Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006 | For every one high school student we welcome to our school this year, more than nine students will be left behind on a waiting list. While we at High Tech High are honored and proud to have been flooded with more than 3,000 applications for 268 slots determined by a computer-generated, random lottery sorted by zip code, we believe San Diego students deserve better than a one-in-nine chance of getting a dynamic, career-oriented high school education.

Therefore, we start this school year mindful of those left behind and resolved to provide students with more opportunities to prepare for success in college and career. We know this work is imperative for individual students, our community, and the civic and economic health of the nation.

Allowing more “High Tech Highs” to grow by increased public support for funding is one part of the solution. But for the students who can’t wait for new schools to open, there are steps that can be taken to help more students graduate prepared for success in college and career.

  • Send the message to students you know that college is a “when,” not an “if.” Talk it over and plan early;
  • Challenge students to take advanced courses that are required for entry into college;
  • Help students register and prepare for state achievement exams and college entrance tests like the SAT and ACT;
  • Educate students about financial aid programs. Research shows that too many people falsely assume that college is not affordable;
  • Invite students to explore career opportunities. Set up tours of local businesses, labs, studios and offices.
  • Take interest in a disaffected, disengaged student. Ask questions about the challenges they are facing and let them know you want to support them in graduating from high school. Tell them you believe in them.
  • Learn about high school models that challenge all students to perform at high levels and provide personalized support to help each student navigate a highly complicated and intense stage of their lives. Ask school leaders to incorporate more of these models and teaching methods focused on preparing all students for college and career in your schools.

Our experience working with students from all kinds of backgrounds taught us not to underestimate what each student is capable of learning and doing. HTH Students use state-of-the-art tools to pursue projects about molecular biology, robotics, painting and bridge building. The result: a much more motivated and engaged student making significant contributions to their community. For example, art students display their creations at local galleries and recently, students wrote a book now available on Amazon.com, about the industrial, commercial and environmental facets of San Diego Bay.

It’s no surprise that 99 percent of High Tech High’s 2006 graduating class applied and were accepted to a four-year colleges and universities. Over half of High Tech High graduates are first-generation college students. Academic Performance Index rankings (API) place High Tech High schools among the highest achieving in the state.

San Diego’s High Tech High is one of 1,600 schools sparked by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of the funding is to create a portfolio of high quality high school options for students that provide students with an engaging, rigorous high school education that prepares them for college. Hundreds of high schools across the country are using HTH as a model program for their communities’ students.

Two more schools will open in San Diego next school year, growth that while encouraging, will not keep pace with the current demand. The deluge of applications will hopefully generate greater awareness about teaching and learning methods and high school models that expect and demand more of teaching and learning.

The start of a new school year provides an opportunity to imagine what is possible and make a commitment to achieving it. Too much is at stake to ignore it.

Gail Stoorza-Gill is a director on the High Tech High Foundation Board and a member of the voiceofsandiego.org board of directors as well. Send a letter to the editor here.

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