Most Likely To Succeed- Film Analysis

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In Greg Whiteley’s documentary, Most Likely To Succeed, the problem that is defined is that we raising our students in an outdated curriculum. Through the technological advancements we have made, the mental and muscle power of humans that were needed for factory jobs are being replaced by machines. Given this problem, Whitely suggests that we redesign and implement a new curriculum that is appropriate for the type of people we want to run our society and for the type of workers who are needed for this new economy and new workforce. As a result, students are more prepared for the real life challenges and interactions that are not calculated or predicted by standardized exams and traditional classroom structures. “Real education is messy and any attempt to standardize it will lead to a system that ignores this irrefutable fact-” (Whiteley, 1:24:05) The fact being that education is complex, as Stir Ken Robinson explained, and how teaching is like gardening, if you feed the plant it will grow. If you treat education like a factory where you grind the gears, the machine will just do what you want it to do.

This film begins by describing the first shift in education during the industrial revolution. Then it describes how The Committee of Ten were in charge of designing a curriculum that they thought all students should know. This group decided what material was appropriate for which grade and since then (1892) we have kept this same curriculum. Stir Ken Robinson stated, “we divide the day up into bits of time; into 40-50 min blocks and then we ring bells, and people start to shuffle around and do something else. That’s an organizational device, not and educational principal.”(Whiteley, 12:41). By creating the film in a timeline format, viewers are able to visualize the ways in which society has changed, but schooling as stayed the same, for the most part. This helps us better grasp Whiteley’s main point. For example, the imagery of the scenes from the 1800’s and modern classrooms are uncannily similar. The students sat in rows, staring up at the teacher in the front of the classroom, with uninterested, boring faces; taking in information that they are expected to remember. This footage of the classroom structure did not change until the scene transitioned to High Tech High in San Diego. The physical space of the school resembled its mission, in that they were both the epitome of educational reform. 

Screenshot of High Tech High School


Out of the entire hour and 30 minutes, one scene that stood out to me the most was where 9th grade student, Samantha, stood in front of a classroom full of teachers and her peers describing her strengths and weaknesses, (I’m assuming this was after she presented a project). The way this scene was shot was strategic. The camera was focused on one teacher and the viewer couldn’t see who else was in the room. The teacher said, “What are some things you can work on.” Immediately I thought this was a staff meeting. When the camera shifted to the student in the front of the classroom it almost looked unnatural. As she’s described the areas she can improvement in, she was not talking about subjects. She was talking about personal skills that are applicable beyond the classroom. This stood out to me because I have never read or seen anything like this. The closest I have seen are surveys that students take at the end of the year about how well their school is doing on points that the school board thinks are important. The difference between a survey and what happened in this film, is the verbal communication. A survey provides at most 5 options for a student to say whether they like it or not. At High Tech High, Samantha and her peers had this autonomy to tell their teachers, through their own voice, what are better ways for them to learn. A conversation is being had. This changes everything about teacher-student relationships, about how students are thinking about their education, and how they are able to reflect on their mental and educational needs. For most of us, our first time practicing any type of autonomy like this is our first meeting with our college advisors. And by then some of us don’t know what we need or want from our education because it’s a foreign concept.



Whiteley, Greg. Most Likely To Succeed. 2015. Film.

Rescuing The Human Race Form Artificial Intelligence And Revolutionizing The Education System

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‘Most Likely to Succeed’ is a documentary that highlights and reflects on the most controversial and pronounced changes that have happened in the past few decades to our educational system in the US. Watching the world go from a competition of human abilities while shaping those abilities to best serve the being of people, to the rise of smart machines and artificial intelligence that began from outperforming humans in games like Chess, to completely replacing humans at many high-quality jobs that require engineering skills or simply complex math abilities. That being said, our abilities that used to run our lives are being challenged by computers. Our choices as humans are either to try to stop producing such technology and instead go back to our original way of living using our skills to perform daily tasks, or to keep improving artificial intelligence, while building an education system that structures a new set of skills that differentiates us from machines, something called “Soft Skills” as a physics teacher at High Tech High described it (Most Likely to Succeed 1:15).

Many different ideas and ideologies have been found in an effort to improve the education system while addressing the point mentioned above. High Tech High charter school, located in San Diago, California, is one unique approach highlighted in the ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ documentary. High Tech High’s approach towards providing the best education to children is teaching them what machines cannot learn and that is simply described as ‘Soft Skills.’ This is a new education system that works primarily on peoples skills, not test scores that could be beaten by a computer, but skills that only humans could learn and master. What that physics teacher meant by teaching soft skills was teaching elements such as collaboration, teamwork, showing up and producing something while being passionate about it, “skills like these will stay with them, they are not going to forget them” says the teacher (Most Likely to Succeed1:15). Elaborating more on the traditional education system widely used by public and private schools these days, Sir Ken Robinson, Education author and speaker, says “ the current education system fails to recognize that all students are people…as soon as you forget that and start talking about students as scores and data you are in big trouble’ troubles like finding a job for example. Robinson compares the old days, when students who had a college degree, guaranteed and were guaranteed a job, however nowadays that is not the case, and in addition to that, students have much less exposure to life skills as they used to before, skills like the soft skills we mentioned earlier that would allow them to work not only in their specific area of studies but anywhere else really.

Samantha, one of the students at High Tech High Charter School

This scene shows, at an early stage of the documentary, how the students are sitting at a traditional classroom setting, brainstorming their projects.

