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School's Out Forever at SV High Tech High 190

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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  • Hmm.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by jessiej ( 1019654 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:41AM (#19627823)
    My guess is they weren't using free software?
    • I'm guessing they didn't offer a very good class is raising venture capital. Or maybe they just didn't have Jolt Cola in the vending machines.
    • Nope, not true. (Score:5, Informative)

      by TrinSF ( 183901 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:50PM (#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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Ah, they were using that free Mac software on the notoriously inexpensive Mac hardware. Thanks for clearing that up and proving the original poster wrong.
  • Insult? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <> on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:42AM (#19627831) Journal
    Adding insult? Oh come on. If this school had just gone to waste that would be an insult. It will probably be a good school in the long run.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Adding insult?

      Agreed. I would be adding insult in Apple bought the school.

      -Grey []
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cprael ( 215426 )
      Obviously you don't know the Sequoia Unified district. Once upon a time, I lived in their district - we moved out so I could get into a decent school. They haven't improved in the 26 years since... my wife and I just moved out-district 2 years ago, and with the exception of _one_ school, the rest of the district still sucks.

      Which is quite amazing, given that they draw from a ton of very bright, motivated, and successful families. Portola Valley, Woodside, Atherton, Menlo Park, Redwood City... that's where
  • Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:43AM (#19627833)
    Education is not about modern equipment. In fact modern equipmetn may seriously hinder education at times, when the sudents attention and mental capabilities are bound more by the technology they used than the subject they are learning. My guess is it will still take a few decades (or centuries) until computers can compete with pen and paper and blackboard (that have been perfected for a few centuries as well...). I know that in order to be creative and insightful I use pen and paper or, even better, a whiteboard.

    Incidentially some of the "worlds richest men" are directly responsible for a slow computer revolution.
    • Re:Not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Wellington Grey ( 942717 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:38AM (#19628093) Homepage Journal

      Education is not about modern equipment. In fact modern equipment may seriously hinder education at times,

      Agreed. I work as a teacher and for 99% of tasks, technology just gets in the way. I'm also horrified at the number of my fellow teachers who think the Internet is some magical panacea where they can just plop a class down in front of a computer, tell them 'research topic X' and the kids will actually learn something.

      -Grey []
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jaelle ( 655155 )
        Plopping the kids down in front of computers did wonders for my kids. My son taught himself electronics engineering with it.

        Of course, they were homeschooled...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MobyDisk ( 75490 )
        There were and still are teachers who do the same thing, only they handed the students a library instead of the internet. It isn't about technology, it is about teaching.
      • Re:Not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @04:40PM (#19629785) Journal
        Its not the internet or Technology though, its just the bad teachers.

        Primary education needs to be directed because kids need to develop a sense of the pattern of learning and obtain some background in various subjects to serve as a frame of reference for future learning which they might do on their own.

        I had the luxory of getting a good deal of my early education before the public Internet and after that well lets face it is was not until the later 90's there was little content that anyone could sugest using in primary education out there.

        I did go to one of those wealthy districts that had stuff though. We had this huge media-center. Loads of books on just about anyhting. We even had a Computer (IBM PC-AT) with an exteral cdrom driver and decades of various publications (in plain text IIRC) on CDs stacked next to it.

        I also remember lots of teachers from grade one all the way to eight thinking that they could just march us all down there hand us some 3x5" cards tell us to research something and then expect us to learn from this.

        Most of this media was books and periodicals, with the exception of the IBM PC-AT. That is media that has existed for centuries. I think it was for the most part as big a waste as all this Internet time for students is today. Kids need good teachers with materials to cover what is directly part of the curiculum, and a small library for some on their own but ASSIGNED research projects.

        If a school is employing much of its budget to do anything other then hire the best most dedicated teachers in adequate numbers, and to provide them with the most basic facility and tools they require to do their jobs, that school is miss using its budget.
      • by TrinSF ( 183901 )
        So, to be clear, students did not get plopped down in front of computers. For the most part, their classes were conducted without technology. (In fact without things like chemistry lab equipment, among other things. *sigh*) Students did sometimes use computers to create projects, but the *learning* -- what there was of it -- was not done with computers, for the most part.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      That may be the case for you. But pen and paper and blackboards hinder me.
      There is no easy way to apply corrections to pen and paper. And a blackboard is not able to retain information.
      There are no easy ways to back up the data or duplicate it (of course xeroxing is an option for paper, but not for blackboards).
      A smartboard/interactive white/blackboard has replaced the ancient black/white board.
      Even a tablet PC and beamer is more effective. Teachers can sit behind desk and use the tablet to show stuff on a
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by TubeSteak ( 669689 )

