Hillsdale High School Shines in the National Spotlight

Spotlight on San Mateo's Hillsdale High School

Bravo Hillsdale High School!  San Mateo’s gem of a school has been featured in Newsweek talking about a fabulous program that rolled out several years ago and has seen amazing results for the students and teachers.  When I am asked about the high schools in San Mateo, locals generally roll their eyes at the thought of buying a house within the Hillsdale district, at least that was then, but not any longer.  This high school, who serves students from the southern part of San Mateo and from Foster City, has made such progress in test scores that the entire country is watching and learning about a terrific teaching strategy.

When a Freshman starts high school it is generally with trepidation at the thought of getting lost in a big high school.  Most of us felt this and is was scary.  Hillsdale doesn’t let this happen because they have totally redesigned how the school works and it isn’t in the usual way with 30+ kids in a class and the kids taking 7 classes per day.

Stanford University’s School Redesign Network presented a great way to change things.  They divided the school into three houses of 100 students per house and four teachers, 25 students per teacher.  Something unheard of in high school.  This began in 2003 with the freshman class.  Today this program encompasses the entire school and is being rolled out to the entire San Mateo Union High School District.

Like most California school districts, funding isn’t coming locally but from Sacramento and has been cut annually for several years so how did they manage to fund this?  The school said out with electives and in with Small Learning Community grants from the district.  The first class to go through this system graduated last year, in 2007 and this class had received $2.6 million in scholarship money and half of the class met the requirements for entry to UC.  This school outdid Mills, Burlingame and Aragon in scholarships offered graduating seniors.  They also jumped dramatically in test scores.

One of the reasons people send their children to private schools is because of small class size.  Hillsdale managed to enact this and the kids have blossomed.  This program is so unique that it is in the spotlight for other school districts across the country to come and see what it’s all about.  Smaller classes, fewer teachers, collaboration between teachers, education becoming exciting and interesting to both constituencies.

Thank you Stanford!  We are in their backyard and are very lucky to have a school district willing to open up to something unique presented by the University.  Bravo Hillsdale High School.  I can’t wait to see the impact on our community over the next few years as the other 5 high schools in the district roll this program out to their students and teachers.

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