Samantha, Directing her own play at a High Tech High classroom

And here, Samantha is leading her own play, directing her actresses [classmates] on their roles, while motivating them to keep pushing hard since the deadline for showing their play is approaching. Through this technique is how these students will learn something that standardized tests cannot asses.

The current education system is mainly centered around test scores. SATs, ACTs, MCATS, States’ tests and so on. Interestingly enough, these tests over time have lost their effectiveness of assessing peoples’ knowledge for many reasons, including them being culturally biased, are only designed to assess people who are familiar with the US education system, and class and socioeconomic status of students can drastically impact their scores on these tests. Yet these tests are heavily dependent on when it comes to entering college. The point being made by Greg Whiteley’s “Most Likely to Succeed” is that to rescue ourselves from being turned into computerized human beings, we need to revolutionize our education system by teaching values, and skills that machines can’t learn, yet one hole in this ideology is what has been raised by many parents of those attending High Tech High themselves, how are we going to assess these ‘soft skills’ and values that students are learning at this type of education system? Are they going to be able to enter college? And how are colleges in the future, if this education system succeeds, going to look at students’ applications? All of these are holes that the documentary wasn’t able to show an answer for, yet provided strong evidence that such process will take long for everyone to internalize the system first, and then move into a direction where it could fix our high education system too.



Greg Whiteley, Most Likely to Succeed, video documentary (2015)

Video Analysis: Most Likely to Succeed

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With the transformation of the society from an industrial to information and technology make-up, the overall curriculum behind the education system must also transform. Human beings are natural, organic, ever-growing creatures. With that on the table, the main source of knowledge, an education, must adapt to the growth of human beings to keep up with modernity. Monitoring and evaluating individuals as data points through standardized testing is unnatural and ineffective for the intellect and retainment of knowledge for human beings.

The documentary, Most Likely to Succeed (2015) uses High Tec High as an illustration of what “real education” looks like. It’s pedagogy contradicts the traditional path that was founded on the industrial era of teaching individuals specific skills to work in factories or on the field. According to Salman Khan, we are now in an era where individual human capital has greater value than industrial skills (Whiteley 1:18). High Tech High strives to teach its students information and soft skills within a curriculum that allows them to produce their own work shaped around the same general education topics of humanities, sciences, arts, technology, etc. Soft skills include creativity, great teamwork, ability to empathize, ability to learn from failures, critical thinking, ability to collaborate, confidence, time management, ability to persevere through trials, and work individually. These are skills that are more likely to be retained much quicker and easier than a standardized curriculum. Teachers are responsible for structuring classes for students to work with a style that is best for them in preparation for the end-of-the-year presentation and evaluation.

Samantha on the first day of her freshman year of high school (Whiteley 18:00)
Samantha on the day of her evaluation report. (Whiteley 1:15)

A very powerful and influential scene presented in Most Likely to Succeed (2015) was the moment Samantha, a student tracked over the course of one school year, was receiving her evaluation report at the end of the year by her teachers. The filmmakers intentionally introduced the viewers to Samantha in the beginning of the film to establish context behind the type of students attending High Tec High. She is followed throughout the film to highlight the challenges faced previous to the concluding evaluation. At the beginning of the semester, Samantha pinpointed her weaknesses of lack of self-confidence and speaking up. Over the course of the school year, Samantha was assigned the position of director for a school play. Through this experience and approach to learning, Samantha grew characteristics and skills that she once believed were never capable of obtaining. Here is a quote that best expresses the growth that not only Samantha experienced through the curriculum but other students, as well:

“One of the most important things that I learned this year: “It’s good to make other people smile. It’s good to smile yourself but it’s also good to have new experiences. It’s good to learn. To go through struggles so that you come out learning something new” (Whiteley 1:15).

In this scene, Samantha was radiating with a huge smile and giggles but also exerting energy of confidence and comfortability. This was very much unlike her presentation to the class in the beginning of the film. Samantha was an individual who overcame challenges she thought were far beyond her abilities. The evaluation period of the curriculum is a collaboration between students and teachers coming up with results for each final product. Samantha and her cohorts produced a project that was of their own interest and not the teachers. It involved hands-on engagement, teamwork, failures, and successes. The teachers approached the evaluation stage by making statements like, “I want you to reflect on,” and “Tell me more about your progress.” These students reflect on the hardships they overcame in order to be in the place they currently stand in. The results produced are reflections of the student’s work ethic, learning capability and growth, and citizenship readiness in the 21st century (Whiteley 45:00).  

The documentary fails to shine light on the selection of the students in the school. High Tec High is a very unique and specifically designed school that has yet to expand nationally. The students who are continuing to follow the traditional path of education more focused on standardized test preparation and spitting knowledge to kids are missing out on this approach to learning. Even mentioned in the film, education is retained differently for everyone (Whiteley 1:23:55). Yes, High Tec High focuses on the depth and effectiveness of learning, but their particular approach to learning is not for everyone. What about the students the students unable to follow a less traditional approach to learning? Some individuals are doing just fine with the school system and style of education attainment they currently have. Success continues to be produced despite the achievement gap that exists in America. This documentary fails to acknowledge the complex intersectionalities of equal opportunity to a “proper and real” education.





Whiteley, G., Leibowitz, A., Ridley, A. & Lombroso D. (Producers), Whiteley G. (Director). Most Likely to Succeed. 2015. Film.

