Compass High School, An Innovative Option for Students Who Learn Differently


This post is in partnership with Compass High School.

two students at compass high school

I recently had the chance to visit Compass High School, an 8th–12th grade private college preparatory school for students with learning differences. As a former educator and school site administrator myself, I am always excited to visit schools, especially when they are like Compass, innovative in their approach to student education and willing to think outside the box.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to find the best educational fit for our children, and if your child has learning differences, Compass High School in San Mateo is definitely a school to consider. The students are bright, kind, curious, and ready for their futures. Here’s what I learned on my tour. 


Compass High School is dedicated to working with children with learning differences; providing a challenging yet supportive academic program that prepares talented teens for college while addressing underlying learning challenges in academic achievement, executive function, and social development.  


Compass High School is a young, burgeoning school that currently serves 40 students and boasts class sizes of 5–8 students per class. Within this college preparatory program, you’ll find all the traditional high school academic curriculum (math, science, history, and English) paired with electives in art, music, drama, and movement. You will also find a focus on meeting students where they are academically, a passion for differentiation, and a staff dedicated to helping students understand their learning differences and navigate the best ways to access the curriculum.

After School & Summer Program

Part of the experience at Compass High School is to also provide an after-school homework center, various clubs and organizations, as well as participation in the Bay Area Small Schools Athletics League. Two weeks of the school year (typically in the spring) is set aside for Intersession— a time the school focuses on experiential learning as well as a time for students to get out of their comfort zone and into the community. Previous trips included Yellowstone and Boston, each destination complimenting what students were learning in the classroom.

They also offer a Three-Week Summer Program that provides in-depth skill development. The 2019 Three Week Summer Program will concentrate on Writing for High School and Beyond. Learn more here.


The teachers and staff at Compass High School know that success looks different for each of their students. Students are placed in classes based on their abilities and you will find the instruction customized and differentiated using technology and evidence-based curricula.

The staff includes a college advisor who can recommend colleges to students based on their continued need for support in higher education as well as a psychotherapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, and learning specialist. They, along with the other support staff, are all there to help students reach their full potential.


An important part of the Compass High School experience is for students to learn to advocate for themselves. With support from staff and faculty, students learn what accommodations and assistive technologies best meet their needs, and they learn to advocate for those needs— a lifelong skill these students will need when moving on to post-secondary education.

To Learn More

Not all children learn the same, and it is important to have options when it comes to your child’s education. To learn more about Compass High School or to see if it is a fit for your child, go to, schedule a tour or read more about the admissions process.

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Tracy is the Director of Programming and Partnerships for Darkness to Light, a child sexual abuse prevention organization. She grew up in northeast Ohio, and has lived in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Northern Virginia and has worked in the arts, in education, in non-profits and in ed tech. Her husband's job brought them to the Bay Area and there's no looking back! Tracy is mom to two trans teens who are just beginning their journey. Self-care includes pedicures, reading, cooking, crafting, and just being with her family. She also serves as Chair of the Board for the Attachment and Trauma Network, a national non-profit.


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