Ever since the Cold War, Americans have placed far heavier emphasis on math, science and technologyeducation — with all the humanities, liberal and visual arts receiving a hefty amount of downplay. Considering such academic perceptions persist today, it probably comes as no surprise that specialized public and private schools alike spring up to spread these subjects further. Oftentimes open only to particularly proficient students, those institutions beef up their equipment and laboratories in the interest of nurturing students’ skills. With the most state-of-the-art resources, they hope to better the future by inspiring the next generation of professionals and innovators.
Of course, it’s obvious to anyone that far more than 10 excellent high-tech high schools exist in America. Try not to take offense over any inclusions or exclusions — consider this more of a sample of the specialty institutions available to stimulate scientific inquiry rather than a ranking or definitive listing.
- High Technology High School, Lincroft, New Jersey: Everything anyone wants to know about this highly competitive specialty school can be found right there in its name. Founded in 1991, it shares campus space with Brookdale Community College and places heavy emphasis on math, science and technology courses. HTHS typically receives around 300 applications a year, selecting only the best 75 for its intensive programming. Currently, it supports about 265 students. These young thinkers enjoy multiple award-winning facilities with 5 permanent and 2 "roaming" computer labs — utilizing both Macs and PCs — as well as ones dedicated entirely to exploring technology, chemistry and physics.
- High Tech High, San Diego, California: "High Tech High" is really something of a misnomer. Spread across 11 different San Diego County campuses, this charter series encompasses 2 elementary schools, 4 junior highs, 5 high schools and even a graduate program offering a master’s in education. Some of the campuses boast their own specialties, such as media arts, while others generally offer up general-but-intensive course loads in engineering, math and the sciences. HTH began life in 2000, founded by local business leaders hoping to train the next generation of innovators using all the latest technologies. From there, it expanded considerably and now educates 3500 students — 100% of whom end up graduating and attending college. Admissions, which are as thoroughly competitive as one would imagine, are selected via a lottery based on zip code.
- High Tech Los Angeles Charter High School, Lake Balboa, California: Unlike many charter high schools meant to bolster math and science skills, HTLA encourages proficiency in the humanities as well, challenging students to creatively blend disciplines together. Like HTH in San Diego, this campus selects new admissions via a lottery of qualified applicants. HTLA does sport a 4-year curriculum, but classes are structured in a way to maximize innovation and encourage a far higher degree of self-direction than the average public school. High schoolers interested in robotics as either a profession or hobby will absolutely love the extracurricular programs designed for First Robotics competitions. For its staggering accomplishments, the State of California has designated HTLA a Distinguished School and bestowed upon it an Academic Achievement Award.
- Marine Academy of Science and Technology, Highlands, New Jersey: This prestigious college prep school requires considerable lab and field work for all its students, who must complete intensive engineering, science (oceanography, marine and naval) and math courses to graduate. Proficiency in the humanities and arts, however, is also highly encouraged. MAST’s campus boasts some of the most state-of-the-art technological facilities, including laboratories specifically for marine biology, oceanography, CAD, physics, chemistry, multimedia, marine technology, computers and plenty more. It even owns its own 64-foot boat! Named "Blue Sea," the school keeps it docked at Sandy Hook, a station operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Technology High School, Rohnert Park, California: Another California Distinguished School, THS uses a more project-based approach to nurturing its students’ science and math skills. It, too, offers a chance to participate in the First Robotics competition, boasting the 60-member Team 675. Beyond that extracurricular perk, courses are designed to encourage philosophizing and embrace all the latest technologies. Web 2.0 and blogging both play a significant role in keeping students, faculty and staff connected to the veins of emergent innovations — not to mention teaching them some creative ways to merge a wide variety of disciplines. Engineering courses are required for all 4 years, and incorporate programming and resources from Harvard School of Business, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and plenty more absolutely stunning offerings.
- The Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Houston, Texas: Considering Houston’s status as the premiere American city for medicine and biotechnology, it probably comes as little surprise that it would offer up a high-tech high school educating roughly 900 would-be healthcare providers. Consistently named the best of the best in its district, students at DeBakey HSHP work in conjunction with Baylor College of Medicine and other local institutions for a first-hand look at how doctors, nurses and more quell human suffering. Similar magnet schools worldwide actively adapt its academic strategies. Globally renowned cardiac pioneer Dr. Michael E. Debakey himself launched the programming, which requires 100 hours of community service and considerable coursework at various hospitals and laboratories in the Texas Medical Center.
- School of the Future, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Microsoft sponsors this experimental high school, but it does creak beneath its own fair share of very public struggles. Despite some of the failings, however, SotF is undeniably blessed with an abundance of high technology for the student body. Founder Bill Gates and the School District of Philadelphia collaborated on development starting in 2003, sinking millions of dollar into what they hoped would prove an innovative template for education’s future. This didn’t exactly come to pass, but it’s still notable for being an entirely paperless campus. Instead, students all receive their own laptops. Hopefully in due time, SotF’s dedication to welding all things technological to a classroom setting will come to inspire other educational institutions. The ones capable of affording it, anyways…
- New Technology High School, Napa, California: NTHS also hopes to serve as a leader in applying emergent technologies to educational settings, adopting a project-based approach to promote individualized learning. Its sleek campus boasts a bevy of multimedia equipment, and support from local business leaders and kindly donors keeps equipment updated regularly. Internships are also available to allow students more hands-on experience with science, math and engineering applications in the real world.
- Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia: Since 1985, this prestigious high school has existed as Virginia’s premiere magnet for kids adept at science, math and technology and looking for some great academic challenges. All attendees receive a well-balanced education incorporating languages, humanities and the fine arts, however, but the institution’s overarching emphasis remains the same. What makes it among the best is the fact that it boasts 14 completely different research laboratories. These cover everything from astronomy to engineering materials — and almost every other scientific, mathematical and technological subject imaginable. Before graduating, all seniors must finish up an engineering or science research project in either one of the campus labs or an approved "mentor" facility.
- Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, Baltimore, Maryland: Known mostly for, well, technology and environmental science, WSTE actually provides an eclectic assortment of concentrations — including cosmetology and culinary arts. As both a magnet and vocational school, its curriculum provides a broad number of Maryland students with the training needed to succeed in the professional world. WSTE hosts a career camp, where attendees spend 4 days exploring the various options available to them, though unsurprisingly, most relate to science and technology. High schoolers hoping to focus on the former have plenty of amazing extracurricular activities from which to choose. Every year, events such as the Earth Day extravaganza, Physics Olympics, Science Expo, Envirothon and Chemathon give them an opportunity to strut their scientific stuff and learn more than a few things from their peers and teachers in the process.