Analyzing “Most Likely to Succeed”

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Most Likely to Succeed is a documentary about the different ways people learn and how students can learn without standardized testing. An example of different learning styles is Larry Rosenstock, a law school dropout. He explains that he is a visual learner and uses drawings to study rather than text, (Most Likely to Succeed, 15:57).

An influential scene in the Most Likely to Succeed video is when the High Tech High schools is explained. High Tech High is a high school in San Diego that doesn’t have standardized testing. The school hires teachers with a one year contract and there are no state standards, meaning the teachers can teach however and whatever they like. This scene matters because it is portraying the way students can learn without tests. Not everyone is a good test taker and there are other ways for students to learn. The classes are very student centered in that the students sit facing each other and the conversations are student dominated. The camera shows the way classrooms are set up by panning across the classrooms.

In Welner’s essay “The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment,” Welner discusses the “twelve different approaches that charter schools use to structure their student enrollment,” (Welner, p. 2). Welner would approve the approach that the High Tech High School takes when admitting students. Werner writes, “it’s particularly problematic when children are denied opportunities based on special needs status or English learner status – or when the poorest children in a community are pushed aside,” (Welner, p. 5). This is not the case at High Tech High. The school takes students by a lottery, and 50% of the students come from low income families. There are no tests needed to be taken to go to this school, as described in the fourth approach to charter school enrollment.

This is a screenshot from “Most Likely to Succeed” (18:54). It shows the way a teacher has set up a classroom in a socratic seminar formation. This arrangement displays a student centered classroom.

Works Cited

Welner, K. G. (April 2013). The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment. Teachers College Record. [online], ID Number: 17104.

Whitely, Greg, director. Most Likely to Succeed. 2015.

Disadvantaged Students Recognize the Value of a Good Education | “Waiting for Superman” Analysis

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An influential scene in the film was when in an interview, Anthony, one of the young boys the documentary followed, talked about why he wanted a good education (Guggenheim 1:21:46). Anthony simply told the interviewer, “I want to go to college to get a education. Well ’cause if I have kids I [don’t] want kids to be in this environment.” When asked what he meant Anthony explained that he wanted his kids to grow up in better circumstances than what he had grown up in. This scene is important because it supports the notion that disadvantaged kids can in fact learn, and want to use education as an opportunity to escape their situation. It contradicts the belief that students such as Anthony can not be taught the same way middle and upper class students do, and that they are stuck in the cycle of not working hard enough and remaining impoverished for generations. Anthony’s interview demonstrates that he understands the value of the chance to get into an alternative and more effective charter school. He understands how great his odds of improving his own outcomes are by staying out of the failing public school system. The filmmakers shot this scene in a way that showed the authenticity and candidness of Anthony’s responses. The decision to not omit the interviewer in the background prompting Anthony to expand on his answer shows how impressive Anthony’s answer was to those present, and in turn the audience, in showing how well he understands the difference an effective school can have on his life, enabling him to improve not only his own life, but the lives of his future children.

Anthony emphasizes the value that being able to get a good quality education will have on his life and future (Guggenheim 1:22:00).

According to the filmmaker’s theory of change, the problem is that schools and ineffective teachers are failing students by not producing results for kids. The desired goal is to have a public education system that enables students to achieve proficiency academically, attend college, and be equipped to begin a career which allows them to escape disadvantaged circumstances. The policy chain would involve negotiating with teachers’ unions to abandon tenure, and fire ineffective teachers and reward excellent ones. Changes would then include utilizing strategies of highly successful charter schools such as KIPP and the Harlem Children’s Zone. By improving the quality of teacher’s and employing intensive instruction and support proven to be effective for closing the achievement gap for disadvantaged students, the filmmakers theorize that the goal of improving education and outcomes may be accomplished.


Guggenheim, Davis. Waiting for “Superman.” 2010. Film.

Most Likely to Succeed Analysis

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The documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed”, starts off with a quote by John Dewey that says, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday we rob our children of tomorrow”, which leads into the overall theme and question, what teaching methods give students the best possible opportunities at success in their future?

In this documentary, Whiteley reveals that only 53% of college graduates are either jobless or underemployed (Whiteley, 4:17). According to Whiteley, this is due to the fact that nowadays, we have so much technology, that humans just aren’t needed anymore for certain jobs, which leads to another important question and overall theme. Should parents continue to send their kids to traditional schooling, where the education system tends to focus on skills that society today no longer values, or should parents risk sending their children to a completely new, innovated school system where educators teach “soft skills” (confidence, critical thinking, time management, ability to collaborate, persevere through trials, etc.) without knowing if this will positively or negatively impact their children’s future (Whiteley 32:47)

Source: Most Likely To Succeed\

This documentary focuses mostly on “High Tech High”, a charter school located in California. Richard D. Kahlenberh and Halley Potter wrote a book on Charter schools, and how recently, the goal of Charter schools has been forgotten. Kahlenberg and Potter talk about how the founder of charter schools had a different vision in mind, and emphasized two important things that he wanted his charter schools to have. They were, “that the schools provide their teachers with a strong voice, and that the schools educate kids from all walks of life” (Kahlenberg and Potter, pg. 6)

This holds true for High Tech High. In this school, teachers are hired on a one year contract, and are able to teach however they want to teach. For example, there is a teacher that teaches a 9th grade humanities class, and a 9th grade engineering class, and both teachers teamed up to do a project together in which students work together to create a final project.

