Posted on November 21, 2019

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, today presented the prestigious WISE Prize for Education to Mr. Larry Rosenstock, CEO and Founding Principal of High Tech High, a network of American public charter schools in San Diego, California.

Mr. Rosenstock was presented with this accolade at the opening plenary of the WISE Summit 2019, before an audience of more than 3,000 participants from 100 countries.

The WISE Prize for Education is the first distinction of its kind to acknowledge an individual for an outstanding contribution to education. Mr. Rosenstock is recognized for his lifelong dedication to rethinking K-12 learning and tackling inequality through education. He has pioneered the concept of project-based education – the idea that students can and must learn crucial academic skills through hands-on projects that integrate multiple disciplines, engage their interest, and have an authentic purpose. His model also reimagines the role of teachers as designers who adapt their curricula and blend a variety of subjects based on the specific needs of each student.

A commitment to lifting the status of disadvantaged youth has been the driving force of Mr. Rosenstock’s professional journey. Early in his career, and despite his training in law, Mr. Rosenstock chose to teach carpentry to inner-city high school students in the 1960s in Boston at the height of desegregation. Through this experience, he recognized the inherent value in vocational education and training (VET) and the strong abilities of these students, who were not given equal academic opportunities. This led him to pursue a career dedicated to integrating the students who have been historically divided and funneled into two separate tracks, often based on race and class.

Throughout his career, Mr. Rosenstock has sought to improve the status of VET and vocational students through several channels – legal, educational, and entrepreneurial. He worked as an educator for 11 years, but also used his legal expertise to co-write legislation that enhanced funding for VET and required greater integration with academics. In starting High Tech High (HTH), he has emerged as an innovator who has created a visible model that shows what is possible in schools. HTH, founded in 2000, breaks down a number of barriers: the obstacles to accessing quality education, the separation of academic from technical learning, and the isolation of schools from the community and the real world. Tackling inequalities is at the heart of HTH’s mission, with schools that enroll students through a zip-code based lottery.

The innovative methods pioneered at HTH have helped prepare thousands of students of all ability levels and socioeconomic backgrounds for higher education, citizenship, and a rewarding life of work. This approach has allowed students to reach their full potential, with 98 percent of HTH students accepted to university, versus 69 percent nationwide. Starting as a small public charter school, HTH has evolved into an integrated network of sixteen charter schools serving approximately 5,780 students in grades K-12 across four campuses. In 2008, Mr. Rosenstock founded the HTH Graduate School of Education, which offers master’s degrees and training to over 5,000 teachers and school leaders each year. Educators, policymakers, and leaders from all 50 US states and 30 countries have participated in HTH programs.

Mr. Rosenstock and the HTH model are shaping the present and future of education by serving as a proof point for the concepts of project-based learning, teaching 21st century skills, and demonstrating that systemic change through the classroom is possible. Stavros N. Yiannouka, the CEO of WISE, said: “Larry’s work encapsulates the essence of the WISE Prize for Education: a decade-long commitment to education as a force for positive individual and social transformation, manifested through impactful work and tangible achievements as a visionary educator, policymaker, thinker, and social entrepreneur.”

On receiving the award, Mr. Rosenstock said: “I am tremendously honored to receive this prize from such a distinguished jury. For me to be in the company of past winners of this prize, who have now made an impact in education around the world, is very moving. I hope the prize will allow us to share the work of High Tech High students and teachers even more widely.  The prize confirms two of my strongest beliefs: that the work of hands and minds can and must be integrated in our schools.  And that all young people are capable of doing work that matters, when we give them the opportunity.”

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