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The HPS Formula for Student Success

The Mission of the Hastings Public Schools is to "assure the essential" and to "expand the possible" for all students. This means that every student must possess the critical knowledge and skills provided by each subject area at each grade or class level to be successful at the next level of their education and/or, in the case of our twelfth grade students, to be successful in life. We believe that by providing every student with what is essential for future success we open up to students a world of opportunities they may have, at one time, thought to be impossible.
This is a significant undertaking and is forcing the District to move from being a "good" school district to one where excellence is everywhere. We are making this transition using what we believe are six key ingredients for student success.
The first ingredient is caring. As a school and a community, we must care enough to provide our students with the time and resources necessary for all students to be successful.
However, we must realize that caring alone is not enough. We must also be committed to bringing out the potential of every student. Commitment, the second ingredient, is caring in action. It is beyond talking about what is good for students to changing one's own behavior so that what is good for students is put into place and available. We are trying to live by the following statement from Richard DeFour, "We will make progress as an organization when we move from the language of complaint to a language of commitment, from a language of 'they' to a language of 'we,' from focusing on what we can't stand to focusing on what we stand for."
The third ingredient is a common curriculum. This means that all students need to be guaranteed an appropriate opportunity to attain the critical content and skills in every class and subject, regardless of who is teaching the course. It also means that each student must be given a realistic opportunity to acquire the essential learning of each course, regardless of his or her learning ability. Some have called this a "guaranteed and viable" curriculum. Once fully in place, it should not matter whether a student is in third grade at Alcott or whether a student is in third grade at Watson. What they learn at the essential level should be the same. This is not to say that all students will achieve at the same level, as some students are able to excel beyond others while other students may need additional time and resources to acquire what is essential in a class. It also doesn't mean that all of our teachers will instruct in the exact same way, as we believe effective instructional practices can vary according to the knowledge and skills of each teacher. However, the basic curriculum for each student must be the same whether the student is in Algebra I at the Middle School or taking Algebra I as a freshman at the Senior High. The critical learning represented by Algebra I should be attained by all students taking Algebra I. This common curriculum is necessary to assure all students have an equal opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful.
The fourth and fifth ingredients in our formula are common assessments and common pacing. Today, educators use tests to diagnose whether students are learning or not (formative assessments) and to provide students and other stakeholders with a snapshot of the performance of students and of the school program (summative assessments). We believe these tests should be "held in common" (i.e., the same test) by each teacher who teaches at a particular grade level and in a particular subject. We want teachers to use the same tests to diagnose student learning so that they can compare the results of their instruction across all students who have studied at a particular grade level and in a particular subject. By comparing the results, we are able to figure out what practices are most efficient and of highest quality in assuring student learning. Once we identify these "best practices," we will then be able to replicate these practices in every classroom where a particular learning must occur. As more and more teachers use best practices, we believe the achievement of our students will continue to improve to the point that all students can be assured what is essential.
While each of the ingredients above are important, all of this effort to improve the performance of all students may be dependent upon the final ingredient of our formula for success. That ingredient is collaboration. We want our teachers to be working together to make sure our curriculum is the same for each subject at a particular level. We want them to give the same tests so that they can view the results together, identify best practices, and spread those practices throughout our District. Such collaboration is a clear break from the past where most teachers taught in isolation, where each was responsible for determining what would be learned, and where any attempt to implement a best practice was pretty much left to each teacher's ingenuity and effort. This is why our Wednesday afternoon early dismissals are so critical to what we are trying to accomplish for students. These dismissals allow all teachers teaching a particular subject at a particular level to meet with each other to clarify what is essential; to determine whether students are learning or not; and what to do about it, particularly if students are not learning.
While this formula for success is not new for the Hastings Public Schools, we continue to move forward on the implementation of this vision. We do so because we continue to see our student’s academic performance improve. We believe that if we are able to fully implement our formula for success we will not only be able to assure the essential for every student, we will help students to attain levels of learning one time thought impossible to attain.