"All three of the schools we visited in this chapter are small “schools of choice” – and two of the three are charter schools [but this is not a silver bullet]. For every successful small high school or charter school, I can show you nine others that are getting results no different from the traditional comprehensive high school next door" (Wagner p. 252).
In all three schools, the main purpose of teaching is the development of students' core competencies for lifelong learning. Memorization is downplayed in favor of weighing evidence, reasoning, and analysis. Research, writing, and effective oral communication matter far more than performance on multiple-choice tests. Students are motivated to learn in all three schools through a combination of three distinct interrelated incentives 1) close relationships with adults in and out of school, 2) opportunities to explore their questions and interests, 3) learning is hands-on and more personalized. In addition, the three schools hold themselves collectively accountable for quality student work and student success in college and beyond. They seek regular feedback from outsiders and most important, they use this information to refine their academic programs. Teachers are motivated to improve continuously in all three schools through a combination of structures and incentives.
All three schools described in this chapter are amazing schools and have so much to offer students and educators. For me, I would prefer to design my own school (hypothetically). I say this because these schools offer so many great options and opportunities for students, but these schools would not be a right fit for me as a student. I loved my education, which would be classified as the traditional comprehensive high school. That being said, I wouldn't just design another traditional high school. I would take the model of the traditional and incorporate some of the right ideas and aspects of these three schools.
I have a slight issue with schools that do not offer AP classes or even have test scores. This is not because I believe this tests are imperative to assessing a students' knowledge, but it's because colleges still care about test scores and AP classes. I fear that if students are not exposed to testing and the reality of how so many colleges still operate, they will not be prepared to apply for colleges through SAT testing and for the setting of a traditional college class (i.e. lecture hall where you don't even meet the teacher and it is all test based or a math class where you are lectured and you have a quizzes, a midterm and a final as your grade). This is my solely speaking from what I have witnessed in college and how I could see an implication with not testing your students or providing them with AP courses. I also don't think that AP courses, tracking and testing say how a student will perform in the work world, but until colleges stop caring about these things, I find it hard to scratch these from the students' education as the goal of most (of my) students is to go to college.
An ideal school (in my mind) would be to take the traditional high school and incorporate High Tech High's rigorous activities. This encourages students to be deeply critical of the lesson content. In addition, I think High Tech High has a great way of holding kids accountable (which is a great thing to master) through their electronic portfolios. High Tech High creates an inviting environment that is missing for many students in the traditional high school setting. My ideal school would be to take a traditional high school and infuse it with High Tech High's vision on hands based learning, technology, sense of community and cross-curricular approach. This is a bit of a vague and basic answer of the type of school I would design, but it's a work in progress! Get back to me in 5, 10 and 20 years of teaching. I'm sure (and I hope) that my ideas will be constantly evolving on what my ideal school would look like in order to best reach and educate children.