High Tech High
About High Tech High

High Tech High began in 2000 as a single charter high school launched by a coalition of San Diego business leaders and educators. It has evolved into an integrated network of schools spanning grades K-12, housing a comprehensive teacher certification program and a new, innovative Graduate School of Education.

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High Tech High: A Snapshot

  • Thirteen schools (five high schools, four middle schools, and four elementary schools) at three locations.
  • Approximately 5000 students (63% students of color; 42% qualify for free or reduced lunch).
  • 600+ employees.
  • 96% of graduates have gone on to college, 66% to four-year institutions.
  • Students accepted by blind, zip code based lottery.
  • 80% of students who enter as a 9th grader graduate from an HTH school (others change schools, move, etc.).
  • 34% of graduates major in STEM (compared to 17% nationally).
  • First charter management organization to operate its own Graduate School of Education (GSE) fully embedded within a K-12 learning community.
  • Approximately 250 educators enrolled in formal credentialing and master's degree programs. 
  • Annual operating budget: approximately $40 million
  • HTH schools operate on effectively 85% of the public dollars of other California public schools, since there is a building cost for California charter schools.
  • Approximately 2000 visitors per year.

High Tech High’s mission is to develop and support innovative public schools where all students develop the academic, workplace, and citizenship skills for postsecondary success.

High Tech High Goals

At each HTH school, our goals include:

  • Serve a student body that mirrors the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the local community.
  • Integrate technical and academic education to prepare students for post-secondary education in both high tech and liberal arts fields.
  • Increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students in math and engineering who succeed in high school and post-secondary education.
  • Graduate students who will be thoughtful, engaged citizens.

The goals for the HTH central organization include:

  • Support the development of excellent schools based on the HTH design principles.
  • Become a self-sustaining central organization conducting “behind the whiteboard” management practices that are as exemplary as the “in front of students” programs offered at HTH schools.
  • Inspire and enable others in the public education community to adopt the HTH design principles and instructional practices.

High Tech High was originally conceived by a group of about 40 civic and high tech industry leaders in San Diego, assembled by the Economic Development Corporation and the Business Roundtable, who met regularly from 1996 - 1998 to discuss the challenge of finding qualified individuals for the high-tech work force. In particular, members were concerned about the “digital divide” that resulted in low numbers of women and ethnic minority groups entering the fields of math, science, and engineering. Gary Jacobs, Director of Education Programs at Qualcomm, and Kay Davis, Director of the Business Roundtable, were key participants in these discussions.

In late 1998 the group voted to start a charter school and engaged Larry Rosenstock, then President of Price Charities in San Diego, as the founding principal. The founding group was clear about its intent: to create a school where students would be passionate about learning and would acquire the basic skills of work and citizenship. Rosenstock, a former carpentry teacher, lawyer, and high school principal who had recently directed the U.S. Department of Education’s New Urban High School project, brought a vision and a sense of the design principles by which this mission might be accomplished.

Key milestones in the development of HTH include:

Founding group submits Charter application.

San Diego Unified School District approves charter.
Building site secured in Liberty Station, construction begins.
Gates Foundation awards replication grant in July.
The Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs’ High Tech High opens to 200 9th and 10th graders in September.

First graduating class of 50 students.
High Tech Middle opens at Liberty Station campus.

High Tech High International opens at Liberty Station campus.
Teacher Credentialing Program launched at High Tech High.

High Tech High Media Arts and High Tech Middle Media Arts open.
Explorer Elementary joins High Tech High family.

Statewide Benefit Charter approved.                   

High Tech High Graduate School of Education opens, offering M.Ed. programs in Teacher Leadership and School Leadership.
High Tech High Chula Vista opens with 150 9th grade students.
High Tech High North County opens with 150 9th grade students.

High Tech High Chula Vista moves into their permanent site.

High Tech High North County moves into their permanent site.
High Tech Middle North County opens with 330 students grades 6-8.
High Tech High Graduate School of Education celebrated its first graduation, awarding six Master’s degrees in Teacher Leadership.
Statewide Benefit Charter expanded to K-12.

High Tech elementary Chula Vista opens with 420 students in grades K-5.
High Tech Middle Chula Vista opens with 330 students in grades 6-8.
High Tech Middle North County opens with 330 students in grades 6-8.

High Tech elementary North County opens in August.

Changing Schools
At HTH, we believe that change in schooling happens, not incrementally by adding programs, but by generating holistic designs that enable new ways of teaching and learning. We believe that even the language we use to describe schooling needs to change. School reformers need to develop—and commit to—simple, elegant language that speaks to the deep purpose of schools: to prepare all students for entry into the world of work and citizenship in a democratic society.

