|Background information: Fishers High School and Hamilton Southeastern High School are both high-performing schools of over 3,000 students in the Hamilton Southeastern School District, located in the rapidly growing community of Fishers, Indiana, on the outskirts of Indianapolis.|
In Hamilton Southeastern Schools, we have long had robust Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Dual Credit opportunities. When we talked with Indiana colleges and universities, however, we were told that although students come to them academically prepared, “other things” frequently get in the way of success: Some students lack time-management skills, are not always self-directed learners, or may not know how to transfer knowledge and skills to new situations.
My guess is this is no surprise to anyone reading this blog!
When we had the chance to expand our current high schools due to our rapid growth, we tried to do more than build new classrooms and expand course offerings. We also worked to address these “other” issues by forging new relationships and by improving our instructional practice.
Expanding Partnerships with Colleges, Universities, and Businesses
As part of planning the new building project, HSE School leaders engaged in a multi-year exploration with two- and four-year colleges and universities and with the community of Fishers. Indiana University, Ball State University, Purdue University, Anderson University, Ivy Tech Community College, and HSE School Leadership met regularly to deepen our relationships as institutions and to expand opportunities for our students. We engaged in discussions with the city of Fishers and with local businesses.
- We dramatically expanded concurrent enrollment courses in order to meet the needs of students with a wide variety of post-secondary education plans.
- We developed internships in all sectors of the local economy, including many in medical occupations, software development, and finance. One example: Launch Fishers, a local entrepreneurship incubator, supports numerous student interns and even helps students create start-up businesses of their own.
- We added certificate programs for our students. While these are not college credit-bearing, they do allow students to earn industry certificates in computer support, nursing, or construction.
- We reworked job descriptions and duties for several key personnel: Our college and career counselors are the in-house experts on concurrent enrollment, and our academic deans focus on connecting at-risk students with post-secondary opportunities.
Cultivating the Most Important College and Career Readiness Skill—Thinking—through the HSE21 Best-Practice Model
At the same time that we were forging partnerships outside of the school, administrators and teachers worked to improve instruction inside our classrooms, from kindergarten through the senior year. Our local best-practice instruction model, called HSE21, is transforming the classroom experience so that every class is a college and career readiness class.
- Students do the heavy lifting—and the thinking! Our HSE21 Best-Practice Model emphasizes inquiry, self-directed learning, and authentic choices for students.
- We implemented districtwide cross-curricular and cross-grade level projects and focused on literacy and numeracy as foundational skills for all learning.
- We redefined “instructional time” by implementing the Senior Flex, which allows students who take four AP, IB, and/or Dual Credit courses to opt into self-directed release time. We also teach a handful of high school courses using the college model of alternating days of instruction with work days. In these classes our teachers keep “office hours” on the off days.
In HSE we do offer a full menu of concurrent enrollment courses, but that alone will not ensure college and career readiness. We must also help our students develop essential soft skills by engaging them with high quality instruction inside the classroom and in a wide variety of learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
This is a link to a YouTube video that gives a good introduction to our College and Career Academies.