 after Vonn escorted McDonald to prom.
Minnesota New Country School
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At Minnesota New Country School in Henderson there is no bell and there are no hall passes. There aren't even teachers. Students of all ages learn in one room. They work with learning "advisers," who guide them through their assignments, reports NPR.

"Students are given responsibility and choice regarding what they learn at MNCS. Students set their own goals and accomplish their own tasks," says the school's website.

This unconventional education model seems to be working. In 2007, NPR wrote that the school boasted high test scores and that most of its graduates go on to college.
Another Course to College
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Another Course to College, a public school in Boston, is unique in that students must be accepted into college in order to graduate. They are not required to enroll in a college after graduation. According to the school's website, "It is the ACC staff’s responsibility to guide (or push) the students through the college application process."
MAST Academy

MAST Academy, a public school in Miami, specializes in marine sciences and allows students to focus on majors like oceanic and atmospheric sciences, maritime studies and culture or marine-related industries. It has been featured on Newsweek's "Best High Schools" list several times.
Florida Virtual School
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Florida Virtual School launched in 1997 as the nation's first public online high school. Today, it is the biggest online school in the country. It served more than 206,000 students during the 2012 - 2013 school year. While the school is funded by the Florida government, students all over the country can take one of the school's 120 courses.
FDNY High School for Fire and Life Safety

At the FDNY High School for Fire and Life Safety, founded in 2004 and located in Brooklyn, students learn core courses like math and science, but also study fire safety, CPR and first aid.

After seniors at the school pass the New York State Emergency Medical Services Certification Exam, they "may have the opportunity to roll into a full time position with the NYC Fire Department," according to the New York City Department of Education.

CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to note that the Florida Virtual School served 206,000 students during the 2012-2013 school year. An earlier version said it served 410,000 students.