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About SLCs

The public demands more from schools than ever before. The already excellent schools of the San Mateo Union High School District are on notice that they must become even better to meet the challenges of the 21st century. That means we must educate all students, regardless of social, economic or educational background. If we hold all students to high standards, then we must provide the necessary support systems for students to reach these goals. We must also provide a structure that will enable teachers to employ the best strategies and to provide greater personal care for their individual students.

The point of moving to Smaller Learning Communities as a means to raise achievement of all students is fourfold:

  1. It will create greater personalization between teachers and students.
  2. It will promote equity among students.
  3. It will enhance the students’ emotional well-being.
  4. It will place an emphasis on collaboration and professional development to improve instruction.

Through smaller communities, both students and teachers will perform at a higher level. Indeed, a major goal of moving to Smaller Learning Communities is to increase participation and success of students in rigorous, high-level, college preparatory classes. The goal is for all students to have the choice of attending a four-year college upon graduation.

Schools or individuals interested in visiting Hillsdale High School through Stanford's School Redesign Network, please find information at this site 

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             An Overview of Smaller Learning Communities at Hillsdale

      Since the year 2000, Hillsdale has worked steadily toward implementing research-based reforms necessary to raise achievement of all students. We based the Smaller Learning Community (SLC) vision on input from the entire staff and our Cornerstones in order to provide a set of common goals for SLCs and to reassure all stakeholders that redesign would strengthen, not compromise, the school’s academic identity.

      The Cornerstones of Hillsdale’s vision are: Equity, Personalization, Rigor, and Shared Decision Making. These Cornerstones embody the district’s Strategic Plan and have helped Hillsdale to take the lead in implementing the district vision. The school’s current governance structures base decisions on whether outcomes will facilitate achievement of the Cornerstones and Mission Statement. Decision-making is shared at Hillsdale, with Administration, Leadership Team, Site Council, houses, and staff engaged in aspects of governance. Hillsdale has implemented and revised the structures and vision annually through interrelating our Single Plan for Student Achievement, WASC Action Plan, and SLC Grant report in order to clarify the vision and concentrate our work.

Hillsdale is divided into five SLCs: Kyoto, Marrakech, and Florence in the 9th and 10th grades and Cusco and Jakarta in the 11th and 12th grades.  [A 3rd 11th/12th House, Timbuktu, is in the process of being created to accommodate an increase in 11th/12th enrollment.] The SLCs are designed to be individual small schools of 200-280 students each, with groups of 100 students entering into each 9/10 SLC each year, and staying with core teachers in their house until the end of 10th grade. The students are sorted randomly into each house as 9th graders (and then balanced by gender, ethnicity, and reading ability) and experience a common curriculum across the three houses. History, science, English, and math teachers share the hundred students and act as advisors to those students, so that a core teacher has four classes and an advisory for his or her assignment.  Students mix with students from the other houses in electives and P.E. The students are resorted at the end of 10th grade and assigned a new “house” with a new set of core teachers and advisors who will guide the students through graduation and into post-secondary education.

     Core academic teachers within each house and grade level have a common collaboration period during which they discuss student achievement and progress, and design and implement an advisory curriculum that includes study skills, academic and test literacy, college and career searches and preparation for benchmark assessments. Students are assigned an Advisory class with an advisor who monitors their individual progress. In these Advisories, students use rubrics and reflections to monitor their own progress toward ESLRs and proficiency on state standards. Student/Parent/Advisor Conferences, conducted six weeks into the first semester, encourage students to explain theirgoals, progress and achievement in each class to their parents.  The advisory program has ensured greater personalization for all students. In our 2000 WASC student survey, 61% of students agreed that staff “treat me fairly and with respect,” a reasonable number, but clearly in need of improvement. We were also aware that minority students were underrepresented in rigorous courses, and that our support of at-risk students was inadequate.  Hillsdale’s advisory program grew out of the sense that students needed closer relationships with adults at school. Forty-one advisors now meet regularly with other teachers to monitor students’ academic progress and design Advisory curriculum.  This advisor/advisee relationship ensures that students become very well known to their advisors and anonymity is virtually impossible.  Currently, surveys show 84% of students say that there is appropriate contact between home and school, 74% say that they are satisfied with the help they get around personal issues, 82% with the help around academic issues, and 84% agree that their advisor supports their academic growth.

