Federal Hocking High School
2015-2016 Model

Better Learning through Democracy

Federal Hocking High School is true to its motto: "Small Schools, Big Futures." It stands out nationally for its strong student outcomes, highly personalized school culture, and democratic decision making. It’s all the more remarkable that this progressive school has flourished in a 204-square-mile, rural district on the edge of Appalachia, aligning its policies and practices to its mission statement: "The Federal Hocking School District uses a progressive approach to help all young people become productive and engaged citizens. Our graduates will be creative thinkers and problem solvers, able to make positive choices about their careers, education, and community.”

Student Population Free reduced lunch
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ELL
(%)
Special Ed.
(%)
Staff / Student ratio
263 85 9 12 1/25

School Contact Info

Federal Hocking Local Schools
P.O. Box 117 Stewart, OH 45778
Grades: 9-12
Phone: (740) 662-6691
Fax: (740) 662-5065
Principal: Cliff Bonner
Superintendent: George Wood
(740) 662-6691
(740) 662-6691

Challenge

In 1992, the school was plagued with low graduation results, little student engagement, and low teacher morale. Before George Wood’s arrival that year, students, parents, teachers, and administrators did not have any structure or support to be able to work together to understand root issues and collaborate on solutions. As Dr. Wood facilitated collaboration, it became clear that the most pressing issue for all was the 7 of 8 schedule (teachers teaching seven periods in an eight-period day). The 42-minute class periods were too short to support meaningful learning experiences, and the average student load of 142 was too large for teachers to know their students well. Teachers taught seven different groups of students every day, and students, taking seven or even eight classes daily, had trouble focusing on any of them. Class size was low, but that was due in part to as many as 100 students being assigned to study halls in any given class period.

Solutions

1992-1999

Then-new Principal George Wood, now the district’s superintendent, led teachers in a year-long exploration for a better approach, including visits to other schools. The process of shared decision making became part of the school’s DNA. And the first product of that process was a block schedule of four 80-minute instructional periods a day, with three classroom periods and one prep period for teachers, giving teachers more time with fewer students each semester.

Accompanying the schedule change were complementary innovations, including an advisory program, interdisciplinary teaching in ELA and social studies, and professional development that supported the longer class periods. These initial changes set things in motion so that other cultural changes could start to occur. As an extension of the values developed in and out of class, students were encouraged to take their role as citizens of the school and the larger society seriously.

1999-Present

The year 1999 represented a watershed moment for student citizenship in the school, and the crystallization of a “lived democracy” at Federal Hocking. In response to certain school board actions, students peacefully protested, effected change, and created a student constitution. The constitution laid the foundation for a clearer and more substantial role for students moving forward. Subsequently, teachers negotiated for site-based decision making in their union contract. Over the years, shared decision making has yielded more innovation: expansion of the internship program, professional development that focuses on literacy across subject areas, a senior project requirement, and a school-designed teacher evaluation system. The latter is the only state-sanctioned, teacher-created teacher evaluation system in the state of Ohio. A few years ago, the school decided to shorten class periods to 70 minutes to make possible a daily 35-minute advisory period.

Results

Student performance at Federal Hocking improved dramatically after the redesign and remains strong. Today, teacher turnover is low, and 71% of all Federal Hocking Secondary School teachers have been at the school five or more years, with 57.1% having a master's degree or higher. Both teachers and students are deeply involved in the decisions that affect them. One indication of the improvement in student engagement: disciplinary incidents have gone down 80 percent since the early 1990s, according to district estimates. And the number of students graduating is up. The 2013-14 graduation rate for all students was 95.9%, while the graduation rate over five years was 96.5% for the 2014-2015 school year. Attendance is high, too; the daily rate is 95%.

Another measure of improvement is the school’s strong results on state tests. For 2013-14, the pass rates for 10th-graders on the Ohio Graduation Tests were 80.7% for math, 83.1% for reading, and 74.7% for science. More than 85% of 2014 graduates went on to college.

 

Key Policy Considerations

 

District Policies

The teacher contract establishes a site-based committee with a majority of member teachers elected by their colleagues. The site-based committee helps make decisions about school curriculum, operations, budgeting, scheduling, and professional development. According to a site-based provision in the teacher contract, no significant change to the school’s organization or policy can be made without teacher approval. Similarly, a school board-approved constitution gives students say in any significant change in scheduling or other matters that affect them.

