Hillhouse High School Academy System Under Watch


Sara tabin

After indulging in stuffed clams, salmon and salads prepared by cooking students at Hillhouse High School on Monday afternoon, four New Haven alders met with around 30 students, teachers and school board members. to informally review the year-and-a-half academy program. .

The academy’s program, which places students in specific classes based on the track they choose to enroll in, began at the start of the 2014-15 school year in response to concerns over negative backgrounds of school, including a graduation rate of 46%. in 2011. Monday’s informal exam came ahead of a March 16 public hearing at City Hall that will address renewed concerns about the school, including whether the school has supported its students during the transition to academy status. Despite these concerns, Baker said the school is doing much better than in the past, with a 74% graduation rate last year. She attributed these gains to the school’s personalized approach to education.

“We had to try a different approach, a more innovative approach,” said Zakiyyah Baker, director of the Hillhouse Academy of Law, Public Safety and Health.

The academy system allows students to choose one of three specialized academies: the academy of innovation, design, entrepreneurship and action, the academy of law, public security and health and career and college preparation academy for the elderly. A fourth academy, called Social Media and the Arts Academy (SMART), was launched for freshmen at the start of this academic year. Baker said the goal of placing students in specialized programs is to make sure everyone has the skills and resources to graduate and succeed in college. She said that while she acknowledges Hillhouse has yet to meet that goal, their gradually increasing graduation rates show they are on the right track.

To garner as much constructive feedback as possible, Baker said the tours presented the school in a frank and transparent light.

“The intention is not to cover up our challenges,” she said. “We want it to be clear what our challenges are and what our successes are. “

The alders first met a group of student leaders of ages and membership in the academy. Although the students were positive about the programs offered by the school, they expressed concern about the lack of communication between the academies in the school.

“Everyone always talks about how Hillhouse is family, but we barely know half the kids we’re going to graduate with,” said Tanayja London, a freshman at SMART Academy, noting that ‘there is little interaction between students from different academies.

The students also told the alders that there was not enough funds for resources, including books, uniforms and computers.

Devonte Fletcher, a junior enrolled in the LPSH academy, spoke passionately about his positive experience with the school’s dance and music group, Shades of Blue. He said being part of the group gave him invaluable leadership experience, but said not many people will be able to see their work, which has included performances at some Yale basketball games, unless they don’t get new instruments.

“We stormed New Haven,” Fletcher said. “People are going to stop saying I want to get out of New Haven, they are going to start saying that I want to get into New Haven, but we need new instruments. People want to be a part of something. Help us with money; let’s take off and make New Haven an attraction.

But teachers surveyed were far less positive about the state of the school and less optimistic about the progress the new academy system has allowed it.

A group of teachers met with the alders after the discussion with the students to talk about grading, the logistics of teaching in a university system, and their ability as educators to advocate for change.

Several have criticized the way academies limit students’ class choices within the school. Some have said that it is difficult for students to change paths or take courses at different academies if they find something that piques their interest.

“I would love to see a way to get personalized academies without locking the kids into a certain lane. They should have the choice to explore, ”said civics teacher Jack Paulishen.

At the end of the event, Wooster Square Alder Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 thanked the students and teachers for their honesty, remarked that the session “exceeded expectations” and suggested future meetings with teachers and teachers. seniors.

Approximately 980 students are enrolled at Hillhouse High School.


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