Parents, teachers, students, community members and education experts worked together for two years to design Alpha Public Schools’ new charter high school in East San Jose.
The small school will provide weekly one-on-one advising to help students meet their goals and keep families informed. All students will complete college-prep courses and have a chance to take Advanced Placement classes and four years of computer science.
Like Alpha’s two middle schools, the high school will use digital and online learning to personalize instruction.
College counseling — including financial advising and planning classes for parents — will begin in ninth grade. Volunteers will staff a parent center.
Alpha used “design thinking,” an idea developed at Stanford, writes Lillian Mongeau on the Hechinger Report.
The design team interviewed students, parents and 80 community members, discussed problems with East San Jose high schools, brainstormed solutions and came up with a plan.
Gloria Sermeno, mother of an eighth grader at one of Alpha’s middle schools, joined the design team. “[People] have such a low expectation of Latinos here in our community,” Sermeno said. “We have minds. We have smart kids. And that was the purpose of planning for a high school — to show that our kids are going to go to college.”
Ana Wallace, 18, a senior at a nearby Summit Academy charter school, helped design the high school her brother Jesus, 13, will attend. He’s now at an Alpha middle school. “At my school and at Alpha they want to know, ‘What is working for you? What can we do to make it better?’” she said. “Finally, students have that voice and parents have that voice, which is fantastic.”
Twenty Bay Area principals will learn about design thinking through a three-month “School Retool” fellowship at the K12 Lab at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, known as the d.school. Leaders will learn how to make small, but transformative changes — what the d.school calls”hacks” — rather than overhauling everything, said Susie Wise, the lab director.