Frequently Asked Questions
These questions were collected during Open Houses and student visits.
How do students get into d.tech? d.tech is a free, public charter high school open only to California residents. Prospective students must submit their birth certificate with the simple application between January and February, and a lottery takes place on March which results in either an offer of a spot, or a position on the waitlist. Students who are resident in the San Mateo or Sequoia Union High School District must complete address verification at their district office to receive priority in the lottery. d.tech's application is otherwise completely separate from the local public school system. Families living outside those districts must prove CA residency upon enrollment. Regardless of residence, due to the nature of lotteries, students are not guaranteed a spot at d.tech. Even so, d.tech encourages all students who are interested in d.tech's innovative program to apply: d.tech values diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic level, sexual orientation, physical ability, family structure and religion.
Is d.tech only about technology? Not at all. d.tech attracts students who have used very little technology, and some who have used it more. The students themselves are interested in as many topics as there are students, across the STEAM rainbow. The 'Tech' in Design Tech High School means developing the confidence to try technology as a tool whether you're interested in dance, film, art, social justice - and/or coding and robotics. There are many relatively easy technological tools available to help students in all areas of interest, and they are evolving so fast that the ones you use now will be replaced with something else by the time you graduate. That means that 'Tech' at d.tech is about feeling happy and confident to try new strategies to explore your interests.
Do you have PE or Music? PE is through independent study, accompanied by a program of responsible reporting to the Director of Wellness. The requirement is 200 minutes per week which can be accomplished through athletic activities, or through many other choices, like hiking, or walking the dog. The purpose is to create a habit of wellness for all students. D.tech also has a Physical Activity Break (PAB) of 15 minutes a day in addition to the lunch break to help students move and restore focus.
While there is no formal music program, the students have been exceptionally active in creating clubs and opportunities to play, ranging from rock and jazz bands, to exploring A Capella and chamber music. Pianists frequently play on one of two pianos in the community space. As an aside, by student request, the admin team is happy to use music to signal the end of lunch.
What sports are available? d.tech offers varsity and junior varsity in volleyball, swimming, basketball and futsal, and expects to be fully ratified as a member of local leagues in the coming year. See Max Preps for the full line-up this fall. Students are also independently engaged in competitive sports with local organizations, e.g. competitive sailing, rock climbing, fencing and baseball. More sports are likely to be added as the school grows, although touch football will not be one of them. The school culture is sports-friendly with pick-up basketball games at lunchtime, and a students vs. faculty ultimate frisbee game during the annual camping trip. Also, one of the choices for activities on lab days is to go to the Burlingamer Sports Center to have fun and build some physical activity minutes.
What sports facilities will you have on the new campus? Once the school is located at Oracle Parkway, the cross-country runners will have easy access to the bay trail, and there will also be access for students to the Oracle gym.
Is there a dress code? d.tech sets out expectations for students and parents in the Parent Handbook which is revised each year. Both parents and students need to read it, agree to it and sign it to enroll. Students are expected and trusted to wear common-sense clothing that is appropriate for d.tech's school environment. This is also an expectation when d.tech students are working with professional mentors on or off campus. The admin team will intervene at their discretion as needed.
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How friendly are the students? Students at d.tech know how instrumental they are in forming an inclusive and welcoming culture in a start-up high school. They have engaged in many design challenges around empathy-building, as well as Mosaic Project activities and d.Leadership student club events, to name just a few initiatives. Surveys of d.tech families, and feedback from new and current students, provide consistent feedback about how kind the everyone is generally and across grades. This is a reflection of regular conversations and activities around empathy and community building. Discussions take place in student Advisory Groups, at the weekly Community Meeting, and in clubs dedicated to celebrating diversity.
However, kindness is not something that can ever be taken for granted. Not only can the high school years can bring moments of emotional turmoil, impulse and strong emotions, but new students arrive from many different backgrounds and experiences. They may or may not have had practice in social and emotional learning and mindfulness. A process of norming begins when new students enroll at d.tech, and it continues throughout their four years. For example, if a student used to use verbal 'put-downs' as a power-play strategy, that is not accepted at d.tech. The older students and admin team will work together with that student to talk through choices, and encourage more inclusive ones. d.tech operates a peer-to-peer mentoring program called the d.Mentors, and there are also counselors and a psychologist on staff. In addition, the Admin team includes a 'Student Experience Coordinator' whose role it is to provide timely additional guidance and/or consequences when needed.
Students who enroll at d.tech need to commit to d.tech's three key values: trust, care and commitment - toward themselves, one another and their work.
Will the new campus on Oracle be done in time for the 2017-2018 school year? Current projections as 2016 draws to a close are that d.tech will be able to occupy the school in January of 2018. We have not confirmed the final plans for the fall of 2017: we may use the current space with additional space at another location. We believe this is a solvable challenge, but will not have a firm plan until all options have been researched.
How many languages can you choose from? d.tech offers Spanish, American Sign Language and Mandarin on campus. Some classes are taught by Skyline professors and offer free college Continuing Education credits. Students taking independent study courses off-campus can receive credit provided the course is UC ratified and they are able to reach an accommodation with required academic studies on campus. d.tech's Success Counselor and Director of Learning guide students to achieve their World Language goals.
Do you have a drama program? We offer theater courses during Intersession - including themes such as costume design, improv and voice. Students have written and presented plays, and a group is now working towards the first d.tech musical! We have dancers, writers, singers and musicians who love to perform for the school during culminations and celebrations, as well as actors who are currently in professional productions.
