The Block System: Academic Immersion
The division between Intermediate and Secondary Levels highlights the shift towards more intensive study. While foreign language, senior high science, and math are taught in traditional fifty-minute morning classes, English, sciences, history and art are presented in three hour “blocks” which provide immersion in the subjects. The block system, pioneered by Hillside, avoids the fragmentation inherent in attempting to study many subjects a day and allows for in depth investigation of content. Fall and spring electives blocks such as Filmmaking, Drama production, Appropriate Technology, Ancient Greek, and Rock Climbing precede and follow our afternoon academic blocks. The school year is divided into trimesters for grades 7-11.
Grades and Evaluations
Teachers provide written comments and/or grades-in-progress at the end of each trimester. Parent-student-teacher conferences are offered three times a year, in late fall, winter, and spring. Year-end grades determine grade point average and eligibility for honors.
Students receive academic honors at Hillside in grades 7 – 12 when they complete honors level assignments set by the teacher or when the teacher determines that their work rises beyond the normal course expectations. Running Start students automatically receive Honors recognition for ‘A’ level work done at the college or university level. Hillside’s grade point averages are not weighted; a 4.0 is the highest GPA possible. Honors recognition for a class is communicated in the title of the course on a student’s transcript and by an ‘H’ next to the grade in the grade column for that class. There is no limit to the number of honors recognitions a student may receive.
Grade 12 – The Running Start Program
In their 12th grade, Hillside students enroll in Running Start, a state funded program in which students earn high school and college credit simultaneously through courses taken at college or community college. Students typically graduate through Hillside with college level courses on their transcripts.
In addition to their Running Start coursework, students are invited to attend Hillside’s ‘Senior Seminar’, in which they receive individual guidance and oversight in the process of applying to colleges, and to continue to participate in Hillside’s after-school clubs and fall and spring electives.
The advantages of this program are many. After three years of intensive coursework at Hillside in grades 9 – 11, students are ready to test their wings in a college setting. At the community college our students take courses tailored to their interests that are not available in a regular high school curriculum, from Mandarin Chinese to Linear Algebra. Students realize that the skills they gained at Hillside serve them very well in a 30 student per class college setting and prospective colleges see that the student can succeed in at the college level.
Following this approach, Hillside students have been accepted at top colleges and universities such as Harvard, Oberlin, MIT, Whitman, Reed, University of Chicago, University of Washington Honors Program, Swarthmore, Stanford, Bowdoin, Bard, Hampshire, Columbia, St. John’s, and many others. They have found that the confidence and skills they developed at Hillside have contributed to successful experiences at such institutions.
Credits and Graduation
Three trimesters of a successfully completed subject at Hillside equal one credit. Although a minimum of twenty credits is required for graduation, HSC students typically earn over twenty-four credits in our college preparatory program. Many of our seniors earn six or more of these credits in Running Start where one 5-hour college class equals one high school credit.