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School Transformation Study Visits: Hillsdale High School

Sonya Keller
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What are Study Visits?

Study Visits are inquiry-based mini courses to exemplary high schools conducted by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) and a partner school. They are designed in careful collaboration with the school to create a meaningful exploration of key issues of school transformation, equity, and best instructional practices.

Now in its ninth year, the Hillsdale Study Visits program has brought more than 400 educators from 13 states and Canada to Hillsdale who consistently give the program rave reviews.

Visits focus on the structures, practices, and instructional strategies that have created environments that support students’ academic success and transition to college and career. Visits highlight personalization, shared decision making, and instructional coherence, which are widely recognized as essential components of effective schools, especially those with traditionally underserved students, such as students of color, English learners and low income students. Along with providing an opportunity for participants to see these effective practices in action,

Study Visits provide time for participants to identify their own needs and goals and apply their learning to their own school context.

Why Hillsdale High School?

Hillsdale High School is an excellent example of a teacher-led redesign effort guided by a commitment to providing more students the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed after high school. In 2003, with equity as a major cornerstone, Hillsdale’s staff began an innovative process of transforming their school of approximately 1,200 students into smaller learning communities to encourage teacher collaboration and shared decision-making, increase student personalization, and boost academic rigor. Hillsdale created a coherent instructional strategy that aligns a graduate profile, performance-based assessments, instruction, and professional development with the Common Core.

Hillsdale’s transformation has resulted in increased enrollment in advanced classes and of students attending college and improved student achievement (see chart).In 2007, Hillsdale was named one of California’s Distinguished Schools and, in 2008, Newsweek named it of “America’s Best High Schools”. Hillsdale scored in the 99th percentile in California’s School Climate Survey and was identified as one of California’s top high schools in Niche’s 2015 rankings, which labelled Hillsdale an “A” school. Hillsdale is now a charter member of the California Performance Assessment Collaborative and has instituted a 12th grade portfolio defense that is a requirement to earn a Hillsdale diploma. Hillsdale’s transformation offers powerful lessons and insights about school change, shared leadership and instructional coherence.

What happens on a Study Visit?

Day One – At Stanford University: Overview of the school, the change process, and the concept of instructional coherence. Teams will reflect on their own experiences and goals.

Day Two – At Hillsdale High School: Observing advisories, instruction, teacher collaboration, and professional development and in conversation with teachers, students, and administrative leaders.

What are the learning goals of the Study Visit?

Learn how Hillsdale has used their shared leadership model to build teacher buy-in to a coherent instructional model that aligns their graduate portfolio to a senior performance based assessment, tied to ninth-12th grade instructional goals and teacher professional development.

Participants will learn how to effect change within their own school communities by using teachers’ best practice to align instruction to the Common Core. These practices will be evident throughout the visit. Participants will have time to talk with Hillsdale leadership, staff, and students and observe instruction, teacher collaboration, and professional development.

 Hillsdale Study Visits help participants explore ways to create a coherent instructional strategy that aligns a graduate profile, performance based assessments, instruction, and professional development with the Common Core.

Participant comments:

"I saw that once administration sees itself as a partner (and not top-down administrators) an SLC can truly become effective. When the administration sincerely shares decisionmaking, then an SLC can truly emerge."

"[Hillsdale staff] are truly awesome! I am highly impressed by their willingness to try and their openness and flexibility regarding what's possible. They have given me great hope about what's possible and our collective future as a society."

 Upcoming dates:

  • October 17 - 18, 2016. Registration closes 9/23/2016.
  • February 13-14, 2017. Registration closes 1/13/2017.