Larry Rosenstock

Ashoka Fellow
United States, North America
Fellow Since 2002
My work: A network of urban charter schools that eliminate boundaries between vocational & liberal arts-style education.


This profile was prepared when Larry Rosenstock was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Larry aims to show that High Tech High (HTH) can answer the problem that has plagued U.S. public education for more than a century - the misfit between vocational education and chances for real success among disadvantaged students. His HTH eliminates traditional boundaries between "technical" education (code for tracking low-income kids) and traditional college preparatory, liberal arts-style secondary education (typically provided to students from higher income backgrounds). In its place, HTH offers a highly stimulating educational environment that encourages students to immerse themselves in real-world career experiences. Instead of attending regular classroom lectures, taking tests, and turning in homework assignments, HTH students spend four years working primarily on individual and group projects that provide hands-on experiences, and are complemented by academic curricula. Students are assessed for their work in teams as well as individually. The beauty of HTH is that students are well prepared for the world of work, and at the same time, they surpass traditional benchmarks of academic success, scoring far better than their urban counterparts on traditional, standardized tests and college entrance exams. Nationally recognized as "the high school of the future," HTH serves as a public "learning lab" and hosts at least 1,000 visitors a year who are interested in learning about the model. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced its commitment to support Larry in his efforts to replicate HTH in nine new locations nationwide. Since HTH is structured as a publicly funded, privately operated charter school, Larry enjoys the latitude to run the school according to his vision. His thumbprint can be seen in the very walls of the school: artfully crafted, the school looks and feels more like a high-tech college campus than a dreary, prison-like institutional high school. Says Sara Garcia, Program Director for Edison Schools: "When I saw the school for the first time, I said, 'That's Larry.' He immediately makes space beautiful. His vision lends a dignity to a school like none I've ever seen."
Larry introduces innovations at the staff management level, as well as in the architecture of the school. He has persuaded the State of California to pass new teacher certification legislation, and as a result, HTH can now recruit and hire teachers like physicists, mathematicians, and computer technologists from nontraditional backgrounds. These accomplished professionals join HTH because it is a place where they can continue to be creative and at the same time teach and give back.
Perhaps Larry's greatest innovation is his vision for the curriculum. Prior to launching HTH, Larry served for two years as the director of the New Urban High School project. This study involved a nationwide effort to find, describe, and design new models for America's high schools. Through this effort Larry identified the core best practices from the highest-performing schools in some of the worst neighborhoods. Several core school-design principles emerged from this study, including: personalization–students learn better when teachers know them well; adult-world immersion, like internships and projects based in the community; and a common intellectual mission, by which every student receives an equal education without distinctions like "college prep" and "technical" (or vocational technical) preparation. While many education reformers currently subscribe to these principles, and some arrived at them at the about same time, Larry is recognized as the first to articulate them in a coherent way and then demonstrate their success by designing a model school based on principles that could be easily replicated.
"It's fresh thinking," says Ted Sizer, founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools and former Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Sizer says he counts Larry as one among the small handful of the most innovative education reformers working in the U.S. today. Others agree. "He's out ahead with this," explains Kim Smith, CEO of the New Schools Venture Fund, a philanthropy created by venture capitalist John Doerr that invests in leading education entrepreneurs with national replication aspirations like Rosenstock and Ashoka Senior Fellow Don Shalvey of Aspire Schools. Explains Kim: "What Larry's doing is synthesizing heretofore separate streams of charter reforms–thoughtful use of technology, mentoring and counseling, project-based learning, teams of teachers that are combinations of industry experts [to whom HTH] adds the teacher credential. Then Larry adds another layer by integrating performance-based portfolio assessments." Tom Vander Ark, Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, agrees: "What's unique about Larry and High Tech High," says Tom, "is in how carefully the layers are integrated. The pedagogy, the staffing structure, the community connections–they all work together, better than anywhere [I've ever seen]."
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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