On Sept. 4 nearly 100 ninth graders came by bus and by car, with parents and clustered with groups of friends, to start their first day at the new USC Hybrid High School in downtown Los Angeles.
Developed by the USC Rossier School of Education, USC Hybrid High blends personalized instruction with digital coursework. The school will keep its doors open year-round — up to 12 hours per day and seven days a week — to cater to students who may need to care for family members, work full-time or part-time jobs or need additional time to improve their skills and master course work.
“The most glaring reason that kids drop out is scheduling problems,” said Principal Stephanie McClay. “Our model is about empowering [students] as self-directed learners and the intelligent, capable young people they are. Every kid has a different path for achieving that goal.”
Just after 8 a.m., parents proudly snapped photos on their cell phone cameras as they watched their children start their first day of high school.
“We’ve taken a picture every first day since kindergarten, so we have to do it,” said Ann Edwards, laughing as her son gamely posed by the high school’s front doors.
So why USC Hybrid High?
“I want him to be prepared for college,” Edwards said. “I just really want him to have the opportunities that really good schools have.”
On a large outdoor patio, USC Hybrid High’s class of 2016 met their classmates and were hailed as “history makers” and “legend makers” by their new teachers and counselors.
The school’s mantra loomed large on T-shirts and classroom walls — “No Excuses!”
“They’re going to make them be accountable — to themselves,” said Dwayne Clavon, whose youngest child is a member of the school’s first class. “They’re going to push them and give them that personal attention. It’s exciting to be a part of something brand new.”
Students also got a sneak peek of the Apple iPod Touches that will serve as their student identification cards to scan for meals, check school email, download class assignments and video conference with teachers. David Dwyer, the school’s founder and holder of the Katzman/Ernst Chair in Educational Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship at USC Rossier, rolled carts stocked with 30 Apple MacBook Air laptops into each classroom for students to use during the school day.
Half of the school’s staff members are alumni of USC Rossier, and three of the school’s seven teachers hold doctorate degrees.
“The excitement that I feel about Hybrid High is almost overwhelming,” said math teacher Stefnie Evans. “Meeting these families has made me realize how significant this work and this school will be. These parents are so full of hope for their children, and we get the opportunity to serve them. The potential impact to families and communities is profound and inspiring.”
By Merrill Balassone and Andrea Bennett