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S E C T I O N 2 Hillview Schools December 15, 1010 ■ Stories about local schools, students and issues related to learning A LSO INSIDE C A LE N DA R 27 |R E A L E S TAT E 31 |C L AS S I F I E D S 28 School’s other Transformation Major change is playing out at the middle school, but no bulldozers are required for the one within the walls By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor A nyone driving along Santa Cruz Avenue past Hillview Middle School can see that major change is in the works at the school: It is five months into a major rebuilding project that will reconfigure the campus and create new facilities to accommodate a burgeoning enrollment. But another significant change is taking place at the school — this one unfolding within its mural-adorned walls. Beginning this school year, Hillview — which brings together the nearly 700 sixth-, seventhand eighth-graders of the Menlo Park City School District — launched a new initiative that revamps the traditional teaching approach at the school and positions teachers in teams of four to focus their collaborative efforts on up to 100 students On the cover assigned to their care. In the picture on the cover of Section 1, math teacher Sayre Known as the Hillview Academy, the new Dolan works on an algebra program is designed to give each student problem with students Helen Gordan, center, and Gabby the close attention and support he or she Giordano during enrichneeds to successfully navigate all areas of ment period at Hillview Middle School in Menlo the curriculum, according to Principal Mike Park. Photo by Michelle Le/ Melton, who led the charge in establishing The Almanac. the program. “No student can fall through the cracks in this program,” said Mr. Melton, who began his tenure as principal in the 2009-10 school year. The initiative was developed in part to satisfy a list of objectives endorsed by the district’s school board to improve the Hillview program, Mr. Melton said, adding that those objectives, or “focuses,” meant that “we needed to make some changes” at the school. Mr. Melton had helped develop an academy model at a middle school in the Rocklin Unified School District before coming to Hillview, and he believed a similar model could help meet the board’s objectives. But creating such an Academy at Hillview wouldn’t be a cake walk: It would require more teachers, among other expenses, and in a district that was experiencing both a significant enrollment boost and declining revenue, that requirement could have doomed the initiative. The combination of the passage of the Measure C parcel tax in March and a $350,000 grant from the nonprofit Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation effectively green-lighted the program. Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac Top: English teacher Sharron Thompson, center, discusses her students’ poetry work with fellow Academy teachers including Kim Staff. Above: Math teacher Sayre Dolan holds an exam review during enrichment period at Hillview Middle School in Menlo Park. How it works With the August launch of the Academy, the most obvious change for students has been the elimination of the “core teacher” program. In the past, students were in a single classroom, with one core teacher, for three periods each day, and that teacher delivered instruction in a range of subjects — including areas outside his or her field of expertise. The Academy has created a new schedule in which students move from classroom to classroom (or gym) for each of the seven periods. While this may be a bit more challenging at first for the younger students, the rewards of the new teaching approach should outweigh any disadvantages, Mr. Melton said. With the Academy, teaching teams at each grade level were created, each team having teachers in four disciplines: English, math, social studies, and science. Each team is known as an academy, with names such as Olympus, Explorers, Trailblazers, and Vesuvius. Students are assigned to an academy — there are three at each grade level. The academies, Mr. Melton said, are like small schools within a school, and are capped at 100 students — an important development during a time when enrollment continues to grow and is projected to reach 1,000 in five years. In addition to five periods a day devoted to academy instruction, the school day includes one period for an elective and one period for P.E. It’s during these two, nonacademy periods, that teachers work together collaboratively to See HILLVIEW, page 27 December 15, 1010 N The Almanac N25

The Almanac 12.15.2010 - Section 2

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