      The school’s vision of academic rigor and support is exemplified in the faculty decision to include Biology for all 9th graders and Chemistry for all 10th graders as part of a four-subject core curriculum in the SLCs. This action required some courage since our pre-SLC freshman science enrollment was very low relative to other district high schools; however, we viewed the low enrollment as further evidence of need for change. Additionally, a science requirement would be crucial for district support of SLCs, and the impassioned work of key science teachers led the staff to believe that the change would be successful. Since all of our freshmen and sophomores must take Biology and Chemistry, enrollment in these courses now exceeds all other high schools in the district.  More importantly, these students are achieving at comparable levels to students at other campuses who have the option to select these science courses. In 2003-04 Hillsdale was the smallest of six schools in the district, yet our students accounted for 24% of the total students (and 34% of the African-American and Hispanic students) enrolled in Biology in the district. Despite this over-representation, and the lower socio-economic status of our students as a whole, 59.3% of Hillsdale Biology students passed the district common assessment versus 60.8% district-wide, and 52.0% of our African-American and Hispanic students passed the assessment versus 52.7% district-wide, strong evidence that we are not only enrolling far more students, but that they are achieving high standards at rates comparable to district averages.

       Hillsdale collects, disaggregates, analyzes, and reports student performance data on the district-level, the school-level, and the individual SLC-level. Dramatic improvements in student achievement on the California Standards Tests (CSTs) and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) can be directly attributed to Hillsdale’s consistent efforts to assess student achievement in order to inform and guide instructional and curricular decision-making. Hillsdale’s API has increased 135 points since 2002; our Latino subgroup improved by 126 points and our socio-economically disadvantaged students improved by 199 points.

      The next stage of our improvement effort is to design an upper-division program that bridges high school with the outside world and ensures that all students leave Hillsdale prepared to succeed in post-secondary education. To that end, we are designing an internship program that will allow students to experience a work-experience in local businesses and non-profits. We are developing a unique partnership with the College of San Mateo that has already led to 12 college classes being taught on Hillsdale’s campus in 2008-09. Finally, we are designing a portfolio assessment system that will require all students to demonstrate and defend their mastery of key curriculum and skills before they graduate. The measure of our work in the upcoming years will be the level of success our graduates demonstrate in the year after they leave Hillsdale and we fully intend to ensure that they have all the attributes necessary for that success.

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HILLSDALE HOUSE INFO


Each of the three 9th/10th houses (Florence, Kyoto, and Marrakech) is named after an important medieval town in honor of our school mascot, the Knight.  The 11th/12
th Houses (Cusco and Jakarta) are named after other cities throughout the world that have made major contributions to culture and society.

CUSCO
Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley(Sacred Valley) of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cusco Province. The city now has a population of about 300,000, triple the figure in 1980. Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cusco, its altitude is around 3,300 m (10,800 feet). The historic capital of the Inca empire, Cusco was found in 2006 to be the spot on Earth with the highest ultraviolet light level. Post-Columbian Cusco:  The first Spaniards arrived in the city on November 15, 1533. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro officially discovered Cusco on March 23, 1534, naming it the "Very noble and great city of Cusco". The many buildings constructed after the Spanish conquest
 are of Spanish influence with a mix of Inca architecture, including the Santa Clara and San Blas barrios.

FLORENCE
Florence House was named in honor of the city of Florence, a small, independent city-state that became the center of art and learning during the transition from the medieval age to the Renaissance.  Florentines bestowed equal value on individual achievement and contributions to the community; a well-rounded education was, therefore, essential. Florence's unique celebration of the human spirit inspired some of the landmark achievements of Western Civilization, such as Leonardo Da Vinci's scientific inquiries, Michelangelo's David, and Brunelleschi's Dome.


Like this great city, Florence House encourages each individual to reach his or her creative and intellectual potential.  Through the personalization and rigorous curriculum that Florence provides, our students become not only well-rounded individuals at Hillsdale, but also life-long learners and citizens of the world.

JAKARTA
Jakarta (also DKI Jakarta), is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. It was formerly known as Sunda Kalapa (397-1527), Jayakarta (1527-1619), Batavia (1619-1942), and Djakarta (1942-1972). Located on the northwest coast of the Java Island, it has an area of 661.52 km² and an official population of 8,389,443 (2000). Jakarta currently is the eleventh largest city in the world. Its metropolitan area is called Jabodetabek and contains more than 23 million people, and is part of an even larger Jakarta-Bandungmegalopolis. The earliest record mentioning this area as a capital city can be traced to the Indianized kingdom of Tarumanagara as early as the fourth century. The city was renamed "Jakarta" by the Japanese during their World War II occupation of Indonesia. Following World War II, Indonesian Republicans withdrew from allied-occupied Jakarta during their fight for Indonesian independence
 and established their capital in Yogyakarta.  Jakarta has remained the focal point of democratic change in Indonesia.

KYOTO
While Hillsdale has long been associated with its mascot- the Knight of medieval Europe- other parts of the world were developing vibrant and important cultures during the same period. Kyoto became the capital of Japan in the 8th century in what came to be known as the Heian or "Peace and Tranquility" Period. At a time when other peoples of the world were in the throes of bloody conquests and invasions, the people of Kyoto/Japan were able to take advantage of a period of unprecedented peace to focus on learning, the arts, and the development of a thriving economy.

