Hillsdale High School is a comprehensive public high school of 1400 students in San Mateo, California, twenty miles south of San Francisco on the peninsula. Over the past fifteen years, Hillsdale has worked in partnership with Stanford University’s School of Education to re-envision what a public school high school can be.
Hillsdale used teacher-led Smaller Learning Community (SLC) model to dramatically reshape the culture of the school. The work of the SLC is rooted in the belief that learning is a social phenomenon, and that schools must intentionally create structures that facilitate powerful relationships with the students they serve.
Hillsdale’s SLC model connects “house” cohorts of students with teams of teachers and advisors who work with students over two years. Students are grouped heterogeneously in English, social studies, science, PE and advisory in the 9th and 1 th grades—a practice that has allowed students to know and value each other across lines that often divide schools.
In a 2013 self-study Student Survey, 90% of students agreed that at least one teacher on campus knew them well, and 92% said they feel part of a community at Hillsdale. 93% percent of Hillsdale parents agreed that “Hillsdale is a safe, comfortable place for my student.” and 94% agreed they would recommend Hillsdale to others. It is no wonder that in 2014, Hillsdale was in the 99th percentile for school climate among California schools.
A strong, student-centered culture is just one of the reasons that Hillsdale was selected as a gold School of Opportunity.