High Tech High has distilled the six NUHS design principles to four: personalization, adult world connection, and common intellectual mission, teacher as designer. Responding directly to the needs of students, all four principles connect to the broad mission of preparation for the adult world. Moreover, all four call for structures and practices that schools do not now routinely employ. The design principles permeate every aspect of life at High Tech High: the small size of the school, the openness of the facilities, the personalization through advisory, the emphasis on integrated, project-based learning and student exhibitions, the requirement that all students complete internships in the community, and the provision of ample planning time for teacher teams during the work day. We discuss each design principle in turn below.
High Tech High teachers know their students well, and are committed to a learner-centered approach that supports and challenges each student. Through projects, students pursue their passions and continually reflect on their learning and growth. Students with special needs are supported through a full inclusion model. Each High Tech High student has a faculty advisor who meets regularly with a small group of students to build community, support their academic progress, and plan for their future. The advisor also visits each of their advisee’s homes and serves as a point of contact for the family.
Adult World Connection
HTH students connect their studies to the world beyond school through field studies, community service, internships, and consultation with outside experts. Students routinely create work for authentic audiences and exhibit that work in professional venues. All high school students complete substantial internships in the world of work and service, where they develop projects that contribute to the workplace. The HTH facilities themselves have a distinctive "workplace" feel, with windowed seminar rooms, small-group learning and project areas, laboratories equipped with the latest technology, ubiquitous wireless laptop access, and common areas where artwork and prototypes are displayed.
Common Intellectual Mission
High Tech High schools are diverse and integrated. Enrollment is non-selective via a zip code-based lottery, and there is no tracking of students by perceived academic ability. All HTH students pursue a rigorous curriculum that provides the foundation for entry and success at the University of California and elsewhere, as well as success in the world of work. Schools articulate common expectations for learning that value 21st century skills, the integration of hands and minds, and the merging of academic disciplines. Assessment is performance-based: all students develop projects, solve problems, and present findings to community panels. All students are required to complete an academic internship, a substantial senior project, and a personal digital portfolio. Teachers employ a variety of approaches to accommodate diverse learners, and recognize the value of having students from different backgrounds working together.
Teacher as Designer
High Tech High teachers are program and curriculum designers. They work in interdisciplinary teams to design the courses they teach. They take the lead in staff meetings and action groups addressing school issues. They participate in critical decisions regarding curriculum, assessment, professional development, hiring and other significant areas of the school. The schedule supports team teaching and teachers have ample planning time to devise integrated projects, common rubrics for assessment, and common rituals by which all students demonstrate their learning and progress toward graduation.
Featured Project: Seven HTH Projects In Depth
High Tech High teachers have documented successful projects to share with collaborating teachers from local districts and across the HTH network. The aim is simple: to offer practitioners useful, easily adaptable models of real projects.
Featured Project: Ampersand
In January 2010, HTHMA juniors left the traditional school structure and became interns in the working world of San Diego. These students took on professional roles and identities as they developed software, wrote for local news organizations, conducted chemical and biological research, developed marketing plans, and more. In Ampersand, these students share their reflections on life, work, education, and the world beyond high school in thoughtful essays, articles and photography. Ampersand is the student journal of school & work, available in print and web formats.