Transforming with technology

The documentary Most Likely to Succeed examines a California high school that has up-ended the traditional approach to education. Instead of relying on a teacher-centered model that has little changed in more than 100 years, High Tech High in San Diego has become a student-centered model. It emphasizes project-based learning, critical thinking, collaboration, and other skills better suited to a 21st century, information-based workforce.

Attendees at a Friday preconference session at NSBA’s annual conference in Boston got a viewing of the award-winning film.

At High Tech High, gone are standardized tests, textbooks, rote learning and memorization, subject-specific classes, and requirements on what and how teachers. Even the school bell has been done away with.

In a discussion with NSBA conference attendees after the film, a panel of education officials discussed how their school communities have embraced the film’s approach to 21st century learning to transform their schools.

“I was changed the first time I saw (the film) and I’m changed again the second time,” said Darryl Adams, superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District in California.

Following the rollout of iPads to all students as part of its personalized learning initiative, Coachella turned to improving Internet access for all students in its low-income, rural community. The answer: school buses outfitted with Wi-Fi routers and solar panels that are parked overnight in the most underserved communities to ensure internet connectivity for those all students.

“The world is changing much, much faster than even the film shows,” said Buck Crouch of Arizona’s Sunnyside Unified School District. He discussed manufacturing facilities that are already able to operate without human workers, and added that both the farming and service industries are quickly following suit.

In Sunnyside, the district closed a low-performing middle school and restructured it into a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, and math with art added to the mix) curriculum school that utilizes maker rooms, gear sets, and a 3D printer.

That restructuring gave the district the “flexibility to use a traditional STEM curriculum plus project based learning,” Crouch said.

Mark Willis of the Georgia School Board Association said “if school boards are going to stay relevant, you have to be a chief advocate” for innovating and transforming their schools. And that means engaging communities in discussions about the importance of these changes and overcoming fear –“fear of not being re-elected; fear of doing something different.”

Contact Ann Flynn, NSBA Director of Education Technology (, to learn how you can request Most Likely to Succeed to inspire dialogue in your community.



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