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U Southern California's Hybrid High Tries Convenience Market Hours

An experiment in high school education, in which students can attend school seven days a week and learning spaces are open 12 hours a day year round, is taking place in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. USC Hybrid High School, an experiment of the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, will be opening its doors on September 4, 2012 for up to 150 ninth graders. Within four years, the school plans to expand the student body to 650 students in grades 9 through 12.

Hybrid High's overarching goal is to graduate 100 percent of its students and have them "socially and academically prepared" for college and workplace success.

The physical location of the charter school is no accident. It wants to be accessible via public transit to families in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where only 56 percent of ninth graders finish high school in four years. The neighborhoods from which Hybrid High expects to draw have even lower graduation rates. Applicants will go through a lottery process to be accepted into the new publicly funded school.

"Hybrid High School will fill a vital need for a quality, rigorous educational program that is tailored to students' needs and ensures that more of our students are finishing high school," said Principal Stephanie McClay. "I'm really excited to open in the fall and begin to work with our students and families."

Plans for the school's 19,000 square foot space include four large learning labs, two project rooms, and a set of "huddle rooms" for small student groups, as well as an administrative suite and a courtyard.

There will be no classrooms. In place of those, the school will use a combination of face-to-face instruction and digital coursework. Students will work on core courses in large open areas on computers supervised by a team of teachers. School requirements also mandate project-based work and community service. Also, students will be required to wear a uniform--Hybrid High vests over white collared shirts and black pants. The high school will provide the vests.

Students will be required to be at the school six hours a day, 35 hours per week, for 175 days a year; but how that schedule breaks out over the course of a year will be up to the individual. Attendance will be able to take place any time during the 12 hours a day the school is open, and the days may include weekends too. Schedules are specifically being made flexible to accommodate job and family responsibilities.

Each student will receive personalized schedules and learning plans. That personalization may mean that a student could attend just a single class during a given timeframe and complete it within weeks instead of months.

Teachers will circulate through learning spaces, helping students one on one or in small groups. Additional support will be provided by "coaches," including onsite advisors, peers, and coaches. Virtual instructors will provide subject matter expertise, and they'll be available online, to guide students through courses, make assignments, assess progress, and grade student work.

Hybrid High was founded by David Dwyer, Rossier's Chair in Educational Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation. The charter is held by Ednovate, a structure created by Rossier to manage the high school.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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