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Education

School's Out Forever at SV High Tech High 190

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the money-can't-fix-everything dept.
theodp writes "Touted as a model of successful education by the likes of Bill Gates, Silicon Valley's High Tech High just held its first — and last — commencement ceremony, graduating only 21 students in its brief history. Despite the financial support of the world's richest man, the charter school cited money woes as it voted to shut its doors. Adding insult to the poor HTH kids' injury, the local public H.S. district plunked down $8.6M to snatch up their abandoned school and will turn it over to a brand new crop of kids in the fall."
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School's Out Forever at SV High Tech High

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  • alive and well (Score:5, Informative)

    by cbnewman (106449) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @09:48AM (#19627871)
    High Tech High [hightechhigh.org] is alive and well in San Diego County. They're now up to 6 campuses, I believe with one elementary middle school, one middle school, three high schools in south county and a new middle school and high school opening in North county this fall.

    Their robotics team [techhigh.org] is very well respected and consistently performs well at national competitions. Their college placement rates are substantially higher than other local high schools. The failure of the SV HTH actually had more to do with administrative and personnel issues that were unique to the San Francisco campus. HTH continues to thrive and grow in California.
  • Re:Not surprising (Score:2, Informative)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:58AM (#19628195) Journal

    There is no easy way to apply corrections to pen and paper.
    Are you serious?
    You could:
    A) cross out your mistake
    B) use white out
    C) write with erasable pens [howstuffworks.com]
  • Re:alive and well (Score:3, Informative)

    by funnyman06 (1119527) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @12:11PM (#19628613)
    I would like to correct you, the High Tech High san diego roboitcs team is 1538 not 675. The link is http://www.team1538.com/engine.php?page=home&style =cow-metallic [team1538.com]. This is a school where students that stand out have the ability to get accepted to schools like Fredric Olin School of Engineering, Berkely, Cal Poly SLO, UCLA, Stanford, etc. So the school is doing very well and is alive. Id like to add that these High Tech High's are in no way related to High Tech High LA, completely different. I graduated from High Tech High.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2007 @12:39PM (#19628779)
    I was briefly involved in getting this school started (I was at the periphery, but we qualified for "founding family" status). Starting a school is a difficult proposition, and the forces aligned against starting a charter school are daunting. The local school district typically doesn't want it because it will siphon money from their direct control. The teachers' union doesn't want it because the teachers in the new school probably won't be unionized, and if the school succeeds there will be less need for teachers at the unionized schools. Staff need to be hired, staff willing to put in the long hours and take the risk of this startup (with no chance of a big payoff in the event of an IPO.) (I came in one evening and helped the director mop floors in preparation for an open house - staff need to be willing to do anything). Most parents don't want to take the risk of sending their children to a new, unproven school. Space for the new school is very difficult to find, especially since there isn't much money available for space and the school will be on a vigorous four-year growth plan, adding a new class of students every year. (I think this school had three different locations in its short lifetime, but I lost track). The standard state funding for students won't cover startup costs, so someone has to apply for and win grants.

    On a side note, I've also learned that it doesn't make a difference if a school uses computers based on Windows, Linux, or Macs. They all break. (The other charter school I work with uses Apple notebooks exclusively, and we rely on several volunteers to keep them in repair.)

    If you have a Charter School near you, ask if they need help. They probably do, and readers of SlashDot can make a difference in education by providing some behind-the-scenes support to keep those computers going.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2007 @02:21PM (#19629391)
    In response.

    HTH in SV was a charter school. Not a regular public school. Oh wait, it failed. I guess that was the regular system's fault.

    Property taxes are higher in rich neighbourhoods, so more money can go into the local schools there. Poor neighbourhoods have lower property taxes, so less money can go into the local school. Which is a better situation for education, more money or less?

    Teachers get paid too much? You're delusional. An professional engineer (I am one) has way less responsibility and is paid way higher.
    Teachers also have to keep on pushing those credentialing buttons, meaning they have to keep on taking classes etc. In fact the system is slanted in such away that if you want to earn the highest rate you pretty much have to keep on getting those letters behind their names.

    Oh, and what do you think a decent wage that would enable you to live in the bay area? $50,000?
  • by jshurst1 (659821) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @04:41PM (#19630179)

    As a former math teacher at another Bay Area high school associated with High Tech High, I can say that technology was (for the most part) integrated judiciously with the curriculum. I don't know if this was also the case at SVHTH, but based on my experience with other schools in the HTH network, I would suspect so.

    Whenever I mention to people that I worked at an HTH, their first thought is often that the school is an IT vocational school, or a traditional school but with everything done on the computer. Both of these notions are incorrect.

    The main emphasis of HTH's is project based learning. Rather than assigning loads of repetitive homework, teachers are encouraged to create challenging and relevant projects that motivate students to do their best. The project format was used for small, large, individual, and group efforts.

    The "High Tech" name is used for two reasons:
    1) When applicable, students use productivity software to do their work. This often comes in the form of collaborating with other students on projects using Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office. The idea here is that technology literacy will become increasingly important in the 21st century, and therefore should be integrated into the curriculum.
    2) The schools are administrated electronically. Student tracking, facility scheduling, and parent/administration/teacher communications were mostly done through a centralized computer system provided by HTH. This was a great boon to the faculty of my school.

  • Nope, not true. (Score:5, Informative)

    by TrinSF (183901) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @09:50PM (#19631817)
    The servers were Linux-based, open source, and free software. The student equipment was Mac. Gates' money didn't come with Microsoft strings attached.

