High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology
2015-2016 Model

Collaborating to Push Students to Reach their Potential

The High School of Telecommunications Arts and Technology is a mid-size, ethnically diverse magnet school serving students from all over Brooklyn, New York. Its admissions procedures ensure that it enrolls students of all achievement levels, and nearly 25% of its students have IEPs.

Student Population Free reduced lunch
(%)
ELL
(%)
Special Ed.
(%)
Staff / Student ratio
1329 78 7 23 1/25

School Contact Info

High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology
350 67 STREET
Brooklyn, NY 11220
Grades: 9-12
(718) 759-3400
Principal: Xhenete Shepard
(718) 759-3410

Challenge

More than 20 years ago, the New York City Schools decided to close a community institution, a girls-only school in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, and replace it with a magnet school that would serve the full range of achievement levels and attract students from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. The challenge was how to serve students with widely varying preparation and needs equally well.

Solutions

Over time, the school has developed structures that provide 1) intensive support for students in their first two years 2) individualized attention to each student’s academic strengths and needs, particularly in creating each student’s schedule 3) time and structure for robust teacher collaboration in grade teams and departments 4) one-on-one pairing of general and special education teachers in each core subject to ensure an effective Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) model for serving mostly students with IEPs and special educators who are thoroughly familiar with the Regents curriculum serving students who need a self-contained setting.

Results

The overall four-year graduation rate was 88% in 2015.  At HSTAT, 94% of those students who entered the school with 8th-grade test scores somewhat below proficient (Level Two) graduated in four years, compared to 81% of such students citywide. Of the students who entered with 8th-grade state test scores dramatically below proficiency (Level One), 77% graduated in four years as compared to 47% citywide.  What's more, 93% of 9th-graders and 82% of 10th-graders earned enough credits to be on track for graduation. Within six months of graduation, 77% of the students had enrolled in college or other postsecondary education as opposed to 53% citywide. Furthermore, 57% graduated college-ready (defined as meeting City University of New York standards for testing out of remedial classes) as compared to 35% citywide. The city accountability system has identified the school as unusually effective in graduating students with IEPs and students who enter high school with middle school test scores in the bottom third of their class.

Key Policy Considerations

District Policies

The school routinely uses the school-based option in the teachers’ contract to build consensus around and implement the scheduling of time for PD and teacher collaboration during the school day. The mandated Danielson teacher evaluation rubrics serve as a framework for mentoring new teachers. The school’s admission procedures are designed by the Central Department of Education and are a model in place at a number of NYC schools to ensure a heterogeneous student population.

State Policies

To receive the Regents Diploma, students must pass five state Regents exams.  For students entering the 9th grade before 2015, these included English language arts, math, global history and georgraphy, American history and government, and science.  Beginning in 2015, students entering the 9th grade are requred to pass Regents exams in English language arts, math, science, American history or global studies, and a fifth Regents or other state-approved exam in a subject of their choice.  The state also requires four years of social studies and English, three years of math, three years of science, one year of the arts, one year of foreign language, two years of PE, one semester of health, and seven semesters of additional elective credits.

Key Strategies

  • Distributed counseling — Guidance counselors and social workers are freed up to focus on individual students’ most pressing socioemotional issues because teachers with reduced teaching loads serve as:
    • academic advisors who stay with the same cohort of students throughout their four years at the school and are responsible for scheduling students, tracking their progress, touching base with their families, and engaging students’ teachers in targeted discussions of students’ needs
    • college advisors shepherding juniors and seniors through college exploration and every aspect of the application and financial aid process
  • Building in time during the school day for grade-team, departmental, and whole-staff collaboration
  • Targeting human and financial resources to the 9th and 10th grade to ensure maximum growth for all students and focused attention before struggling students fail.  This includes:
    • reduced class size
    • small learning communities in which one group of teachers serves the same students and have common planning time to collaborate in meeting their students’ needs
    • heterogeneous classes in which top-performing and other general education students are evenly distributed across the SLCs, but each SLC specializes in serving a specific high-needs population — special education, ELL, or lowest-performing in literacy.
    • an extra English period focused on writing about health in the 9th grade
  • Creating a "bespoke" schedule in the 11th and 12th grades for each student, addressing any missing credits or failed Regents exams as well as areas of strength where honors or AP work is appropriate. The advisors and grade teams also look for patterns of need across students and create courses for specific groups of students with the same needs.
  • Starting with geometry in the 9th grade to avoid splitting the cohort into those who completed Algebra 1 in middle school and those who need to prepare for the state algebra exam in the 9th grade. This strategy also provides for Algebra 1 and 2 being offered in consecutive years rather than being separated by a year of geometry, which improves the pass rate in the challenging Algebra 2 course.
  • Extensive use of team teaching, made possible by serving most of the IEP students (25% of the student population) through the Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) model with the additional funding this provides — an approach that results in virtually all students getting two teachers in some of their classes
  • An “Educational Options” admissions policy (used at a number of NYC magnet schools) that results in an entering cohort whose middle school state test scores approximate the normal curve of distribution of test scores — thus ensuring a heterogeneous population that mirrors the range of student achievement across the city
  • A software engineering program for interested students

Curriculum and Instruction

Teachers collaboratively design curriculum. Particular attention is placed on carefully determining the specific skills needed for students to meet Common Core standards. Grade teams target skills to address across subjects and collaboratively study student work to assess student acquisition of those skills. The principal and her cabinet of assisant principals stress careful lesson planning as described in this message from the principal to her staff posted for all to see on the school website. Each department collaboratively engages in a monthly lesson study, meeting monthly to apply those planning principles to a model lesson in its discipline.