The district goes beyond state high school graduation mandates to require its graduates to complete a senior project, extra credits in social studies and science, three additional elective credits (which can be met with internships, college level courses, CTE courses, or a range of other options), as well as a non-credited but mandatory graduation portfolio.

 

State Policies

The district is able to meet state seat-time requirements through block programming. Under the program, students get two semesters of credit by completing 350 minutes per week for a semester. Thus, each semester, students take four courses yielding four year-long credits. Federal Hocking requires 27 year-long credits for graduation, six more than the state, and schedules students to potentially earn 32 credits. In 2015, the state high school graduation requirements included passing scores on five tests, all administered beginning in the 10th grade. Adjusting for Common Core State Standards, the state is instituting seven end-of-course exams worth a cumulative total of 35 points. Students must accumulate a minimum of 18 points on these tests to graduate.

Federal Hocking also worked with the state education department to modify the prescribed teacher evaluation plan to align with the district’s pedagogical philosophy.

Key Strategies

  • Make democratic decision making part of the teacher contract and student constitution.
  • Use the schedule redesign to support teaching and learning by giving students more time with their teachers and fewer subjects per semester.
  • Limit teachers’ load to 60-70 students a semester, allowing them to get to know their students better, assign them more in-depth work, and respond more fully to that work.
  • Meet individual student interests and needs through internships, student-designed senior projects, CTE programs, and choice of pathways in science and math.
  • Use advisory time to create a strong culture of care for students, approaching it as an opportunity to engage in a range of activities with them, from silent reading to discussions.
  • Use 70-minute planning periods on alternate Fridays strategically to support teacher collaboration, decision making, curriculum writing, and continuous assessment.
  • Create schedule flexibility and curriculum integration through double team-teaching blocks in 9th- and 10th-grade ELA and social studies.
  • Focus professional development on literacy across the curriculum to support students meeting Common Core Standards.
  • Negotiate with state to permit alignment of teacher evaluation with school’s specific pedagogical strategies and expectations.

Curriculum and Instruction

Teachers at Federal Hocking write their own curriculum, which they update each year. The school emphasizes literacy across the curriculum, taking as its guide Subjects Matter, Second Edition: Exceeding Standards Through Powerful Content-Area Reading by Harvey "Smokey" Daniels and Steven Zemelman. The school also uses such strategies as Paideia Seminar, a scaffolded version of a Socratic seminar; project-based learning; and performance-based assessment. While teaching out of textbooks is discouraged, they are used as additional resources.

 

Internships

Internship has been an integral part of the elective curriculum since 1993. Internships are individually tailored to each student's interests and availability — how many periods they can dedicate to the internship given how many requirements they have left to meet. Even if they only have one period per day to spare for an elective, they can have a meaningful internship with a Federal Hocking staff member. For instance, an opposing team coach once assumed that an intern was in fact the school's athletic director because the intern had been so efficient and effective in making all the arrangements for the school's teams.  For students who have met most graduation requirements, internships involve as much as half a day on a daily basis and take students to local businesses, schools, not-for-profits, and nearby Ohio University. Low-income students get gas cards to make travel possible.

 

Senior Project

Most students take at least one internship, but all students are required to complete a senior project. Senior projects are arranged by the students themselves (with supervision and support from mentors), whereas internships are arranged by a part-time internship coordinator. Generally, students select something they want to learn, find a community member who can teach them, develop a learning plan, and, when ready, demonstrate what they have learned. Projects run the gamut from learning to build a rocket, play an instrument, or teach children math. The depth of the project depends on the number of periods that the student has available to devote to the project.

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Course Taking

The school creates its own master schedule. Students have the opportunity to take 32 credits in their time at the school, with 27 required for graduation, including two required internships. Other requirements include a senior project (for one credit) and presentation of a graduation portfolio. The school only offers one foreign language: Spanish. In grades 9 and 10, students typically all take the same courses. Later, they have the option to enroll in an FFA (Future Farmers of America) career and technical education program. There are also advanced math and science options. 