Two students are showcased in this documentary, Samantha and Brian, both freshman. Samantha is a quiet, shy girl, who by the end of the documentary, uses her voice, and becomes a leader in her classroom. Brian is a determined freshman that works on an engineering project all year long. He is determined to make it as complicated as he can, but does not get his project to work at the end of the year. He Is still determined and stays through summer break to finish it, and with many trial and errors, finally succeeds.

Source: Most Likely To Succeed

In the picture depicted above, we see Brian’s excitement once he realizes he has succeeded. This is important because it shows the determination and growth that he had, never giving up, and eventually succeeding, which is the ultimate goal of High Tech High for all of its students.

Although parents of these students were concerned that their children weren’t learning traditional skills that they would need to pass standardized tests in order for the children to get into college, High Tech High students scored 10% above state average (Whiteley, 1:20), and has a college acceptance rate of 98% (1:20), showing that their teaching methods are in fact effective.




Olivia Johnson Video Analysis

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  1. Key Scene (1:15:38-1:18:20) This scene was pivotal to the movie because it showed the growth of students from the beginning of the school year to the end. Hyde Tech High School looks to develop students to independently and cooperatively learn by engaging in the things they are most passionate about. During this scene, filmmakers isolated the camera on the student presenting in front of the board of teachers. The students passionately spoke to their growth and skills they gained over the course of the year. Their ability to recognize their educational growth speaks to the design of the high school. As our nation shifts from an “industrial economy to informational economy” (Whiteley, 2015, 1:18:41) it is imperative to shift the way education systems educate students. This is similar to the reading, “The Dirty Dozen” by Welner. There are multiple ways to approach inequalities in schooling and it is always a constant battle to create meaningful education that can provide equal educational opportunities for all students. This scene truly supports the new style of education that allows students to engage in learning in a way that facilities passion and independence for future endeavors. The filmmakers did a tremendous job of encapsulating the emotion and passion of students by showing their confidence. The filmmakers shot the scene from both close-up shots and far away shots to show how confidently students were able to speak about their growth. Overall, this scene coincides nicely with the scene from the beginning of the movie (Ibid, 2:23) because it shows the level of passion that the filmmakers daughter is currently missing. It gives purpose to the introduction of the film and provides the evidence that creative education will lead to innovation and entrepreneurial economy. These testimonials of Hyde Tech High students really show that this nation should “put in place educational environments that help kids understand that the world is an interesting place and their job is to go understand it probe it change it and poke at it, those are still skills I haven’t seen computers display” (Ibid, 1:19:15).
  2. The filmmakers detail the theory of change as the development of subject-based teaching that originated from the industrial revolution. The “Committee of Ten” (Ibid, 13:25) developed these subject in the 1890’s and the education system still functions with these subjects. However, film makers express that the present-day economy is able to create more wealth with lower employment rates which creates a large problem in the education sector because recent college graduates are unable to attain a significant job. In addition, film makers suggest the role of technology has drastically influenced the way our economy functions. However, with the new role of technology, the way we are teaching students has remained the same. The nation is still focused on teaching the most content matter as possible, the system which originated from the Committee of Ten. The education system teaches organization over actual beneficial education (Ibid, 11:15) The policy chain has also directly influenced the way our nation educates students.
    “The nation is obsessed with numbers”

    Policy-makers emphasize the importance of test-based performance measurements. These educational measurements look to “raise test performance by 7%” (Ibid, 42:11) rather than challenging students to develop independent, abstract learning. It is clear that this policy chain is detrimental in the eyes of film-makers because it does not coincide with preparing students for success in life and the national economy.

  3. Visual Evidence: (Whiteley, 2015, 2:23)

    The teacher is telling her that sometimes school is hard but she needs to stick with it. The filmmaker and his daughter (pictured above) think this is unreasonable.
  4. Source Credit
    1. Whitely, Greg, “Most Likely to Succeed,” Video Documentary (2015), 2:33.
  5. Source Citations

Welner, K. G. (April 2013). The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment. Teachers College Record. [online], ID Number: 17104.

Whitely, Greg, “Most Likely to Succeed,” Video Documentary (2015)



Waiting for “Superman”: Who is the Educational System’s Savior?

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“Great schools come from great people” (Guggenheim, 1:43:48) is the beginning of Guggenheim’s analysis of eradicating our current broken school system as he navigates through various problems plaguing our schools such as lack of accountability, international competition with other countries, the school-to-prison pipeline, and namely, school choice as an evasion of the solution to the educational crisis. He focuses his documentary on four children throughout the United States, from various backgrounds and familial structures, who all were partaking in school choice by applying to different charter schools in the nation, and details the opportunities that these schools promise, however, are only given to a lucky few. As he illustrates, our current educational system lacks an urgency to educate all children equally and adequately and rather resorts to other practices instead of addressing the fundamental issues that create inequality within our schools and our society. 

A key statistic demonstrated by Guggenheim to prove that the United States intentionally does not serve its students as it created the school-to-prison pipeline to disadvantage “at-risk” students (Guggenheim, 25:19).

