Note: The information in this profile represents SY2010-11 unless otherwise indicated.

School/organization overview

Name High Tech High Schools
Type Charter Management Organization
Headquarters San Diego, California
First year of operation Before 2000
Grades served K-12
% FRL 34%
% Black or Hispanic 46%
Per-pupil funding $6,932

Blended-learning program

Name N/A
Focus General
Year launched
Outside investments/grants
Enrollment 4,128
Blended grades
Blended subjects
Math, Foreign Language
Content ALEKS, Rosetta Stone
SIS PowerSchool
Independent LMS None
Independent gradebook PowerSchool
Independent assessment Accelerated Reader
Professional development

Program model

Program model: Station Rotation

Model description
In math and foreign language classes, students split their time between online courses and either face-to-face instruction or project-based learning.

Program background

History and context
The vision for High Tech High began to coalesce from 1996 to 1998 when 40 civic and high-tech leaders met routinely to discuss solutions to the lack of individuals with high-tech training in the San Diego area. In late 1998 they decided to start a charter school and named Larry Rosenstock, then president of Price Charities and a past high school principal, as its founding principal.

Today High Tech High operates 11 charter schools in the San Diego and Chula Vista, Calif. area, including two elementary schools, four middle schools, and five high schools. It grounds its schools in a philosophy of personalization, adult-world connection, common intellectual mission, and teacher-as-designer. The school admits students using a zipcode based lottery, which results in a mix of socioeconomic backgrounds among its students.

High Tech High integrates technical and academic education to prepare students for college in both the high-tech and liberal arts fields. Its constructivist philosophy translates into an emphasis on group reflection, collaboration among learners, and the relationship between teacher and student in the learning process.

High Tech High also runs the High Tech High Graduate School of Education (GSE) to provide professional development and teacher credentialing embedded within its village of schools. SGE students learn and work alongside the K–12 teachers, administrators, and students.

Blended model
Because of its constructivist bent, school leaders have been cautious about embracing online learning. The school has long emphasized and prioritized synchronous learning, where students, the teacher, and the material interact together. “Online feels like a textbook screen,” Rosenstock said. “It’s mostly done independently, often asynchronously, and it doesn’t help students learn to work collaboratively.” High Tech High does use Elluminate Live! for some experiences, but most interactions are face-to-face.

School leaders have found, however, that blended learning meets its needs in specific and limited ways. Almost all students in grades 6 to 12 use the ALEKS program, an artificially intelligent assessment and learning system, to supplement mathematics instruction. The teachers using ALEKS divide their classrooms into two groups and provide face-to-face instruction for half the group while the other half works on ALEKS. The two classrooms with the highest gains in math scores in 2009 to 2010 both participated in this blended program.

School leaders decided to use ALEKS because their students’ math scores on the state test were not as exceptional as they wanted. They thought the computer software could help students “drill and kill” math problems. Ben Daley, chief operations officer at High Tech High, reported that the ALEKS program has been very popular with both kids and teachers so far.

High Tech High also has begun to use Rosetta Stone to teach foreign languages. They say that research shows students learn more in a year with Rosetta Stone than with even the best face-to-face foreign language teachers. “Rosetta Stone has spent millions in research and development, and it has a very clever way of interacting with its users,” Rosenstock said.

Rosenstock and Daley are especially reluctant to use online programs for writing instruction. “Programs like WriteToLearn may help students learn things like punctuation,” said Rosenstock, “but how does it help kids learn how to really write?”

Notable results
As of 2010, 100 percent of High Tech High graduates were accepted to college, and over 99 percent intended to begin college in the fall after graduation. Over 93 percent of High Tech High students passed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSSE) on their first attempt compared to 80 percent of students statewide.

On the horizon
School leaders are open-minded about using technology in the future, provided that it helps them better serve their students. For example, Rosenstock and Daley are interested in a web conferencing program that could allow a 25-student classroom to interact more compellingly, so that students can see each other and feel connected to each other, even when working in a virtual environment. They also envision a platform like for education, which would serve as a central dispatching place to share and select assets for online classes.


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    Christensen Institute