        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 []
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by skaladis ( 1075347 )
          Yeah, and how do you move around large blocks of text or add new paragraphs in between already existing text? Unless you want to rub holes in your paper while spending ten minutes erasing what you've already written (and then having to write it down again later), it's not feasible. It's far more efficient to type than it is to write.
          • Re:Not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

            by slarrg ( 931336 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @01:02PM (#19628567)
            I think you're misunderstanding the point of school. It's not to get information from your head to a report. Instead the point is to get the information from an authority into the head of the student. The papers and reports the students create are immediately garbage once the lesson has been taught they're an exercise to help the student remember. Seriously, who thinks the writing of students is of any value other than a teaching tool for the student (or maybe refrigerator wallpaper for a proud parent?)
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by fbjon ( 692006 )
            The solution is easy and very educational: learn to think about what you write, before you write it. Structure your writing, form the complete idea in your mind, avoid rambling down on paper. It's like the difference between structured programming and cowboy coding.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by niiler ( 716140 )
              While you are correct in your assertion that one should think before one writes, it seems that you are not familiar with SmartBoards. You use them *just like regular blackboards (including erasing)* only you can save the lecture/edit it for later. This allows you to post the lecture to the web, hand it out to students who missed class (for any number of reasons, and generally have a record of your lectures for the purposes of review and class planning for the future. Additionally they are more hygenic as
          • You could try planning for where you're going to put that paragraph while writing on the board, or using individual sheets of paper and rearranging them so that it works for you or any number of different things. Why not be creative with the materials you should have on hand? Also, the whole reason you double-space while writing is so that you can make huge corrections like inserting a paragraph somewhere. Back before paper was mass-produced people used to take each other's handwritten letters, write a rep
        • 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

          In Soviet Russia, we use a pencil^W^W^W^W...errr...Pencil uses YOU!

          Seriously, though, learning Calc in college, the biggest impediment was using programs to
          "help" us learn, but if you did not know WTF you were doing, using Maple, mathcad or whatever
          program just made the problem worse with learning how to program the damn thing.

          If I were not the one that wen

      • Re:Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @12:09PM (#19628293)
        I could not disagree more.

        There were 2 types of classes in college. Those that handed us out notes and went through a slide show and had us fill in some blanks and those that handed out nothing and wrote on the blackboard.

        Guess which one I retained more information from? I've seen that people retain more information if they write it down than if they just see it.

        There is an Excellent easy way to back up data on the blackboard, it's called notes. Some classes I didn't even have a notebook. Prior to the class I'd grab some sheets out of the recycle bin and write on the back side.

        There's a very easy way to apply corrections, it's called crossing it out and rewriting it. You even retain th original information so you can sometimes see a progression of thought.

        Notebooks, on sale, cost $.79 a piece.
        • Re:Not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Compholio ( 770966 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @12:34PM (#19628421)

          There were 2 types of classes in college. Those that handed us out notes and went through a slide show and had us fill in some blanks and those that handed out nothing and wrote on the blackboard.
          My university has recently implemented a third type, which the GP appears to be familiar with, where instructors use a tablet pc and a projector instead of a blackboard. I am actually on the committee for helping to introduce this technology and I can tell you that it is significantly different from using a slide show. There are several major advantages to using a tablet (writing on it, not as a slideshow) over using a blackboard:
          • Ability to easily erase
          • Ability to reposition text at will
          • Ability to move on without erasing the board
          • Ability to save the entire lecture as a PDF
          In addition to that we have been experimenting with giving entire classes of students tablets. This then allows the instructor to ask students questions about the lecture (like "clickers"). However, by using open-ended questions where students respond in paragraph form, or by drawing out their answer, the professor can much more effectively gauge how students are learning.
          • Traditional lectures are abysmal teaching methods.


            • Traditional lectures are abysmal teaching methods.

              What a load. People have been teaching and learning forever. A good course will have a combination of all the things in the Pyramid you link to and any display technology will do. Let's review.

              Method (average retention rate)


              • Lecture (5%)
              • Reading (10%)
              • Audiovisual (20%)
              • Demonstration (30%)


              • Discussion (50%)
              • Practice by Doing (75%)
              • Teaching Others, Immediate Use. (90%)

              A reasonable course must have a combination of all of th

          • by Vomibra ( 930404 )

            Ability to save the entire lecture as a PDF

            I've also seen technology that allows those kind of presentations to be recorded as flash files. A professor of mine also used this to let kids get richer feedback on their submitted papers; he would load their papers up in the tablet PC app (electronic submission was required for other reasons) and record himself talking and circling, crossing out, etc parts of the papers.

