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High Tech High and Networks of Ideas

Posted on | July 10, 2012 | Comments Off on High Tech High and Networks of Ideas

High Tech High and Author Reflected

Today I published a long-in-the-works case study of High Tech High, the collection of schools in San Diego County that follow the same design and operating principles.

Each of the 11 HTH schools is small, a maximum of 125 students per grade, and personalized.  Each of the schools follows a project-based curriculum that requires students to make connections to the adult world, through projects and internships that are critical in helping students set their sights higher and aim toward college.  Each of the schools follows what the school calls a “common intellectual mission” integrating head and hand.  There are no classes labeled “gifted,” and whenever possible special education students are fully integrated into regular classes and projects.

Finally, the schools work around the principle that it is the teacher who designs the curriculum.  There are no packaged programs of instruction, and the schools have not outsourced the intellectual core of teaching and learning.  Adult conversations and collaboration are prized and built into the schools’ daily schedules.

Like all visitors, I was charmed by the schools: Students having fun while fully engaged in projects.  Scores of books written and published.  Interesting multimedia projects.  Enthusiastic teachers who are articulate about their craft and art.

But it was a public policy puzzle that drew me to HTH.  How does a group of attractive charter schools replicate success?  HTH decided that, unlike KIPP, it would not franchise, nor would it grow to a divisional corporate form.  (HTH has a statewide charter allowing it to start up to 48 schools, but it does not plan to expand much, preferring a very slow process in which new schools are founded by veteran leadership from older ones so that the culture of the schools moves with the people.)  HTH can’t be packaged and sold as a program of instruction the way publishers do.  So, how do others take away the lessons of HTH and weave them at home?

Thus far the answer seems to be a loose network of teachers and administrators who are willing to spend the time understanding HTH in some depth.  HTH runs its own graduate school, and one of its activities is the Leading Schools program where educators from around the world come together understand the existing HTH model and how to adapt it.

In many ways, it’s idea leadership at its best.


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Charles Taylor Kerchner is an Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. My daily musings appear in the blog. The archives of my EdWeek blog are available via link under the 'On California' head. Some of my photography can be seen by clicking on 'Gallery.' And numerous links to academic work and other research and commentary can be found by clicking on 'Projects.'


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