Gary Jacobs on High Tech High
"The American high school is arguably the least changed public institution in American society," says Larry Rosenstock, principal and CEO of the Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High school in San Diego. Addressing this problem in a way that would meet the needs of today's students and prepare them for the 21st century economy was the motivation of the coalition of educators and technology industry leaders who founded High Tech High.
High Tech High is a public charter school that is open to any student who is a California resident and has graduated from 8th grade. It receives far more applications than it has open slots and accepts students by lottery. The admissions process has helped ensure a diverse student body of 463 that is 57% minority and 43% white.
Despite its name, High Tech High is not strictly a technology school. It offers a full range of courses and provides students with a well-rounded education, while offering all students the opportunity to integrate technology into other academic pursuits.
The school's design is based on the principles of the New Urban High School Project, a 1996 study that called for school reform based on personalization, connection to the adult world and common intellectual mission.
HTH fosters a personal connection between students and the school. The process starts by assigning each new student a staff advisor who meets the student and visits the family. Faculty and staff advisors are responsible for knowing their students well enough to be able to encourage each student to develop his or her personal strengths and interests.
The adult world connection is reflected in school projects and culminates with 11th and 12th grade internships with HTH's network of business partners. The internships are tailored to students individual interests, but are focused on real-world problems and developing solutions that contribute to the mission of the company.
To develop a shared intellectual mission, HTH's curriculum features project-based learning, student presentations and relies heavily on team work - among students and faculty. The school does have letter grades and standardized testing, but also does performance-based assessments of group projects and presentations.
Though its first class entered in 2000, HTH's success has already proven the value of its model. Student performance on California's standardized tests ranks HTH in the 94th percentile statewide. When grouped by ethnic and economic makeup of the student body, HTH ranks 2nd among the 100 most similar schools for both Latino and disadvantaged student test scores. Another remarkable achievement of High Tech High is the 100% college acceptance rate for its first two graduating classes.
With its unique design and early successes, High Tech High has earned widespread praise and support in the academic and business communities. It is the first charter school to receive permission from the state of California to operate its own teacher credentialing program.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $10.2 million to support the creation of 14 new High Tech Highs. HTH has already opened a second San Diego high school and its first middle school and currently serves 1040 students at its three schools, will launch five more schools in the fall of 2005, and plans to open between 3 and 5 more schools annually.