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.
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.
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.
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.
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.