As the final stop on the Silk Road, Kyoto learned from other cultures and then developed a unique culture of its own. One of the first novels ever written, The Tale of Genji, was written by a woman living in Kyoto at this time, and even today Kyoto remains a center of scholarship and artistic development. Kyoto, although briefly put on the list of targets considered for the atomic bombings at the end of World War II, was spared the destruction most cities in Japan suffered due to its extreme beauty and cultural significance. It was also the site of the Kyoto Protocol, a document drafted in conjunction with many nations, which called on the world to work together to preserve the environment we all share. Because of the values and history the city of Kyoto represents, the people of Kyoto House at Hillsdale chose to adopt this name.

MARRAKECH
Marrakech was founded in 1062 and was the capital of an Islamic empire for many years that stretched from western Africa to southern Spain. People tend to think of the Middle Ages (5th-15th centuries) as a period of intellectual darkness. Little was accomplished in literature, science, math, and learning relative to other periods of history. While this was true for much of Western Europe, other parts of the world flourished. The rise of Islam brought to the Middle East and North Africa a burgeoning of learning and creativity.  Marrakech was at the center of this period of enlightenment. In fact, much of the scientific and mathematical blossoming that occurred in Europe during the Renaissance was influenced by or derived from translations of Arabic texts brought into Spain by the Muslims or obtained during the Crusades.


The name Marrakech House was chosen because we wanted a name that symbolized learning and creativity. High school is a period in which teenagers emerge from the relative darkness and simplicity of middle school and childhood and enter into the complexities, responsibilities, and life-long learning of adulthood.  We want our students to feel like they are part of an intellectual community that will support and nurture their natural curiosity, creativity and desire to grow and mature. We hope that the theme of our house will help keep students grounded in these objectives.

Hillsdale High School Smaller Learning Communities Model

      Since 2000, Hillsdale has worked steadily toward implementing research-based reforms necessary to raise achievement of all students. The school has based the Smaller Learning Community (SLC) vision on input from the entire staff and our Cornerstones in order to provide a set of common goals for SLCs and to reassure all stakeholders that redesign would strengthen, not compromise, the school’s academic identity.

      The Cornerstones of Hillsdale’s vision are: Equity, Personalization, Rigor, and Shared Decision Making. The school’s current governance structures base decisions on whether outcomes will facilitate achievement of the Cornerstones. Decision-making is shared at Hillsdale, with Administration, Leadership Team, Site Council, houses, and staff engaged in aspects of governance. Hillsdale has implemented and revised the structures and vision annually through interrelating our Single Plan for Student Achievement, WASC Action Plan, and SLC Grant report in order to clarify the vision and concentrate our work. The model, in brief:

 

  • Each fall, all incoming Freshmen will be placed, as equitably as possible, into one of three Houses consisting of approximately 108 students each (Florence, Kyoto and Marrakech).
  • Four subject area teachers, one each from English, Science, Social Studies and Math, will be assigned to each of the three Houses. All students will be assigned to these classes and stay with the same teachers for two years (except when credentialing requirements disallow this).
  • At the end of the 10th grade, students will be shuffled and reassigned to a new set of “upper division” teachers and advisors in one of three Houses (Cusco, Timbuktu and Jakarta)
  • Faculty within each of the five House will teach four academic classes and be assigned a group of twenty-five to thirty students for an Advisory period.
  • Teachers within each house will have a preparation and common collaboration period.
  • All students will have access to elective programs outside of the House core: Foreign Language, Visual and Performing Arts, PE/Athletics and other elective offerings.
  • To the greatest extent possible, all ELD students will be incorporated into the Houses
  • To the greatest extent possible, all Special Education students will be incorporated in the Houses and all Resource teachers will only serve students from a specific 9/10 House.
  • The focus of the school’s efforts and the allocation of its resources will be to realize the school’s Cornerstones: Personalization, Equity, Academic Rigor and Shared Decision-Making.
  • Students will master state standards of curriculum and demonstrate achievement of Hillsdale’s Graduate Profile (schoolwide standards for all grade levels: communication, thinking, responsibility, reading and content mastery).
  • By the end of 10th grade, all students will on track to meet the UC/CSU requirements for college admission.
  • By the end of 12th grade, all students will be eligible to attend a four-year college and will have demonstrated “college-readiness” through the completion of a rigorous academic portfolio which will culminate in an oral defense of the student’s work.
  • Professional Development will focus on expanding the capacity of the staff to meet the needs of all students through the close examination of instruction, curriculum and assessment.
  • Collaboration is an integral part of the master schedule.
  • Decisions will be made, whenever possible, in a democratic manner, based on the processes describe in the Hillsdale Constitution.
  • All Seniors will defend a “portfolio” of work developed over the course of four years to a panel of judges that include teachers and students. Students must achieve a level of proficiency in content knowledge, critical thinking and communication in order to graduate from Hillsdale.