Ninth grade

All students take both English and a separate writing course focused on health issues (which also meets the state requirement for one semester of health credit), global studies, Living Environment, and Spanish or an extra period of math support. The 9th-grade health writing course uses techniques developed by Judith Hochman to help students master essential writing skills.

Entering 9th-graders can sign up for a software engineering program, which adds one period per day of computer classes throughout their eight semesters. This extra class means they must take PE ninth period, after the usual end of the school day.

Tenth grade:

All students take global history, English, and algebra (those who passed the Algebra 1 exam in middle school are programmed for Algebra 2). Most also take chemistry, Spanish, and two electives.

Junior and Senior Year

The junior and senior year curricula provide more opportunities for customization through electives, but in addition to state graduation requirements, there are several school-specific requirements for all students — all seniors take a research and writing course where they identify and investigate a “quality of life” issue, and the school tries to program all seniors, particularly those who have not taken an Advanced Placement course, into at least one College Now course offered through Kingsborough Community College.

Electives include forensic science, science fiction, Javascript, computer software engineering (an introduction for students not enrolled in the full software engineering program), chorus, music appreciation, several studio art courses, introduction to psychology, global history through film (particularly useful for students who have not yet passed the required state exam in global history), an interdisciplinary humanities course called “New York, New York,” creative writing, film adaptation (reading texts and analyzing how they have been adapted into films), yearbook, Art in Writing (combining creative writing and visual art for either English or art credit), school newspaper, and Model UN.

Early College

AP courses are offered in English literature, world history, Spanish language and culture, physics, chemistry, biology, statistics, and calculus.

College Now courses, developed in collaboration with Kingsborough Community College, are available to seniors only for college credit and are offered in the school. They include Humanities, Introduction to Criminal Justice, and Elements of Statistics. Because they meet only four days per week, a career exploration class is offered on the fifth day for College Now students.

Two teachers with reduced teaching loads staff the college office and individually counsel every junior and senior regarding college exploration, application, and financial aid. During the junior year, English teachers guide students in writing college essays, and American history teachers devote some class time for discussions regarding college visits, financial aid, and the college application process. All students are required to submit college applications before Thanksgiving and the day applications are due is a time for grade-wide celebration.

Curriculum Specialties

HSTAT participates in a federally-funded math initiative spearheaded by New Visions for Public Schools and aligned to Common Core standards 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 to address them by re-engaging in the material. The instructional support department — licensed special education teachers — has developed a set of strategies to help students with organization skills and to be aware and capitalize on their learning styles (e.g., visual, aural, kinesthetic). They have shared these strategies with the entire faculty through grade-team work and schoolwide PD so that the strategies are now incorporated by teachers across the curriculum.

All seniors take a year-long research and writing course entitled “Quality of Life” to fulfill their 12th-grade participation-in-government requirement. Students select an issue of personal interest — choices range from the need for more career-exploration opportunities in the school to the plight of immigrants facing deportation. They study the problem, identify and make contact with experts in that area, and both write and orally present a comprehensive report with recommendations for action.

Assessment

In addition to the five state Regents exams required for graduation, the school administers Regents exams in Spanish and in most other math and science classes to help students earn an Advanced Regents diploma (which opens up certain avenues of state financial aid for college and also makes applicants more attractive to in-state colleges.) Teachers do item-analysis of student results on Regents exams, particularly those required for graduation, to identify and address gaps in content knowledge and literacy/numeracy skills.

In the fall and spring, every student takes a literacy test designed by the NYC Department of Education as a tool in teacher evaluation. Each HSTAT grade team analyzes its students’ fall performance to identify high-leverage skills to work on across subjects. The grade teams create rubrics to measure student growth on the target skill, administering interim performance assessments over the course of the year.

Organization

Ninth- and 10th-graders are grouped in small learning communities, each with a science, social studies, and ELA teacher who work together to serve the same approximately 100 students. In recent years, structures for collaboration have also been created for teachers serving juniors and seniors. Each grade team is scheduled for a daily common planning period. Because of the challenge of helping students meet new, more rigorous Common Core mathematics and math practice standards, math teachers receive additional time for collaboration, PD, and curriculum design by having a common planning period so they can meet together instead of with their respective grade teams. This is seen as a temporary measure, and it is anticipated that ultimately, math teachers will rejoin their grade-level teams.