Of the captivating statistics that Guggenheim presents in the documentary, Waiting for “Superman”, the school-to-prison pipeline that the United States  funds more than it does the schools of the nation’s children demonstrates that it is a deliberate institutional act that the country partakes in to prioritize prisons over schools, further illustrating a broken system. In an illustration depicting an incarcerated cartoon figure and a professional, educated cartoon figure, Guggenheim shows that the United States in fact funds prisons more than it does students. As his voice over describes, it costs the United States more money to have people in prisons for four years than it would to send students to private schools for from prekindergarten to senior year of high school. Beneath each image, the equation of the costs for each situation is totaled and and the difference between the costs is also calculated to illustrate to the viewer that a large sum of money is intentionally misplaced in correctional facilities rather than schools (Guggenheim, 25:19). As he further describes, many students in schools will later be incarcerated and schools serve as the mechanism to allow this to happen as schools deem certain students as liabilities and allow those students to slip through the hands of the educational system and land in a farther marginalized subset group of people. The inclusion of this particular statistic demonstrates an intentionality to penalize and exclude certain students from participating in society due to the lack of education and lack of rights that people have following incarceration. With the illustrations that hold a cartoon nature and playful element to them, Guggenheim eludes to this matter not being addressed as seriously as it should be despite its huge implications. As Guggenheim shows through this specific moment and throughout his documentary, the intention to actually educate all students equally and adequately must be present in order to fix this broken system or the cycle will continue.

Kahlenberg and Potter’s analysis of charter schools is not in concordance with Guggenheim’s assessment of charter schools as Kahlenberg and Potter believe that charter schools do little to improve the lives of students while Guggenheim says that charter schools, although unfair in nature, are often the only mechanism to give students a chance. Although Kahlenberg and Potter acknowledge that charter schools may provide students with opportunities not offered by traditional public schools, charter schools do not significantly benefit students as, “While there are excellent charter schools and there are also terrible ones, on average, charter students perform about the same as those in traditional public schools. In our view, the charter school movement, once brimming with tremendous promise, has lost its way” (Kahlenberg and Potter, 5). These authors believe that charter schools must be reimagined in order to meet the mission of Shanker, the originator of the charter school movement as these schools were meant to produce competitive, superior students and these schools have failed to do so. Guggenheim, however, disagrees that charter schools do not produce “better” students as through the examples of the four students applying to various charter schools nationwide, these schools are the only option for these students to succeed. He depicts these schools as the beginning towards social mobility because these schools have better resources and better teachers. These schools are vital in the livelihoods of these students because detrimental consequences occur when schools do not have the proper resources to educate students equally and effectively. Additionally, the inclusion of the statistics about the KIPP schools and their excellence, shows that Guggenheim believes that charter schools can achieve great results. Based on their own perceptions of charter schools and their supposed promises to students, Kahlenberg and Potter and Guggenheim think differently about charter schools and their ability to produce high achieving students.  



Guggenheim, Davis. Waiting for “Superman.” 2010. Film.

The Charter School Movement: High Tec High and Most Likely to Succeed

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The documentary, Most Likely to Succeed (2005), explores the historical background of today’s current public education system and uses High Tec High Charter School to illustrate a new future for American Education.  Albert Shanker saw charter schools as an approach to discover new and successful teaching mechanisms that pushed up against the education norms of public schools (Kahlenberg & Potter, 2015).  As the documentary points out, much of today’s teaching norms were based on an industrial model of education established centuries ago.  Today, the same curriculum, created by the Committee of 10, is still utilized to determine which subjects students should master at specific grade levels (Whiteley et al., 2015).  High Tec High, a charter school in San Diego, California, is the model school utilized by the documentary to promote new education models with promise.  High Tec High uses a project-based classroom model, which shift the focus from a teacher-centered to a student-centered classroom.  Collaboration between teachers of various subjects and a final term project, helps students answer “When am I ever going to use this? [information]”.

This key scene captures the essence of High Tec High. A physics/engineering and a humanities teacher are working together to develop a project that combines both subjects and allows students to take control of their own learning (Whiteley et al., 2015, 25:04).

The documentary follows the story of two different groups of students and how they engage with the same information.  The image above symphonizes the collaboration that occurs both between educators of different academic subjects (Whiteley et al., 2015, 25:04).  At High Tec High, the rigid class schedule and bell system seen in most public schools is tossed out, and students mix subjects throughout the day.  One group develops a play while another constructs a system of gears and levers that all move together.  Each group of students uses the same curriculum to develop different final products (Whiteley et al., 2015, 1:26:30 & 1:05:30).  The producers use these clips and images to portray strong student engagement, commitment, success, and growth while using this teaching mechanism.  Larry Rosenstock, CEO of High Tec High, describes the power of the project based classroom as one of the most transformative forms of education.  He equates making something that wasn’t there before, like the students in the documentary do, to be one of the most satisfying feelings for both students and adults alike (Whiteley et al., 2015).

Final project completed by Mr. Swaaley and Mr. (Whiteley et al., 2015, 1:26:30).
Final project completed by Mr. Delgado and Mr. Aguirre’s 9th grade classes (Whiteley et al., 2015, 1:05:30)

Most Likely to Succeed, provides a powerful image of what modern education could look like in the United States.  It is a charter school that puts student interest and engagement first, and looks to teach the information and “soft skills” that employers are looking for.  Kahlenberg and Potter (2015), would agree that High Tec High is striving to meet Shanker’s vision of a school that provides “their teachers with strong voices, and that the schools educated kids from all walks of life” (Kahlenberg & Potter, 2015, p. 6).  Teachers have complete autonomy in the classroom as long as they continue to meet school standards and goals.  High Tec High works to get students from throughout the San Diego area, but they are definitely still falling short of the goal (“California Department of Education”, 2017).  The school focuses on teacher voice, by building a school climate where teachers have autonomy, collaboration and accountability for each other, and increased student engagement within the classroom (Kahlenberg & Potter, 2015, p. 6-7).