Does d.tech offer AP tests? d.tech does not offer APs. This is a conscious decision based on feedback from many colleges an an evolution that is taking place in College Admissions Offices. Students are not penalized for not taking APs when they attend a school that does not offer them, and many colleges have emphasized to d.tech that they are looking for three things in a prospective undergraduate: willingness to take on a challenge and make use of available resources, have genuine interest in a topic/activity, and interest in giving back to their community.
Over the last ten years there has been an escalation in the number of APs students are expected to take in an effort to differentiate themselves from their peers, with the result that APs are no longer the differentiating factor they once were in the college admissions process. Colleges take into account portfolio work, intersessions and internships as well as SAT scores and grades when placing students. In addition to these experiences, d.tech also offers free college credit classes on campus in the World Languages Program, and supports students who are engaged in independent study at local Community Colleges.
Do you have a college prep program? Please visit the College Prep tab to see a list of the speakers and colleges who have visited d.tech just in the last three months. Students are also receiving preparation through the Intersession program; d.tech has a full-time Success Counselor, and is rolling out the Naviance platform which connects individuals with developmentally appropriate materials to prepare for the future, and guides them eventually to one-stop submission of applications and transcripts to the College Board. d.tech also recognizes and supports multiple options for graduates, which may also include a gap year, community college and vocational training.
How is the class structured? Are there some lectures, then just work time? Although the pattern may vary somewhat from day to day across subjects and tasks, faculty and students adhere to a learning cycle which lasts approximately two weeks. At the outset, the teacher will introduce the topic to be covered. This is called 'the launch' (L). The presentation is usually socratic, with the teacher teasing out individual levels of prior knowledge and comprehension to discover how best to differentiate instruction for individuals. Following that, the students are assigned a number of comprehension checks in small groups or individually. Comprehension checks (CC) are ungraded tasks that apply the knowledge and solidify understanding. A student may progress rapidly through these, or need a few more to become proficient with the material. Once the student is ready to move on, they tackle the graded performance task (PT). Students must score a minimum of 75% to have passed the performance task, or they will be cycled through more comprehension checks. The goal is to ensure that genuine understanding is taking place before the student is moved on. After the performance exam, the learning cycle culminates with a graded unit exam (UE). This is often a project that personalizes the knowledge.
I heard d.tech is self-paced. Can I go at my own pace? Here is the expectation: students should strive to remain 'on pace' to complete the learning cycle on time. It's a partnership: the faculty give differentiated instruction during class, and on on two days of the week - Tuesday and Thursday - block scheduling called 'Lab Days' gives them another opportunity to differentiate and personalize the lessons for students. However, students are responsible for completing their course work before the deadline. Some can accomplish that without taking work home, and can have a choice of additional activities on Lab Days. Others will need to use the block-scheduling to stay on pace, and some - at certain times or in certain subjects -will need at times to work at home to stay on pace.
The 'Lab Coat' - as it's called - is a tool to help students stay on pace. It's a personalized weekly summary of work that remains to be done, and is developed from BUZZ - the student online learning management system.
My son/daughter works at a slower pace, and has a 504/IEP learning plan. How does that fit with 'staying on pace'? The answer will be different depending on the accommodations needed. After you receive an offer of a spot, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be connected with d.tech's Learning Specialist. d.tech does not have the resources to meet with all prospective families prior to the lottery to discuss a 504, but will be available to talk through a potential transition in after an offer has been extended.
What if my child was at independent school, and was getting extra support but doesn't have a formalized learning plan like a 504 or IEP? Please contact the Learning Specialist after the lottery at email@example.com to learn about these resources, and the steps to formalize additional support and accommodations.
Do teachers give after-school tutoring? Teachers are dedicated to providing extra help to students during the Tuesday and Thursday Lab Days. They are available in what are called 'office hours' on the schedule, with the constraint that they may be helping multiple students during that time.
Does Community Service help with entering the school? While making a difference in the community is a value d.tech encourages, it is not required. More importantly, d.tech's application is very basic, and does not require anything other than applicant's contact information, and proofs of age and identity. The opportunity to enroll is kept as fair as possible for all prospective students. In the end, we find that the students who decide to enroll at d.tech are interested in an innovative way of using time at high school.
How do students get to Redwood Shores when the new campus is built? Many students will take the train to Belmont, and Oracle will send a shuttle to deliver them to campus. Other students may cycle, walk or carpool depending on where they live. Students will not be allowed to drive to campus - except in special circumstances - in an effort to reduce traffic on Marina Parkway.
How are parents involved? d.tech relied on considerable parent involvement to bring the school to it's current level of success. Parents have contributed countless volunteer hours to setting up communications systems, building furniture, organizing community events and parent coffees, sharing expertise on panels or in intersessions, handing out lunches, donating supplies, helping with clubs and sports teams, fundraising and driving students to and from intersessions. Volunteering is not a requirement, but the school would not be where it is today without the exceptional input of many hands and hearts. Parents who would like to volunteer can express interest in different activities during the new family orientation, and they may also receive invitations through the school's weekly newsletter - the d.tech download, or through a parent blog called Big Tent. There is a sign-up system run by the parent run Community Partnership (CoPa) which coordinates efforts in the principle areas of Community Building, Fundraising (Gala and Annual Fund), Communications/Volunteering, the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), and the parent representative on d.tech's Board of Directors. More information about these can be found on the Support tab, the Parent Portal tab and the Updates tab.
Parents are encouraged to attend a school-wide Town Hall held on campus monthly to hear reports from Executive Director Dr. Ken Montgomery, and CoPa leaders and have an opportunity for Q & A. All these activities are posted on the School Calendar.