          • "Clickers" are rarely used properly, and I really don't understand the purpose of giving an entire class of students tablets so that they can write out responses in paragraph form. Couldn't the same thing be accomplished *much* more easily with pencil and paper?

            For that matter, what sort of university curriculum requires students to do busywork or writing (apart from Exams) during class?

            You can also already do 3 of the 4 things you mentioned above with an overhead projector. A bottle of windex helps with t
        • News flash: Not everybody learns the same way.

          The fact that one guy didn't learn well by taking notes doesn't mean that taking notes is a universal hindrance for all. Likewise, transcribing things helps many people retain information.

          Why the heck do so many people think one size must fit all?
        • by jbengt ( 874751 )
          I had one class that was a third type, where the professor passed out only an general agenda or syllabus, tried to engage the class, and asked us not to take notes because that would distract us. He said if we needed notes, it would be better to go to the library and write them up from memory after the class, though he admitted that no one would do that. The couple of times I did try making notes afterwords, it worked better than taking copious notes during class. Still I occassionally took brief notes d
        • Writing down information does make you memorize and digest it better, but all the whining about how high tech is hurting education is total bullshit. Low standards and technical incompetence hurt education. High technology helps it - a whole lot.

          For example, I've taken a whole bunch of classes taught on the blackboard, and I've taken many taught by Powerpoint (with the blackboard occasionally used). Powerpoint kicks the blackboard's ass for sheer power of expressivity and content. There is a ton of things y
          • The biggest problem with technology in schools is that most of the teachers don't really know how to use it yet. (The second biggest problem is that the systems are getting more complex and with complexity comes flaws, but that's a different issue and time will probably solve it too)
      • by Ucklak ( 755284 )
        But pen and paper and blackboards hinder me.

        Well then you're not qualified to teach under natural conditions. That puts you out of a rewarding peace corps job.

        There is nothing more effective than being in front of a student and engage in conversation about a new topic.
        Teachers that sit behind desks aren't teaching.
      • Re:Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <giles.jones@zen.[ ]uk ['co.' in gap]> on Sunday June 24, 2007 @01:26PM (#19628703)
        No wonder standards are slipping in education, especially science and maths.

        A blackboard/whiteboard doesn't go wrong and it relies upon having a good tutor who knows what they are talking about. They can't just flick through a load of slides, they have to interact with the class.

        People designed planes, nuclear bombs and all sorts of engineering/science marvels without computers. Computers are useful but not essential.
        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )
          That's right say it with me people:

          The computer is not a substitute for a good teacher and an even poorer substitute for a good teacher the knows the subject they are teaching.
        • People designed planes, nuclear bombs and all sorts of engineering/science marvels without computers.

          In Japan, they still teach kids how to use an abacus. In fact, I think it's an advantage in the early years, because it gives a tactile meaning to what would otherwise be marks on paper.

      • There is no easy way to apply corrections to pen and paper.

        Use pencil instead?
    • I know that in order to be creative and insightful

      Well, for that I use /. IMHO.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fm6 ( 162816 )
      Please. Your take a closure of a single charter school and turn it into a simple-minded condemnation of technology in education. Is there my indication that High Tech Bayshore did a bad job? Oh the contrary, all their grads are going on to college. And the same organization is operating many other successful "High Tech"' charters. This particular charter just didn't work out, as many new charters do.

      Idiots like you keep shouting "Technology is not a educational panacea!" Dude, everybody knows that.
  • Insult to injury? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by saforrest ( 184929 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:44AM (#19627839) Journal
    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.

    How on earth could this possibly be considered an insult? Because the public school district is so apparently awash in cash yet didn't subsidize their extremely specialized and (apparently) financially unsuccessful school, but instead let it flounder? Cry me a goddamned river.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )
      Actually, the school district is under pressure to provide facilities for another, more successful charter school (Summit Prep) that's outgrown it's current campus. (RTFA) That's why they bought the campus, to turn over to Summit. Which does indeed kind of rub HTH's students in it.
  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:46AM (#19627859)
    ... when your Principal is Microsoft Bob and your school mascot is Clippy.
  • alive and well (Score:5, Informative)

    by cbnewman ( 106449 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @10:48AM (#19627871)
    High Tech High [] 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 [] 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by funnyman06 ( 1119527 )
      I would like to correct you, the High Tech High san diego roboitcs team is 1538 not 675. The link is =cow-metallic []. 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 graduat
  • Maybe I would have thrived there, instead of ultimately getting the hell out, getting my GED, and putting in time at community college before going on to uni. I certainly don't like the fact that only those wealthy enough were able to go, but I think that this is what our public high schools should be. Innovative, creative, and fun, with the chance to implement what is being learned. I believe that it would go a long way to getting rid of the, "Why do I need to learn this?" attitude that even I was guilty of at the time.

