Rob Riordan introduces the HTH design principles and how they arrived at the final four design principles that laid the foundation for establishing HTH.
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In the new urban high school project that led to High Tech High, Larry and I were working with six different schools around the country, inner city, schools that were doing school-to-work kinds of work as a lever for wholesale change. And our mandate was to kind of develop a model for the new urban high school based on we saw in these schools. But the schools were very different.
One was a very small community-based school in New York City, Debbie Meier’s school, Central Park East. Another was Chicago Voc, a huge vocational school on the south side of Chicago. Another was Turner Tech in Miami, which was kind of a dual diploma, vocational, and academic school. And there was Hoover High School in San Diego, which was a comprehensive high school.
So it was very clear to us early on that this was not about a model because they were very different kinds of schools. So what we realized was that if we were going to say something to generalize the work of these schools, we had to extract the design principles that underlay the work of these schools. So we came up with six design principles.
And I mean, they were things like personalization, adult world connection, context for reflection, teacher as designer, and so on. I could never remember all six. I mean, six was too many in a way.
And when we opened the– because the work of these schools was so powerful and because High Tech High was emanating out of the work of these schools and previous work that Larry and I had done in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we really knew that it was going to be important for us to articulate some design principles, and that they ought to be kind of condensed and concise. So the ones that we arrived at were personalization, adult world connection, and common intellectual mission by which we meant high expectations for all students and no tracking of students. So that’s where we were.
And then a fourth one came in again from the New Urban High School Project, teacher us designer. When visitors would come to us and say, oh, design principles, they’re great. Oh, the kids seem very engaged. Can we have a copy of your curriculum?
And we would be almost embarrassed to say, well, no, we don’t really have a curriculum. We have teachers who create curriculum. And it changes from year-to-year, and it might be different in different ninth grade classroom. Teachers design the curriculum. We realized we needed to resuscitate that principle so that people would have some understanding of some of the processes here. So those were the four design principles.
So why have them in the first place? One, it reflects our aspirations and the work that we want to do. But two, really, those design principles provide a framework for critical conversations about our identity and our direction as an organization and our work in classrooms.
So for example, equity is now. We’ve had a revision a little bit. The design principles are essentially the same. Common intellectual mission became equity. Just let’s name that.
So equity as a design principle, when we’re designing projects, or when we’re looking at student work, equity, as a principal, pushes us to ask the question, where is the evidence in this work that there is access and challenge for all students? The principle of personalization drives us to ask questions about our work like, where is the evidence in this project design or in the sample of student work of student voice and choice in the product and the process, adult world connection, or what we now call authentic work? Where’s the evidence of authentic work– work that is connected to the world and work that mimics work in the adult world that involves multiple revisions and peer critique and things like that? It’s authentic in that way.
And then, of course, collaborative design, teacher as designer became collaborative design as a principal because we realized that it wasn’t just teachers who were designing the work. We were inviting students to collaborate in the design as well. So that principal became a collaborative design. And where in the world is the evidence of participation by students and teachers in designing that work? So the design principles are really, really key to our ongoing evolution and our conversations about who we are and where we’re headed.
High Tech High is guided by four connected design principles.
Equity, personalization, authentic work, and collaborative design.
That’s the aspirations goals and create a foundation for understanding our approach.
High Tech High is an equity project.
Teachers work to address inequities and help students–
–to reach their full potential.
Our schools are intentionally diverse and integrated.
Enrolling students through a zip code-based lottery–
–aimed at creating schools that are reflective of the communities we serve.
Teachers recognize the value of having–
–students from different backgrounds–
And employ a variety of approaches to accommodate diverse learners–
–without academic track links.
High Tech High has an acute focus on college entrance–
–and college completion–
–for all students.
High Tech High teachers practice a learner-centered–
–inclusive approach that supports–
–and challenges each student.
Students pursue their passions through projects–
–and reflect on their learning.
Recognizing that identity, development–
–and personal growth occur in the context of community.
Our schools foster relationships of trust, caring, and mutual respect among students and adults–
–through program design elements such as–
–small school size–
–small classes, home visit advisories and–
–student collaborative work.
And incorporate inquiry across multiple disciplines.
Leading to the creation of meaningful and beautiful work.
Students engage in the–
–work that matters to them–
–to their teachers–
–and the world outside of school.
Students connect their studies to the world through their field work.
Community service, internships–
–and consultation with outside experts.
Our facilities our collaborative workplaces–
–with small group learning and–
–and common spaces–
–and other artifacts of student thinking are created and display.
High Tech High teachers collaborate to design curriculum and projects–
–lead professional development and participate in hiring–
–while seeking student experience and voice in each of these areas–
–with students as design partners.
Staff function as reflective practitioners–
–conducting inquiry into equitable teaching and learning.
–project design and authentic assessments.
We are all still learning.