High Tech High is not a franchise, nor even a model, but rather an organization advocating a set of design principles. We recognize a dynamic relationship between vision and practice. We understand that any significant innovation requires individuals at the sites to work out their own meanings and develop their own learning agendas, building on their successes as they go. We try to provide conditions of work that encourage teachers and students to explore new ways of realizing the HTH design in practice. We subscribe to Michael Fullan’s view:

First, under conditions of dynamic complexity one needs a good deal of reflective experience before one can form a plausible vision.  Vision emerges from, more than it precedes, action.  Even then it is always provisional.  Second, shared vision, which is essential for success, must evolve through the dynamic interaction of organization members and leaders.  (Changing Forces: Probing the Depth of Education Reform)

Knowing that in creating a new school, one is creating a culture, and understanding the power of the “default” culture of schooling, we employ a “mitochondrial” strategy to create new schools. That is, we “seed” our new schools with a principal, teachers, and even students who already have lived and worked in a HTH school. In this way we emphasize experienced leadership, reflective practice, and peer learning, all in the interest of an evolving sense of shared purpose.

We also understand that schools are not closed systems. For all their internal routines and rituals, the work of schools and the possibility of change are influenced profoundly by post-secondary entrance requirements, teacher training practices, standardized testing, community pressures and other external forces.  Part of our work is to understand and articulate those external influences that our schools must counter in order to control their own destiny. That is why, for example, we have secured approval from the state to certify our own teachers.

As we work for change in our own settings and think about change on a broader scale, we aim to do our work well, describe it well, and assist those who want to accomplish similar goals. We proceed via five basic strategies that positively affect the students, teachers and leaders in our schools:

  • Enact change by directly establishing and managing excellent schools. HTH currently operates three campuses of schools. As of August 2013, all three villages serve K-12. The award of a statewide charter in 2007 authorizes us to create ten additional HTH Villages in communities across California. We have broadened our scope to include middle and elementary schools, partly to reach our students earlier, and partly because we see great benefit to grounding our vision in a pre-K through graduate school perspective.
  • Inspire others to implement HTH design principles by encouraging outsiders to visit the schools, speak with the students and teacher, and observe its design principles in practice.   High Tech High schools are open and transparent settings where visitors are always welcome.  Over 2,000 visitors arrive annually from nearly every state (including eight governors) and many nations (including twenty education ministers).
  • Enable others to establish schools based on the HTH design. Recognizing that it takes more than inspiration to change the paradigm of public education, HTH has modeled itself as an “open source” organization, offering institutes, residencies, and a free web-based resource center for educators.
  • Develop teachers and leaders in its school network and beyond. HTH’s Teacher Credentialing Program guides scores of HTH teachers through the credentialing process each year.  The HTH Graduate School of Education opened its doors in the fall of 2007 and expands upon HTH’s professional development offerings through its Master’s of Education programs.
  • Influence policy makers and thought leaders to change public education policy. By changing some of the restrictive policies that affect both HTH and other public and charter schools, HTH enhances its own ability to function while improving the system for everyone who operates within it.


As an organization, we engage in ongoing reflection about our growth efforts.  Rather than devising a rigid scheme for intended future impact that presumes to understand an unknowable future, High Tech High places a premium on retaining flexibility and agility. We know that whatever leverage we may have hinges upon High Tech High continuing to be known as an organization that operates only excellent schools.  This is why we follow a slow deliberative process of building each new school “in brick,” securing ownership of our buildings and staffing new schools with experienced HTH educators.

This “bricklaying” allows us to maintain a deep level of intimacy between our schools and our central organization.  Our growth efforts to date have taught us that quality replication requires that practitioners receive a higher level of support than is commonly thought necessary.  We also know that the central organization must be finely tuned to its schools so that it can change the supports it offers to meet ever-evolving needs.

Proceeding “in brick” also helps us make sure that growth occurs slowly enough to cultivate the pedagogical expertise and leadership capacity needed to develop new HTH schools.  HTH schools are very different from conventional public and private schools, and most of our incoming staff members have never seen HTH instructional practices on their feet.  Having supported many new school leaders, we are convinced that integrating a deep understanding of HTH design principles requires that future leaders spend significant time in a setting where those principles are being universally and enthusiastically embraced.

Finally, our commitment to building excellent schools requires that we attend carefully to the development of the HTH culture.  The reflective high stakes discussions that happen at High Tech High do not occur among strangers, and only time allows such trusting relationships to develop.  As our staff become committed to one another and develop consensus regarding both the “how” and the “why” for our collective undertakings, the HTH culture becomes an indispensable resource infusing the organization with the professionalism, energy and optimism needed to take on ever growing challenges.

In essence, then, bricklaying at High Tech High is a way to preserve the organization’s “soul” –  that part of us that knows well and cares for each and every family we serve and every staff member we employ.  High Tech High does not pretend to know how many schools the organization can develop without compromising its “soul.”  We also do not know whether the resources needed to support growth will be available in the future.  We are therefore focused on becoming a self-sustaining organization in the very near term so that we may have a stable platform from which to take stock of our efforts and assess our options for the future.

High Tech High is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, public benefit corporation.

Federal Tax ID: 33-0866664

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Updated: August 28, 2015, 5:17 am

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