Aiming for a high school graduation rate of 100 percent, the school’s ambitions are lofty and its personalized, technology-rich approach to high school education is unconventional.
Hybrid High will operate out of a still-to-be-selected site in the USC neighborhood, and its doors will be open seven days a week, 10 hours a day and 50 weeks a year.
Students will have access to instructors and personal-support specialists at the facility and online. Certified specialists in areas such as English Language Learning, remediation and counseling will be readily available to students at the facility.
Research shows that 34 percent of youth who drop out claim scheduling conflicts as the reason. Many of those students are working or taking care of family members.
“Hybrid High is adapting to the kids’ schedules, so they don’t have to choose between their educations and helping their families,” said David Dwyer, research professor and holder of the Katzman-Ernst Chair in Educational Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation at USC Rossier and founder of the school.
As its name suggests, Hybrid High will extend the learning experience beyond classroom walls and course books. The curriculum will include academically rigorous core coursework and project-based experiential learning. The latter will allow students to pursue topics that interest them. Experts from a variety of fields will introduce them to a number of innovative potential projects - from building robots to making movies and starting a business.
Dwyer said 20 percent of dropouts are identified as gifted and talented, which suggests that many students are not adequately stimulated by the traditional academic opportunities found in their schools. The project-based learning experience will help students from impoverished areas of the city broaden their vision for what they can possibly pursue in their lives, he said.
Hybrid High will make a commitment to students’ social, emotional and academic growth. The personalized approach will help students who otherwise might fall through the cracks in traditional school systems.
Hybrid High is slated to open with roughly 150 ninth-graders in fall 2012. It will expand enrollment until, at capacity, the school will enroll approximately 600 students in grades 9 through 12.
An application period will be announced through public presentations in churches, schools and community centers in the USC neighborhood. All applicants will be added to a pool of candidates from which the first 150 students will be drawn.
The school has received $300,000 in start-up funding, including support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Elliot and Marsha Sainer. A search recently began for the school’s founding principal, who will hire staff and plan the program structure, with the position expected to be filled by July 1.
Dwyer said the project already has forged partnerships between colleagues across the university. A 14-member steering committee consisting of USC faculty and community members is advising and planning the launch of the school.
The Institute for Multimedia Literacy is developing a two-minute media-based piece for the program’s website, which soon will be launched with the assistance of William Celis of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.
Charles Lagreco of the USC School of Architecture is running a spring design studio focusing on Hybrid High.