    Unfortunately, K-12 education isn't exactly where the government's priorities are. Maybe one day.
    • by Tony ( 765 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @11:53AM (#19628169) Journal
      Our school system issues aren't all the fault of the government. Sure, "No child left behind" has fucked it up even more, but we can only lay a certain amount of blame on the government.

      Our society looks down on education, to the point where we pass over well-educated, well-spoken presidential candidates for the apparent moron, the "regular joe guy I'd like to have a beer with." (Sorry, he doesn't drink any more, so you won't get that chance. But if you want to do some blow, he's the man.) Until we start respecting education as a society, our school system is doomed.

      Not that we can't fix the government's problems with education, while we're waiting: stop funding schools based on property taxes, which slants education in favor of the rich, and punishes the poor. Stop pretending you can replace teachers with a computer, or some bloke off the street, and start paying them better. Repeal "No Child Left Behind."

      Anyway. We've got a long way to go before we can fix our education system. But there's a lot more than the government at work here.
      • No Child Left Behind is achieved by holding all the rest back.

      • Our society looks down on education, to the point where we pass over well-educated, well-spoken presidential candidates for the apparent moron, the "regular joe guy I'd like to have a beer with."
        Doesn't George Bush have a degree? Or are you saying we should judge political leaders based on whether they've had elocution lessons or something equally superficial?
      • by HAKdragon ( 193605 ) <> on Sunday June 24, 2007 @03:00PM (#19629281)
        That reminds me of something Chris Rock once said in one of his stand up specials. It went something like

        In the black community, you get more respect coming out of jail then you do coming out of school.
        "Hey man, I got my masters!"
        "So you my master now? Well, let me ask you this, can you kick my ass?"
      • Sure, "No child left behind" has fucked it up even more, but we can only lay a certain amount of blame on the government.

        Actually, now that it's been in place long enough to have an impact, ABC News and others are reporting that it looks like No Child Left Behind actually works, after all [].

        (Note that I have no children, don't work for a school or school system, and in no way am involved in the American education cartel so I really don't care much one way or the other.)

      • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @05:57PM (#19630293) Homepage Journal
        Whats sad is that the "everyman" personality of Bush is just a facade, I'm not a Bush fan but the man does have some intelligence. He goes out of his way to look like an average Joe(verbal gaffes aside, some really smart people I know make a lot of gaffes to). He knows that acting stupid wins him more votes than acting intelligent. He even criticized Kerry for being a New England blue blooder despite the fact that Bush is also a New England blue blooder who adopted a fake Texas accent.....
    • by TrinSF ( 183901 )
      No, I doubt it, not at High Tech High Bayshore. The school sucked. Some particular administration members sucked. Some of the teachers were great, but many were just adequate, and others were terrible. The school didn't actual follow the High Tech High plan. And no, no one explained "why you need to learn this".
  • I don't know about having the privileged class assist schools. For our schools to succeed, they need to do it themselves. Maybe the fact that a sponsor with deep pockets was in the mix is also the reason the school failed. Just like a liberal welfare program, unless your own money is on the line, there's no incentive to do better.

    And now the school property is just going to expand the existing public indoctrination system. Very sad.
    • Nah, just as many charter schools fail (either financially or academically) that don't have corporate angels backing them. They're experiments, and some are very poorly thought-out experiments. Hopefully soon people will start focusing on replicating the successful ones rather than trying random new ones - but even that isn't a guarantee of success, seeing as how there are several other successful HTHs that didn't run into the same problems this one did.
    • er... no. Summit Prep that will take over the space is an *awesome* school. I know - my daughter attends Summit. 100% of seniors this year are off to college. That is not sad. That is wonderful.
      • by TrinSF ( 183901 )
        So, in the interest of being fair, 100% of HTHB seniors are also off to college. The difference, and the question I think people should be asking, is that given that both schools started out with the same number of students freshman year (and they mostly did), where did all of HTHB's students go? They graduated 21, and Summit graduated what, 82? Where are those other 60 HTHB students? *I* know where. They dropped out, transferred out, and left in *droves*, and not because of funding, or location. HTHB has c
    • Maybe the fact that a sponsor with deep pockets was in the mix is also the reason the school failed. Just like a liberal welfare program, unless your own money is on the line, there's no incentive to do better.

      Perhaps we can transmute the "learn by doing" into child labor. Why give culture and ideas to people when you could just teach them good slave labor skills? Exposing people to anything but broadcast media facts might make them uppity.

