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At High Tech High in San Diego, engineering instruction is integrated not only with the other STEM subjects (science, technology, and mathematics), but also with many other subjects, including art, writing, and literature. High Tech High is a compelling example of how engineering can be woven into the fabric of a high-school curriculum.
High Tech High was founded in 2000 by a group of San Diego educators and business leaders as a charter high school. Since then, it has grown to include five high schools, two middle schools, and one affiliated elementary school. The goal of High Tech High is to provide students with personalized, project-based instruction (High Tech High, 2008a). Teachers work closely with students, adapting class content to individual learners. Students take only four subjects per semester, instead of the usual six or seven, to ensure that the curriculum remains focused. The school has no sports teams, no marching band—just academics.
Class sizes are small—generally 20 to 25 students—as is the student body. In 2008, the eight schools that make up High Tech High had a total of 2,500 students; even the oldest and largest of the eight, Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High, had only 490 students in grades 9 through 12 (High Tech High, 2008b).
The success of High Tech High in teaching students from diverse backgrounds has been widely reported (e.g., Murphy, 2004). Students are selected by lottery from a pool of applicants from all over San Diego County; no aptitude tests or assessments are required for admission. Yet every high school student graduates, and every one of the graduates has been accepted to a college, 80 percent to four-year colleges and universities (High Tech High,