 

Sample Student Course-Taking

 

Note: Students take four 70-minute courses each semester. Each yields a year’s credit because of longer class periods. Students see advisors for breakfast and attendance for 10 minutes at beginning of every day and for a 35-minute period daily.

Grade (2 semester courses)              
9 English 9 combined with American Studies 9 Team taught—2 credits Integrated math 2/3 (Students who take IM2 in 8th grade start with IM3) Integrated science 9 PE & Health Elective Often IM3 or IM 4 Elective Elective Combined Advisory
10 English 10 combined with American Studies 10 Team taught—2 credits IM 3 or 4 or Algebra 2 Integrated science 10 Elective Elective Often math Elective Elective
11 Eng 11 / American OR Intl Govt 11th and 12th grade combined taught in alternate years—all students take both courses Math (algebra 2 or another choice) Human biology or chemistry Elective Elective Elective Elective Combined advisory. Main venue for work on senior project/graduation portfolio
12 English 12 American OR Int'l Govt Math Algebra 2, calculus or another choice) Elective Elective Elective Elective

 

Assessment

There is a strong emphasis on authentic, performance-based assessment, even for final exams (e.g., a three-hour final in the junior/senior government course scores students on their text annotation skills, participation in a discussion, and text-based writing). Students take all tests required by Ohio for high school graduation. The state testing system is in a transitional period as the state’s version of Common Core State Standards is phased in. Up until 2015-16, students needed passing scores on five tests, all administered beginning in 10th grade.

Organization

Students are organized into three divisions that group grades 7 and 8, 9 and10, and 11 and 12, taking most core classes in their grade. In general, there is no tracking. However, there are two course options for grade 9 math, with placement determined by middle school teachers. Students who wish to pursue honors work in various courses are given extra meeting time with teachers and extra assignments. Elective courses allow students options, based on their individual interests and goals. Electives include internships, advanced math and science, college courses at Ohio University, an agricultural CTE program, and a community college credit-conferring CTE technology program.

Most students with an Individual Educational Program (IEP) are fully included in general education classes. Typically, they are grouped together so that a second teacher with special education certification can push into their classes, although some students receive instruction in a self-contained class for certain subjects.

Schedule Basics

 

Pre-1992

  • 7 of 8 base schedule
  • 42-minute periods
  • Full-year courses
  • 630 hours per course per year

1992

  • Block schedule with four 80-minute instruction periods plus advisory
  • 1/2-year courses
  • Class size between 22 and 25.
  • Saved ~360 minutes per course in "housekeeping" time (non-instructional time during class period when class meets for fewer periods)
  • 600 hours per course per year

Recently

  • Reduced course length to 70 minutes
  • Increased advisory time per student

 

Bell Schedule

Period Time Purpose
  7:50-8:00 universal free breakfast and attendance in advisory
1 8:05-9:15 class
2 9:20-10:30 class
LUNCH 10:30-11:30 generally ½ hour for lunch and ½ hour for tutoring
3 11:35-12:45 class
4 12:50-2:00 class
Advisory 2:05-2:40 M: “Connections”
T and W: Advisory curriculum
Th: SSR (Silent Sustained Reading)
Fri: Clubs

 

Schedule Features
  • Four-period schedule as a base.
  • Teachers teach three of the four 70-minute periods and a 35-minute advisory class.
  • Teachers have one 70-minute planning period and a lunch period, which they may use for tutoring or meeting with students.
  • Advisory curriculum includes support for building portfolio and senior projects.

Class size is rarely over 25, with classes of 20-22 in the 9th and 10th grades. Generally, the school will run three sections of 9th- and 10th-grade courses, but only two sections per course in the 11th and 12th grades. At least 30 juniors and seniors are out of the building in any given class period doing internships, which helps moderate class size.