This documentary provides hope for parents who are fighting for the best education they can get their students.  Throughout Most Likely to Succeed, parent concern about the effectiveness is brought up; however, statistics about student achievement is never actually addressed.  This brings up one of the major gaps in the documentary and takes away from its credibility.  When looking at the SARC Report for High Tec High during the 2015-2016 school report, student achievement in many areas are barely above district and statewide standards.  Achievement gaps exist between White/Asian and African American/Latino students, and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (“California Department of Education”, 2017).  Although High Tec High provides some promising new educational tools, long term statistics will need to be evaluated before confirming its effectiveness within the educational community.



California Department of Education. (2017). School Accountability Report Card: High Tec High, 2015-2016 School Year.  Retrieved from:

Kahlenberg, R. D. & Potter, H. (2015). Restoring Shanker’s vision for charter schools. American Educator, 38(4), 4-13.

Whiteley, G., Leibowitz, A., Ridley, A. & Lombroso D. (Producers), Whiteley G. (Director). (2015).  Most Likely to succeed. United States: One Potato Productions.


Betting on a New Type of Schooling – Greg Whiteley’s “Most Likely to Succed”

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The opening scenes of “Most Likely to Succed”, Greg Whiteley’s 2015 documentary, show us the extent to which artificial intelligence is taking over our lives, and how much our capabilities and skills are at increasing risk of being substituted by technology. The purpose of this message is to prove the need of a new type of schooling, one that could effectively prepare individuals to compete in  an evolving and changing world, where being able to showcase certain skills is more relevant than having an impeccable hisory of school’s test scores.

To make his point clear, Whiteley focuses the content of his documentary on High Tech High,  a charter school in San Diego, California. This school embraces the idea behind John Dewey’s quote at the very beginning of the documentary: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” (00:15). The structure and curricula of schools have not made enough adjustments throughout the years, and as a result today we have an overall obsolete type of schooling that does not satisfy the requests of our modern society. High Tech High takes a different approach to teaching, placing more emphasis on practical skills like collaboration and creativity, with a milder focus on curriculum and classic classroom structure. Lessons are more student-centered compared to the teacher-centered methods mostly present in other schools. There is no school bell and periods are not strictly structured. Teachers are hired on annual contracts but they have more freedom in choosing what to teach and how to teach it. Besides promoting more collaboration between students, teachers also tend to work together and to cooperate. Students are required to submit small papers and homework during the semester, however, their work is ultimately judged based on a project that they put together at the end of each term. The creation of this project trains students to work together and serves the purpose of preparing them for the demands of the real world marketplace.

Students getting ready for a Socratic Seminar (“Most Likely to Succeed” at 19:17)


The above scene shows students getting ready for a Socratic Seminar. They have little to no instructions from their teacher and they appear disoriented and confused. From this moment, at the very beginning of the school year, students are exposed to this new concept of cooperation and communication. They have to figure out what to do on their own and they have to learn how to be proactive and engaged in school work in a new way. The importance of this scene is in the fact that the documentary shows a dramatic change in their attitude between the beginning of the semester and the end of it. Students’ behavior truly showcases improvements in their attitudes and confidence, and shows us completely new personalities that appear to be more ready and fit for our competitive world.

Despite the reasoning and the motifs behind this new/experimental type of schooling, geared towards readiness and success in life, there is still a good amount of skepticism around it. Parents are scared to move away from a more  traditional type of schooling that measures success on the base of grades and test scores. The main fear is to compromise their child’s chances of getting accepted into a good college. Surprisingly, some students in tradional schools also show their reluctance toward this new teaching approach, expressing an immediate concern about grades and academic success, rather than a more future-oriented worry of being prepared for the real world demands.



Greg Whiteley, Most Likely to Succeed, video documentary (2015)

Video Analysis - Most Likely to Succeed

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Most Likely to Succeed is a documentary about High Tech High, a charter school in California that uses its own unique teaching method. The director starts the documentary with the story of his own daughter, a fourth-grade girl who suddenly gets tired of the traditional educational method in public school and changes from a model student to a rebellious pre-teen. The director begins to question the current educational method and thus starts his observation in High Tech High. In High Tech High, unlike most of the public schools in the United States, teachers are only signed a one-year contract with the school, but instead, they are able to do whatever they would like to do with their curriculum without any restriction. Teachers from different departments are encouraged to work together to create new courses. Instead of dividing classes into periods, students just work together and learn some subjects together. Instead of finals and grades, students are doing an exhibition at the end of the school year to show their results for the previous semesters and all parents are invited to the exhibition.

One of the most influential scenes to me is at 55:56 when Samantha and her peers were working on their final rehearsal for their performance. At the beginning of the documentary, when the semester first began, Samantha, like how she described herself, was such a shy girl. Since it was her freshman year and she didn’t really know anyone, when she was asked to speak in class, her voice was really low and she wasn’t able to make eye contact with both teachers and her classmates. We did see a dramatic improvements  At 55:56, when she was directing the performance, she was almost demanding her classmates by saying: I want you to lead the audience because they will know, I want you to keep your butt and I want you to……  (Whiteley 55:56) And when she was saying these words, she also raised her voice up and she was moving around using her body language as well. I think this scene was really powerful because we are able to see the growth of confidence of this girl and it also is a great proof that the unique teaching and learning method in high tech high does help students to build up their characteristics and become more outgoing and comfortable in public.  During this scene, when the director was shooting the scene,  Samantha was the only one who was standing and was moving around while her classmates were all sitting on the chair or on the stage. Also, Samantha was using her fingers to point at her classmates to remind what they all need to be careful about. The director was almost at the same angle with her classmates who was sitting on the stage.  All these gestures show that she was the one that was in the leadership position.