Most special education students are served in team-taught classes mixed with a heterogeneous general education population — the Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) model. The special education teachers are dual licensed in a content area and usually collaborate exclusively with one general education teacher in the same grade and content area, using a common prep period to plan together. The two teachers are jointly responsible for the entire class, dramatically reducing the student-teacher ratio in those classes. The high percentage of special education students makes it possible to have, for instance, four special education teachers for the four core subjects in the 9th grade alone. If a special education student needs more support in some subjects, he or she is scheduled for a smaller, self-contained class in those subjects, usually taught by the same special educator who co-teaches ICT sections in that grade and subject. Thus, their self-contained teacher is thoroughly familiar with the general education curriculum and uses that curriculum with appropriate scaffolding and support.

Schedule Basics

The school has a 6 of 8 schedule (teachers teaching six of eight periods).  The school day for students is generally 6 hours and 12 minutes except on Wednesdays when students are dismissed 32 minutes earlier to increase teacher PD time. Students who choose to take the software engineering program are scheduled for PE after school. Except for the second period, classes are 42 minutes long every day but Wednesday when every class is shortened by four minutes. The second period is 15 minutes longer to provide time for daily attendance taking (3-5 minutes) and independent reading in every class. Passing is three minutes.  The teachers’ day is from 6.5 hours to 7 hours and 10 minutes, depending on the day. Teachers generally teach five classes. They have one planning period and one professional period that is used to collaborate with others on their grade team or in their department. After student dismissal, the teachers’ schedule is as follows: On Monday, parent outreach for 35 minutes; on Tuesday and Thursday, tutoring for 40 minutes; on Wednesday, professional development for 80 minutes.

Professional Development

One of the teachers’ two planning periods per day is a common planning time with other teachers on their grade level. Their "professional duty” (which at other schools might be cafeteria monitoring or bookroom work) is to collaborate with their grade-team colleagues. There is an instructional lead for each grade who develops agendas and facilitates meetings. The four instructional leads meet weekly with the principal and other administrators to develop their own leadership skills and track progress in meeting schoolwide goals. Once per week, the grade-team meeting is with the grade advisor and guidance counselors to sort out specific student issues. On another day, teachers focus on the specific Common Core skill they are emphasizing across disciplines. The school uses the Google calendar app to keep a schedule for which grade team is meeting which day for what purpose, but teachers have broad discretion on how best to use this collaborative time. During a second non-teaching period, teachers who jointly teach Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) sections that include some students with IEPs are scheduled for common planning time.

In addition, teachers have 80 minutes built in to the school day once per week for PD. One PD session per month is dedicated to teacher volunteers sharing best practices in areas they feel are important and interesting. Their colleagues sign up for the session that interests them the most. Two times per month, the PD session is spent in grade teams where the focus is identifying a Common Core skill that all teachers in the grade address in their own discipline and tracking student progress across classes in mastering that skill. Once per month, departments meet to design and track implementation of a model lesson — a lesson study intended to identify and practice the design, planning, assessment, and revision steps that create strong curriculum. In between meetings, teachers in the same discipline teach or observe the lesson being taught. They use these observations as well as student work to identify ways to improve the lesson.

Student Community

There is a strong emphasis on students supporting each other as exemplified by a robust and widely used student tutoring program twice per week and a new mentorship program, initiated by students, that matches every 9th grader with a senior mentor. Seniors run the freshman orientation and field day. In addition to student government and a wide range of sports teams, the unusually wide variety of after-school clubs demonstrates the attention the school pays to student interests. They include Anime, chess, computer science, creative writing, dance, environmental issues, “Explore Your City” (monthly student-planned trips around NYC), Gay Straight Alliance, Girls Empowered, Glee, guitar, LINK (Liberty in North Korea), Model UN/Debate, Red Cross, Rock Band, sewing, space, theater, math, sketch (art), Blueprint (leadership development through community service), Spirit Squad (no-cut cheerleading), and WISH (Women in Science and Health).

Professional Community

The staff members have a strong say in their professional development, collaborating with administration on using the school-based option provisions in the teacher contract to design and vote on when it will happen and what it will consist of. Because 25% of the student body have IEPs and most of these students are served through the Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) model, there are many co-taught classes, providing an opportunity for deep and consistent collaboration. As another forum for collaboration, grade teams are seen by teachers as an important tool in ensuring that students do not fall through the cracks. There are many opportunities for teachers to develop leadership skills — as instructional leads, grade advisors, and college counselors.

Family Engagement

The school strategically uses technology to keep families informed. For instance, they have synced the CASS system — students swipe their ID cards when they enter the school, creating a record of when they arrive — with School Messenger, the automatic calling system, so that parents can be informed in real time if their child is late for school. Pupil Path makes teacher gradebooks accessible online so parents and students both can check on student progress and see what work assignments are missing. Google forms are used to streamline creation of progress reports, providing families with more information with less clerical time and effort.