Teachers write their own curriculum, typically collaborating with colleagues. Curricula are maintained on a school Google drive. Key components include:.
In every subject, classwork culminates in a project, typically two per semester. Projects are intended to demonstrate mastery, build on what students have learned in class and include revision and sustained effort over time. Much of the work for the projects is done in class (especially for the ELLs in the beginning). As students progress, the work is increasingly independent. All projects have multiple tasks that build to the final deliverable. As students are completing the project, teachers collect intermediary work, which allows them to assess understanding and give students feedback to help them to create an end product that is of high quality. Much of the teachers’ curricula is geared toward the two semester projects. The lessons leading up to the end project highlight the skills necessary to complete each task to be done along the way. All projects include a set of skills that the students should be developing toward mastery.
Every semester, every student, no matter how recently they have arrived from a non-English-speaking country, presents a portfolio to a teacher they do not necessarily know. They must explain one project from each class. The teacher reviewer receives a Google document with questions prepared by the student’s classroom teachers and a rubric for scoring each project. There is a metacognitive focus to the conversation. Students must explain not only what they learned but how they learned it. For instance, freshmen are asked to bring their notebooks with them to explain how they take notes and organize information and what result this had on their learning. Teachers who predominantly work with ELLs may be the reviewer for an English-dominant student, providing valuable insight. As the principal pointed out: “For teachers of ELLs, it is important that they remain cognizant of what the native English speakers are doing and how they are performing. Our goal is to give equal access to all students. This is difficult to do if teachers do not have a frame of reference as to what the ultimate goal for our students is. For teachers of non-ELLs, it gives them an opportunity to see how our ELL populations are doing.” All teachers get insights into areas where more attention is needed to support students in meeting common core standards — for instance, the presentation of counter-arguments came up recently as an area where teachers noticed through portfolio presentations that more work was needed.
There is a strong emphasis on students doing math through carefully designed activities with performance-based assessments at the beginning and end of every unit and a formative assessment about two-thirds into every unit to analyze student misconceptions or gaps in understanding and address them by re-engaging in material.
Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE)
Like most schools serving adolescent ELLs, Marble Hill serves a significant number of students — at least 15% — with little, if any, formal education. Strategies include the approach of sheltered ESL in the content area with all SIFE students programmed for the beginning ELL group, after-school mentoring in groups of five with a teacher who works with them on high-leverage basic skills and develops a supportive personal relationship with this small group. A Saturday Explorer program provides an opportunity for SIFE students to travel with a teacher to interesting locations in the city, often accompanied by more advanced students, and then to write about them in English. The school maintains a high-interest, low-reading-level library to support emerging literacy.
An array of student supports includes:
- a weekly advisory class that runs the gamut from acclimation to high school to college selection
- a three-week bridge program for incoming students, particularly those with limited English
- Saturday test prep for state-mandated Regents exams and the SATs
- after-school small-group mentoring for students with interrupted formal education
- summer school with an emphasis on catching up with state testing requirements
- A building-wide health center that provides immunizations, vision services, referrals, etc.
- i-Mentor program — students matched to professionals whom they both meet in person and correspond with through email exchange
- Exchange program with a school in China — with eight Marble Hill students traveling to China and Chinese students visiting Marble Hill
- Saturday Explorers program — visiting and writing about New York City sights
- College Now classes in English, psychology, and sociology.
- Numerous student clubs
- A choice of seven AP courses
- Community service weekly
There is a full-time college counselor provided through the College Bound Initiative. All seniors take a college readiness class in the fall semester in which they research colleges, write college research papers, prepare application essays and personal statements, apply for financial aid, and assemble their college applications. Additional support for college exploration and the application process is provided in the Wednesday advisory class. The final senior portfolio is a compendium of all the artifacts they needed to compile in the college application process. It includes a 10-page college research paper, the essay they wrote for their college applications, a report on their senior community service research project, a resume, a reference from a teacher or outside contact, a summary of their process for applying to college, what colleges they chose and why as well as their final selection and why they chose that school, and their package that they received.
In the first two years, all students basically take the same courses. Then, in 11th and 12th grades, each student program is individualized, and students have a choice of seven different AP courses and numerous college-level courses. All juniors take a public speaking class and all seniors take a college readiness class.
Four days per week, all 9th-graders are scheduled for humanities (English and global studies), environmental science, and algebra with an extra period of humanities and algebra on one of those days. English language learners take a period of ESL back-to-back with their humanities class. Other students take either Japanese or Italian. On Wednesdays, all 9th-graders take health, advisory, and an arts course in the morning and do community service in the afternoon.
Marble Hill balances performance assessment of multiple projects and portfolio presentations each semester with outside on-demand testing. Students must pass five state-mandated Regents examinations in order to graduate. This is a challenge for students who enter as beginning ELLs — hence, the extra support provided for test prep after school, on Saturdays, and in summer school. ELLs are entitled to extra time and dictionaries. If the exam has been translated into their first language, they generally take the exam in English but use the translation as a resource. Beyond the minimum state requirements, students also take Regents exams in chemistry, geometry, advanced math, etc. AP courses are offered in a variety of subjects and students who take those classes are expected to sit for the AP exams