    One of my children was a student at the school for three years, before leaving because it sucked big rocks.
  • by TrinSF (183901) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:00PM (#19632213)
    My son attended HTHB (High Tech High Bayshore) for three years. Or, to be more clear, he attended the school that started as San Carlos High School as one of the first students, and continued after the school became first loosely affiliated with and then a part of the High Tech High family, becoming HTHB. I didn't pick the school for him; he chose it himself, because he really liked the idea of charter schools, and wanted to attend a small school.

    So, the first year, the school had about 78 freshmen enrolled, which was shy of the promised minimum of 80 (and goal of 100). There was a lot of hassle about not quite having 80 students. The school was not well supported by the chartering school district. It was a lot like being at a startup -- we did without many things, everyone was very optimistic, people fullfilled multiple roles, etc. That first year, there were basically only 4-5 teachers total, and they were mostly pretty good. My son had a math teacher who was amazing, dedicated, intelligent, and very inspiring to her students. His physics teacher was also great -- really interested in the topic even though it wasn't what his grad work was in, great with the students. He was a little outspoken sometimes -- he and I got into it in email once over something really silly. My son's Spanish teacher was wonderful and devoted, had a student at the school. His humanities teacher was well, *okay* -- didn't seem on the same level with the other teachers, and sometimes basically taught wrong things. There were days when I thought, "I cannot believe I am trusting my son's future to a startup", but I dealt with it. That year, my son did independent study work to do two years of math in the same year -- he and a few other students were a year ahead of most of the student body. At that time, the school's model allowed for independent study, separate pacing, things like that.

    The second year, the school was announced to be more closely affiliated with High Tech High in San Diego, but was not yet "a High Tech High school". The original principal had left the school and instead there was a guy who had been a middle school principal. My son and the other students a year ahead in math were initially independent study with assistance from the Really Great Math Teacher, but at some point, the administration decided that it was too much work for her, and instead put the new math teacher in charge of them. Well *that* guy wasn't a good teacher. In fact, he didn't help the students with their studies; it appeared he didn't have the math ability to understand what they were doing. He told them he couldn't give them tests because he wasn't able to grade them. He was A Bad Teacher, very erratic. Half way through the year, the school gave *that* up, too, and instead sent those advanced math students to take math at a local community college.

    Other parts of the year were more uneven, too. My son had a great humanities teacher, but his (new hire) chemistry teacher quit after a few weeks, and the replacement sucked. He taught students the wrong constant for Avagadro's number, things like that. Further, the school had no lab equipment, so they weren't doing any lab component. My understanding is that at some point, it became clear that the course would not be "state-certified" (which means it can be used towards getting into a UC-system university) unless it had a lab component. So the teacher did a basic measuring lab. And then he did it again. And for the rest of the year, every few days they would do pretty much THE SAME LAB, so that they could say that students had X number of lab hours per year. Nothing else. At the end of the year, the administration actually admitted that the students had not learned any chemistry, and that they felt bad, and would try to have a better teacher the next year. They told parents that yes, they had known that the teacher *and many others* had sucked early in the year, but they felt it was only fair to give them a semester to "settle in", and then once that was over, it seemed difficult to repla
  • by TrinSF (183901) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:29PM (#19632413)
    Several commenters have suggested that Summit's touting 100% college bound students is a bad metric, or that the school is probably no better tSuhan HTHB. Well, now that I've had students at both schools, I can tell you why one has become a top-performing school while the other has closed.

    1. Summit has emphasized strong teacher over facilities.

    I have two children at Summit. They each have 5 teachers and several student teaching interns. With the exception of maybe one so-so teacher, all of these instructors have been *amazingly* good. By that I mean that they're people who genuinely want to teach, who have depth and breadth of understanding in their subjects, who can manage and inspire students. At HTHB, my son had teachers who didn't know their subject well enough keep up with him. At Summit, if my son wants to go beyond the classroom discussion, his teachers are right there with him, able to guide him and offer more insights to deepen his understanding of a subject. Sure, there are a couple of student teachers who seem to be a bit awkward, but they're at the school in part to get guidance in improving on this.

    2. Summit has *retained* its teaching staff, giving a sense of continuity and community.

    Summit has teachers that it's had for all four years they've been open. As far as I can tell, all their hires have been "keepers". Part of the selling point of these small schools is the idea that students are known and do not fall through the cracks, that they don't become anonymous and "lost" like they might at 2000 student high schools. The thing is, that really needs a continuity in community to work fully, and at Summit, it does.

    3. Summit has a "no student left behind" policy that makes the success of *all* students the responsiblity of every community member.

    At some point, HTHB gave up on students. If you were failing, they would throw you out. And a lot of students failed out, because they didn't have good teaching, and were generally miserable. At Summit, the entire community -- students, teachers, parents -- are tasked with ensuring that *every* student succeeds. My son excelled at many of his classes; he put a lot of effort into tutoring, guiding, and helping classmates who were struggling, so that *they* could succeed, too. If students are failing a course, they have the support of the entire community to get them back on track. This works in big and small ways. My daughter is not a top student, but even she has days where she tells me about how she was working in a small group, a group member didn't understand something, and the group took responsibility for helping the lagging student. "No student left behind" *works* at Summit.

    4. The Summit administration seems to have more emphasis on living the school values of integrity, compassion . . .

    After having two years of a marketing guy with the whole "How can you tell I'm lying? My lips are moving." problem, it's *refreshing* to have Summit's administration. Sometimes, they don't know things -- and they say so. I like having honorable administrators, *good people*.

    I could go on, but the bottom line is that it's like bad startup vs. good startup. Would you rather have great Aeron chairs and 21" monitors, or coworkers who were the best in the area and who were being paid and given benefits that would keep them *happy*, keep them coding? Summit is the success of people over facilities, of substance and skill over "concept".

You know you've been spending too much time on the computer when your friend misdates a check, and you suggest adding a "++" to fix it.

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