I think Welner will say that High Tech High is a model charter school because High Tech High doesn’t really use any of the twelve structures that Welner mentioned in his essay, at least not in the documentary. In the documentary, the director also mentioned that half of the students’ families in High Tech High were self-identified as low-income families, but all their kids were enrolled in the school. However, Welner might also argue that in the documentary, we are not able to see that whether there are students with disabilities in the school or the detail admissions process of the school as well. But most likely, Welner will agree that High Tech High is a good example for other charter schools because the school is trying to “decide how best to use the educational tools, to maximise their benefits and minimise their harm” (Welner 5) by really trying to make the students learn and at the same time sending the large majority of them to colleges as well.


Welner, Kevin, “The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment,” Teachers College Record, April 22, 2013,

Whiteley, Greg,  Most Likely to Succeed, Video Documentary (2015), 55:56.

Soft Skills for a Strong Future – High Tech High’s New Way of Teaching

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Greg Whiteley’s documentary Most Likely to Succeed, tells the story of High Tech High, a charter school in San Diego, California that has completely re-imagined high school education. The focus of High Tech High, is to teach students the skills they will need for jobs in the 21st century. The documentary stresses the facts that the standard educational system we use today was developed in 1824, and for the most part, has not changed (0:14). With the increase in technological advancements, many of the skills being taught in schools today will soon be taken over by computers.

The whole concept of high tech high is a complete revision of the educational system we all know today. There are no bells, no time slots, combined subjects, and teachers teaching whatever they want, however they want. High Tech High believes that with the immense technological advancement in society today, the standard curriculum is not going to give the students the foundation they need to find jobs in today’s society. They have developed a system of teaching students “soft skills” such as leadership, and collaborative working, by having students work on projects that they are interested in. The teachers and administrators believe that if students are engaging in work that matters to them, they are more likely to remember, retain, and use it later on in life.  

An important scene in the documentary that truly encompasses what High Tech High is all about, is the proposal for the year long project the students will be working on. The project combines their Humanities, and physics/engineering class. For the project the students will be learning about ancient civilizations that rise and fall, creating their own hypothesis as to why this occurs, and then create a physical manifestation of it. Using gears and linkages, the students are going to think of a way to represent their theories in a physical matter and then combine all of their projects into one exhibitable class project (0:26). Throughout the year these classes will be learning about civilizations and gears, but also about teamwork, cooperation, time management, and team building. The scene depicted below, shows the professor (very casually dressed) sitting, collaborating with his students, in a very casual way. All the students are sitting in groups, working together to create this idea. They are not in rows, they are not all facing the teacher, but instead facing each other, listening and working together to create a collaborative plan.   

Teachers working collaboratively with students at High Tech High (Most Likely To Succeed 0:26).

As ground breaking as this school sounds, it it hard to tell if it actually works. High Tech High has not been around long enough to know if this method of teaching and learning truly does help students in the workforce. Although High Tech High seniors score 10% above state average on their exit exam, and they have a 98% college acceptance rate (1:20), there still is not enough information to prove that these students are better equipped for today’s jobs. As a parent, it is scary to take the risk, they are betting on their child’s education, and that is not something many parents take lightly. Only time will tell how well this new form of teaching stands against the 126 year old curriculum we still use today.



Whiteley, Greg (2015): Most Likely to Succeed. Video documentary.

“Most Likely To Succeed”- Breaking Traditional Schooling

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Director Greg Whiteley’s Most Likely To Succeed 2015 documentary is very valuable in bringing up the idea of a change in the educational system by a change of teaching methods. Research was done in many schools across the country, but the documentary focus on High Tech High in San Diego, California.

The documentary initially highlights the impact of robots on society; the world’s best chess player is a robot and the robot is also the jeopardy winner (Whiteley 7:00). There is a growing concern in some years, college graduates will have an increasingly hard time finding jobs because robots and other technologies will have taken many of those jobs (Whiteley 10:16). The documentary explains a theory of change as seen through High Tech High, where students learn in a different environment than a traditional school. Students at High Tech High do not have bells and do not have class periods, but they do have combined subjects. Their goals include teaching students skills that they will use in real life; “innovative thinking, not innovative production” (Whiteley 31:00). In traditional schooling, students are taught test taking strategies. At High Tech High, however, tests are not taken, as students simply work along each other in different projects to use skills and portray their work in an exhibition.

The methods at High Tech High allow teaching to be much more student centered, and they allow the teacher to have more autonomy as they are allowed to teach anything they want because they are not required to follow state standards. Kahlenberg and Potter would agree with this aspect of High Tech High, as they push for teacher autonomy. Their book quotes, “This [teacher voice/autonomy] promotes a better learning environment for students, which raises student achievement, and a better working environment for teachers” (Kahlenberg and Potter 6). They argue that increased teacher autonomy serves as somewhat of a domino effect for positive impacts on the students, which were seen in action at High Tech High.

