Exploring a School with No Classrooms

Imagine a high school where classrooms aren't divided by subject matter, and there aren't even class periods or bells – and teachers are told to teach however they want.

That's the reality for a high school in California profiled in the documentary "Most Likely to Succeed."

The film, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival last year, is created by author, father and venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith.

“The only thing college guarantees today is the large checks that have to be written to pay for it,” Dintersmith argues in making his case that America’s current education system is outdated and failing students. “Over half of college graduates are underemployed or working jobs historically filled by a high school graduate. The magic formula that worked for decade after decade is no longer magic.”

The film rounds up arguments from education and business experts like Stanford University researcher Linda Darling-Hammond, Khan Academy founder Sal Khan and Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Andrew McAfee. Together, they make the case that traditional forms of teaching and traditional lessons of content no longer serve students to be ready for the jobs of the 21st century.

A still image from the documentary "Most Likely To Succeed."A still image from the documentary "Most Likely To Succeed."

“When we hire at Khan Academy, we’re trying to hire software engineers and people who can help with content and help with student research. These are the growth jobs of the 21st century, highly creative jobs,” says Khan.  “We ask ourselves questions like, 'What are their logical and critical thinking skills? What’s their ability to communicate? How curious is that person? How good is that person at giving and receiving feedback?’” Khan goes on to say a GPA on a resume provides none of those answers.

Dintersmith says the current, traditional classroom where student desks are aligned in rows and the teacher is the focus of the classroom fails to help kids earn softer skills, like grit, perseverance and resilience.

Instead of content drills, "Most Likely to Succeed" advocates that learning should be student-driven, allowing students to determine what they learn and how they learn by completing intensive, inter-disciplinary projects. Instead of lecturing, teachers serve as coaches and guides, but students make the decisions.

The school profiled in the film, High Tech High in San Diego, California, is just one way of changing the current format, Dintersmith says. He hopes educators see the film and find their own way of changing education and learning.

Watch a trailer for "Most Likely To Succeed," below.


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