      No, I don't believe in child labor and can make a case for re

      • There's people who do, and there's people who die. There's people who teach kids to do, and there's people who teach kids to die. Second place is for losers.

        And what's wrong with child labor? Don't chain them to machines, that's what liberals always bring up whenever it's suggested that kids ought to learn some discipline and work skills. Nope, teach kids the meaning of honest work and the honest dollar. When else should people know about honesty? When they are older, they're going to have to know about dis
  • TCO (Score:4, Funny)

    by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @12:28PM (#19628395)
    Just goes to show that even the world's richest person can't afford the TCO of running a school with Windows...
  • by dynamo ( 6127 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @12:48PM (#19628503) Journal
    Way to half-ass yet another product, Bill.
    • It's not so much that he did not give enough, as it is that the community was not willing to fund his vision of a school. This is typical of charter schools and Bill's schools in particular. They provide a small portion of the money needed and expect the rest to be provided by the state, but it's all spent under Bill's rules. In charter schools and public libraries blessed by his patranage, the software must all be M$. You can see how this can be used to create a cash flow and charter schools stand accu

  • by bangzilla ( 534214 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @01:24PM (#19628685) Journal
    I'm really pleased to see this happen. Yes - I do feel sorry for the failed venture that was High Tech High Redwood City (however High Tech High's in San Diego are, I understand, doing very well). Summit Prep graduated it's first senior class this year. 100% of seniors are off to college. Yes, 100%. Good indication that Summit is doing *very* well. My daughter loves the school, the staff and the students. Many High Tech High students have applied to attend Summit - some will get in, others will go to other schools in the district.
    • That's not a very impressive statistic when you consider most (all?) of the pupils there will probably be from priveledged backgrounds so would get into college anyway. It doesn't say a lot about the quality of teaching.
      • ...Privileged background, meaning that their parents acknowledge the value of education and support their kids while in school? Then I guess you are correct. If you mean privileged as in socio-economic privilege - nope. The catchment area for Summit is across the board. In fact it is a testament to the strength of the teaching staff that they can takes kids from across the normal curve and develop excellence no matter the starting point. That's the *real* privilege of the school - awesome staff.
        • ...Privileged background, meaning that their parents acknowledge the value of education and support their kids while in school?
          Of course, it's easy to teach kids whose parents drive them. You can only judge a school if they have to take in a completely random selection of kids.
      • by TrinSF ( 183901 )
        Nope, not true. MANY Summit students aren't from priveleged backgrounds. Many students are going to be first generation college attendees. Many students are federal free/reduced lunch recipients. If you'd seen the graduation, you'd know how funny that statement is, given the actual makeup of the student body, which does a reasonable (though not perfect) job of reflecting the demographics of the district.

        And by the way, the quality of teaching is *amazing*. Really.
    • Your daughter attends Summit Prep, but why does that make you pleased to see the other school fail? Schadenfreude, or is there something I'm missing?
  • It's not in any valley.

    San Francisco isn't in Silicon Valley either, for the record.

    Honestly, people should come up with another name for the high tech area because Palo Alto isn't in Silicon Valley either. As high tech as Palo Alto is, it was never really involved in silicon, just software.
  • by jshurst1 ( 659821 ) on Sunday June 24, 2007 @05:41PM (#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.

  • So a charter school, which recieved some cash from Bill Gates, ends up closing and queue all the Microsoft jokes? What a great spin by Slashdot.

    What the summary doesn't mention:

    • High Tech High has six schools which are doing great (three high schools, two middle schools, and one elementary school all in San Diego). It is only this one in Redwood City that has failed.
    • The school failed because of lack of enrollment. Microsoft and others from the community gave money to build it, but this location cou
    • by TrinSF ( 183901 )
      The school failed because it did not have enough positive qualities to attract and keep students. Retention problems were caused by school policies, school administrators, and uneven teaching, among other things. The school keeps blaming the location, but I bet you Summit won't lose 75% of its classes because of the location the way HTHB did.

      Yes, poorly managed. I'll write more in a separate thread.
  • by TrinSF ( 183901 ) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:00AM (#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 )
      To be clear, they graduated 21 seniors, after having enrolled originally 80 students in that entering class. I typo'd "freshmen" for "seniors".
    • I am also familiar with High Tech High Bayshore. Different parents may have formed different points of view based on their standpoint, but I believe TrinSF relates a generally accurate portrayal of the last four years there.

      Quite sad to watch the whole thing happen, really. Especially during its final two years.


  • by TrinSF ( 183901 ) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:29AM (#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".

"Paul Lynde to block..." -- a contestant on "Hollywood Squares"