A former student of mine, Cara Glew Hetrick, works as an integrated math and science teacher at High Tech High, a public charter school in San Diego, CA. Tonight on her Facebook page she posted the below video and a link to this web article, Is This the Best High School In America?. The school started in 2000 as a single high school dedicated to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics but has expanded in the past 10 years as a conglomerate of nine schools (five high schools, three middle schools, and one elementary school) that serve approximately 3500 students. The mission of the schools is "to develop and support innovative public schools where all students develop the academic, workplace, and citizenship skills for postsecondary success." Watch the below video: there's a lot going on here to successfully meet that mission.
I am struck by the comment at the beginning of the video by Mr. Riordan, the "Emperor of Rigor" of HTH. He states, "There are three axioms of public education in this country, particularly in high schools. They are that you separate students apart from another based upon their perceived academic ability, you separate hands from minds, and you separate school from the world beyond." HTH is all about the antithesis of this, where their curriculum is all about integration: integrating all of the students (regardless of ability level), integrating traditional college prep content with career and technical skills, and integrating student learning with real-life applications.
The premise of this school is amazing: give all students career and employability skills that they need to be successful in the 21st century workforce. In this short clip you can see the 21st century skills- problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration to name just a few- all successfully being delivered in the context of project-based learning. Most importantly, the students know their teachers, and know them well, so there is a strong sense of personalization in the school setting. Much of the school's success can be attributed not only to the curriculum but also the established relationships.
You could argue that HTH is a charter, and yes, the kids and their parents want to be there. The school has also been blessed with many corporate connections that have infused great technology into the school. However, I believe the success is all about the school's structures and commitment to 21st century skills through non-traditional curriculum and instruction. This school is committed to "meeting kids where they are" and is finding the best ways to teach them meaningful content and skills. This school has found one of the new paradigms that all public high schools must adopt if we are truly going to improve student learning.
When Cara posted the link to the above article, she commented how proud she was that High Tech High was the place she worked. She should be!!
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