By Tina Safi
La Jolla resident Larry Rosenstock, CEO and founding principal of High Tech High (HTH), is one of three men to receive this year’s Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.
The prize annually recognizes outstanding individuals who have dedicated themselves to improving education in the United States and whose accomplishments are making a difference today.
The other winners are Christopher Cerf (creator of the Emmy Award-winning PBS show “Between the Lions”) and Dr. Robert Mendenhall (established the online Western Governors University). The honorees were recently recognized at a dinner at the New York Public Library.
“The event at the library was black tie,” Rosenstock said. “My father had just passed away at the age of 92, and he would have loved it … but, I did wear his tux!”
In explaining the selection process, Harold “Terry” McGraw III, chairman, president and chief executive of The McGraw-Hill Companies said, “these three leaders have created programs that have been scaled-up for the well-being of students and the education community as a whole. In order to achieve the reforms that are needed for widespread and lasting improvement in our education system, we need to look to and learn from innovators who are identifying effective solutions and who routinely build upon their successes.”
The honorees were chosen by a panel of judges made up of influential members of the education community and announced on Sept. 28. Each winner received a gift of $25,000 and a bronze sculpture.
The prize was established in 1988 to honor McGraw's lifelong commitment to education, and to mark the company’s 100th anniversary. Past honorees include former U.S. Secretaries of Education Richard Riley and Rod Paige; the Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr., former Governor of North Carolina; and Barbara Bush, founder of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.
Rosenstock, 62, launched High Tech High in 2000 as a single charter school. Today there are nine, an integrated network of schools serving grades K-12. Each serves a diverse student population that is selected by a blind, Zip code-based lottery. More than 60 percent of HTH students are from racial or ethnic minorities, and 25 percent come from low-income families. Nearly all HTH graduates are accepted to colleges.
HTH’s mission is to develop and support pioneering public schools where all students develop the academic, workplace, and citizenship skills for real-world success. About 35 percent of students are the first in their families to attend college, and the ambitious charter schools emphasize student projects, problem-solving assignments and internships with local businesses and organizations.
Rosenstock, who grew up in New York, said he thought he would end up a carpenter. However, he was interested in teaching from a young age, and after attending law school, he taught carpentry in urban high schools in Boston and Cambridge for 11 years. He then served as staff attorney at the Harvard Center for Law and Education for two years, and was a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for five years.
Rosenstock also directed the federal New Urban High School Project, was president of the Price Charitable Fund, and today, is CEO of High Tech High and president of the High Tech High Graduate School of Education.
“I feel even better about receiving the honor than I might have thought,” said Rosenstock, an Ashoka Fellow. “I had heard about it from all kinds of former friends and colleagues, but Terry McGraw called me directly one day and that is how I officially found out.
“In terms of what the prize means to me, the best part is the regard I have for many of the prior winners. It is nice to be in their company.”
(Ashoka Fellows are leading social entrepreneurs recognized to have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society. Ashoka Fellows work in over 60 countries around the globe in every area of human need.)
High Tech High
- 3,500 students
- 350 employees
- $57 million in real estate holdings
- $27 million annual operating budget
- Goals: Opening additional statewide schools in the coming years; support the development of schools based on the HTH design principles, hoping to inspire and enable others in the public education community to adopt its practices.