Students taking a standardized test. (Source Greg Whiteley’s “Most Likely To Succeed” at 40:20)

The scene depicted in the screenshot above depicts a large component of the documentary and of schooling in general. One can observe that the students all physically look the same. They are taking the same test. However, all students are different. Students learn in different methods, and standardized tests do not capture that. Students should learn more, not less, but learning for a test is hindering students of skills that can be applied. The documentary mentions how test prep is for the most part multiple choice and factual recall, nothing in real life (Whiteley 47:00). Furthermore, the things a student memorizes for a test will eventually disappear because tests are not collaborative, they do not push thinking (Whiteley 47:50). To me, this was an influential scene because testing is a current debate. Keeping or removing them are changes that can dramatically impact the learning of students. In my opinion, it was smart the way filmmakers captured this scene because they captured students taking a multiple choice, standardized test from an above angle. This angle puts an emphasis on the similarity of the tests, making one realize how similar they are, and it puts an emphasis on the idea that tests are not collaborative, which shows how tests do not help emphasize skills used in real life.

Throughout the documentary I had a lot of questions: Did High Tech High students get into colleges? Did they do well in tests? Do they know specific math skills? The director made sure my questions were answered. It was mentioned that although test taking was not a focus, students still performed above the state average (Whiteley 1:20:00). Furthermore, it was mentioned that 98 percent of students get into college (Whiteley 1:20:20). I think this shows how as a society, we should not be afraid to make changes in the educational system. However, some of my questions still went unanswered. There are holes in demographics. I wish I would have known more specifically the kinds of students and their socioeconomic backgrounds because I strongly believe income and family backgrounds play a role in the performance of students. Overall, this documentary gives lots to talk about and to analyze.



Kahlenberg, Richard and Halley Potter. 2014-2015. “Restoring Shanker’s Vision for Charter Schools.” American Educator.

Whiteley, Greg. 2015. “Most Likely To Succeed.” Film; Video Documentary.

The Vision of High Tech High – Greg Whiteley’s “Most Likely to Succeed”

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Greg Whiteley’s 2015 video documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed” opens with a quote by John Dewey: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” (00:19). This quote perfectly summarizes the message of this documentary: the film shows the viewer that the education system that was designed to prepare the workers of the industrial age for the workplace is no longer suitable in the twenty-first century, in the age of information technology.

Although the narrator tells us that they visited many schools while shooting the documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed” focuses on High Tech High, a charter school in San Diego, California, presenting this school’s theory of change. The problem this charter school – and the movie – identifies is that in today’s world, where more and more jobs are taken over by robots and computers, people are going to need different skills than they did for the most part of the twentieth century. However, the United States’ education system did not really change since its implementation at the beginning of the industrial age: the subjects are divided, students spend a lot of time preparing for and taking tests, they cover a lot of content material that they only have to know until exam day. High Tech High takes a completely different approach to education with the goal of better preparing its students for the contemporary world. In this charter school, classes are not divided into subjects, but rather, teachers cooperate to create different projects that combine several subjects. Students are encouraged to think independently, to work in groups, to be creative, and teachers also have complete freedom in what and how they teach – in exchange for not having tenure and having to renew their contracts every year. Students’ and teachers’ work is not assessed by tests or exams, but by projects presented at an exhibition night held each term. This way, the school is hoping to teach its students “soft skills”, skills that will help them to become citizens capable of innovative thinking.


Screenshot from “Most Likely to Succeed” at 53:04.

The screenshot above is from a scene that I believe conveys one of the key arguments of the documentary. In this scene, the narrator is talking about the fact that when choosing to send their children to High Tech High, parents are making a bet: they are choosing between “traditional” schools, private or public, that might better prepare their students to ace tests and thus go to college, and a charter school that – with no proof that it is really going to improve these children’s chances in life – takes a totally different approach to education. The way this scene is shot really shows that the filmmakers would bet for High Tech High: first, when the narrator says, “one side of the bet: continue down the traditional path” (52:44), the film is showing a school’s traditional hallway lined with lockers, moving past them, literally “continuing down”. The “traditional path” is also illustrated by black-and-white footage of a boy, sitting in front of a pile of books. Then, we switch to scenes of High Tech High, and the contrast is obvious: students are sitting and learning together in a big group, not struggling alone with textbooks, the hallway is not lined by metal lockers, but it is wide open, made out of glass, filled with colorful art. The see-through glass walls symbolize that in this school, nothing is separated: students need to work together, people can look into classrooms, the subjects are combined, so there is no need for separate spaces dedicated to only one class or only one subject. This is why I think the screenshot I chose really shows what the idea is behind this new type of school, how it completely reimagines education and learning.

In my opinion, the way students learn in High Tech High would definitely prepare them better for the challenges of today’s and the future’s job market and workplace than traditional public schools. Also, as at the end of the documentary the narrator tells us, even though they do not prepare specifically for exams, students from the school still perform above state average (1:20:10), and 98 percent of their graduates gets into college (1:20:19), showing that the school does well in traditional measures as well. However, the documentary does not tell us how the ideas and methods could be expanded further, how this type of education could be adapted to teach a wider circle of children, not just the lucky ones who get into High Tech High in a lottery, which would be important if the aim is to better prepare the future generation for the jobs and lives they are going to encounter.



Whiteley, Greg (2015): Most Likely to Succeed. Video documentary.