 

 

Master schedule: Teachers

Staff SEM 2 1 2 3 4
ANDERSON SCI 8 SCI 8 SCI 8 PLAN
MACARTNEY SCI 7 SCI 7 PLAN SCI 8
WRYST PLAN CHEMISTRY SCI 9 SCI 9
WARNER PLAN PHYSICS SCI 10 SCI 10
CASTELINO HUM 8 PLAN SCI 7 SCI 7
HOFFMAN PLAN INC 9 INC 9 INC 9
WHITE MATH 7 MATH 7 PLAN MATH 7
THOMPSONv MATH 8 MATH 8 MATH 7 PLAN
ARMELIE PLAN IM 2v MATH 8 MATH 8
COLLINS AP CALC IM4 PLAN IM4
TORRENCE IM4 PLAN IM 3 ALG 3/TRIG
OHLER INC 8 INC 8 PLAN INC 8
HUTCHINSON INC 7 INC 7 INC 7 PLAN
HAWK PLAN HUM 8 HUM 8 HUM 8
GREEN AS 9 PLAN INTERNSHIP INTERNSHIP
KASLER PLAN AS 10 AS 10 GEOGRAPHY
WARMKE DOM GOVT 11 PSYCHOLOGY PLAN WORLD HISTORY 12
BROOKS PLAN INC 10 INC 10 STUDY SKILLS
K. CLARK PLAN LA 7 LA 7 LA 7
BALLEW PLAN ENG 10 ENG 10 CREATIVE WRITING
RIPPLE JOURNALISM ENG 9 READERS WORKSHOP PLAN
CELL LA 7 ENG 11 ENG 12 PLAN
COBLE INTRO TO PHOTO PLAN 2-D ANIMATION MS TECH (8)
TABLER SPANISH 3 PLAN SPANISH 4 SPANISH 1
HADLEY ART 1 MS ART PLAN CERAMICS
OLSON MS CHOIR PLAN MS BAND HS BAND
J. PFEIFFER AG BUSINESS AG 8 PLANT & ANIMAL SCI PLAN
S. PFEIFFER AG METALS AG CONSTRUCT AG 7 PLAN
SMITH MS GYM (GIRLS) PE/HEALTH PLAN MS GYM (BOYS)

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Professional Development

The union contract gives teachers wide latitude in shaping their professional development, and every year they select a different subject to emphasize in addition to literacy, which continues to be an area of focus. Two to three days at the beginning and end of each school year are devoted to collaboration, curriculum, and professional development offerings, with days at the end of the year used for evaluating and revising curriculum. In addition, three to four times a year, students are released two hours early for teacher professional development. After-school monthly staff meetings, provided for in the union contract, are typically used for departmental planning, while a teachers’ daily planning period is scheduled to accommodate collaboration with colleagues. And every other Friday, there is a 70-minute planning period for collaborating with the principal, superintendent, and colleagues on specific, pre-determined issues.

Through the school’s partnership with Creating Active and Reflective Educators (CARE) at Ohio University in nearby Athens, Federal Hocking employs education fellows as part-time high school teachers, freeing teachers to lead professional development and mentoring efforts.

Student Community

Students play an active role in Federal Hocking, thanks in large part to the student constitution, which was drafted and codified in 1999. The constitution stipulates that students get two seats on the site-based decision-making committee and one seat on the district technology committee. They also elect student trustees who handle student complaints, conduct student surveys, and take responsibility for annually revising the student handbook. And there are two student liaisons who serve as nonvoting members of the district school board, representing students and their ideas. In addition, students have broad decision-making power over student affairs, including the clubs held on Fridays during the advisory period. Advisors support students by meeting with them daily for 35 minutes. Seniors struggling to finish graduation requirements receive a mandatory special assistance program.

Professional Community

Teachers have ample opportunity to collaborate with each other and school and district leaders. Teachers comprise the majority of a site-based committee that makes decisions about curriculum, operations, budget, scheduling, and professional development, helping to create a democratic leadership. In addition, teachers have 70 minutes of collaborative planning time with their principal and superintendent every other week. And throughout the year, time is set aside for teachers to engage in continuous improvement.

Family Engagement

Virtually all members of the elected school board that governs this 1,000-student district are parents or grandparents of its students. Up to two parent volunteers serve on the site-based committee that oversees policy and practice in the school. Advisors are a key point of contact with families, since they are tracking their advisees' progress continually. There is a regular newsletter in addition to a Facebook page and school website to keep families informed of overall school and district matters. Because the school district is 204 square miles, it is not easy for parents to get to the school regularly, but a welcoming atmosphere and open-door policy supports informal check-ins when parents drop students off at school, attend basketball games, etc.