LearnBoost welcomes High Tech High North County
Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High Charter School, often referred to as High Tech High (HTH), is a public charter high school in San Diego, California. It is the first model school in a program which attempts to change the way most students in the United States and other countries with similar schools are taught.
Beginning in 1998, forty public and corporate partners, led by current board chair Gary Jacobs, began meeting to discuss the current state of education in San Diego. Faced with a shortage of workers for the locally strong high tech and biotech industries, the group wondered why the local school system wasn't better able to produce more qualified workers. Having given money to the school district in the past and questioning the return on that investment, these local entrepreneurs decided to open a new high school and christened it High Tech High.
Soon thereafter, long time educator Larry Rosenstock was asked to present to this group about different possible governance structures for the school. He then became the founding principal of the school. Rosenstock is now the C.E.O. of the network of schools.
The school was founded in September 2000 with 200 students and currently educates 527 students.
It has evolved into a school development organization with a growing portfolio of innovative charter schools spanning grades K-12. High Tech High combats the twin problems of student disengagement and low academic achievement by creating personalized, project-based learning environments where all students are known well and challenged to meet high expectations. High Tech High schools attempt to show how education can be redesigned to ensure that all students graduate well prepared for college, work, and citizenship.
High Tech High occupies a building on the former Navy Training Center in the Point Loma area, which is now known as Liberty Station. The school has an emphasis on project-based learning (most learning comes from multi-subject projects, rather than the more traditional approach, where teachers talk and students listen), real-world connection, personalization, and having a common intellectual mission (no ability grouping).
High Tech High has also branched off five other high schools (High Tech High International, High Tech High Media Arts, High Tech High North County, and High Tech High Chula Vista) two middle schools (High Tech Middle and High Tech Middle Media Arts) and Explorer elementary school. Together, they are called the "High Tech High Village". Most students simply call it "The Village". The High Tech Village schools located in Liberty Station are all within close distances of each other; merely a few minutes walk away. The latest additions to the chain of schools are the located in Chula Vista and San Marcos. There is also talk that a school might be added to Mission Valley as well.
Part of the Liberty Station retail district is located next to the High Tech Village. All High School students are allowed access to the stores during lunch. The residents of Liberty Station also go to the stores on a regular basis for groceries and meals.
At the High Tech High schools, the method of teaching is very different to that of other public school in the United States. It is based on “project-based learning”, which means that students are given a project which involves working independently or in groups and doing research to complete it. Some classes have projects where grades from different subjects will be all part of the same project.
All students complete internships in the junior year. These internships are currently a 3 week immersion experience working full-time at various places such as website companies, biotech firms, non profits, and other schools. In the past they have existed under different models, most recently where the students worked at their internship for two half-days each week for the duration of one semester. High Tech High is currently open to offers for internship positions from businesses, non-profits, and other firms operating in the San Diego area.
Surprising to many, technology is not a major focus of the school. Each classroom does have a number of laptops students can check out and there are projectors in the classrooms and commons areas where students can present their projects. Several news reports have commented that the environment is more like a high tech workplace than a traditional school. However, the intent of the school is to offer a liberal arts education, preparing students equally well in math, science, humanities, and the arts. The technology is primarily a tool to facilitate the learning of these disciplines in a way that is representative of how the content might be utilized in real world applications.
The schools are primarily publicly funded. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed a one time gift of $1000 per student when the school opened and has pledged millions of dollars to build more schools following the model over the next four years. Some are already in operation. Financial support to develop the original HTH also came from Gary Jacobs, son of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs. Gary also donated almost 9 million dollars in building space for 3 of the schools in the village. The school operates on less money per pupil than San Diego Unified. The cost of the land, building, and tenant improvements for the school is less than the construction costs incurred by the district to serve similar numbers of students.
The school is home to one of twenty-two *FIRST Robotics Competition teams in San Diego County. The school's team, named The Holy Cows is a nationally recognized team. In 2009 The Holy Cows won the highest regional award a team can win, the Regional Chairmans Award. Two of the team's mentors have won Woodie Flowers Finalist Awards, the highest personal recognition in FIRST. In their five year history 90% of the team's alumni have gone on to pursue STEM degrees at such schools as Olin, UC Berkely, Harvey Mudd and Rochester Institute of Technology.
Despite not being officially affiliated or financed by the HTH system, the High Tech High Ultimate Frisbee team has become a regional powerhouse. During the 2008-09 season, the team was undefeated and went on to win the Aztec Bowl, the Southern California Regional Tournament, and the Slopfest Tournament held in Northern California. However, many of the team's most experienced players graduated in 2009, and the 2009-10 team is working hard to replace them.
Although the school has minimal funding for athletics, a water polo team was started in 2009. High Tech High water polo is not yet part of the CIF league, but will be in 2010.
The men's soccer is one of High Tech High's most decorated sports, competing in the Frontier League and wining this league in 2008, 2009, 2010 and making appearances in CIF playoffs all three years. They have yet to make it past the first round.
High Tech High regularly receives many times more applications than there are openings, as the student body is limited to 400 students. The school is kept small by design, avoiding the problems created by the impersonal nature of larger high schools. Interested students must submit a one page application and must attend an admissions meeting to learn about the school. All applicants are then placed in a random lottery. The lottery is set up to allow an equal number of girls and boys in to the system as well as divided in to separate pools by zip code areas in order to obtain a sampling of students from all over the district.
The program is unique enough that it had over 600 visitors, including U.S. state Governors Gray Davis (CA), Tom Ridge (PA), Bill Owens (CO), and Senator Joe Lieberman, in its first year alone. Other visitors include Peter Yarrow, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Eli Broad, Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez, and Bill Richardson. On February 15, 2006, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey made an appearance on their education tour.
The central High Tech High Learning organization (with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) has since opened several middle schools and high schools using the original HTH model: