Hill School’s upper school program began in the fall of 2000; prior to this, Hill School only served students through 8th grade, but parent requests for a “forever school” for their children encouraged the Board to expand our programming. Since our first graduating class of six students in 2003, Hill School has refined the upper school program to meet the needs of our students while they are here and ensure they are prepared for a variety of post-secondary options. With the large majority (over 84% over the past five years) of Hill School graduates heading off to two and four year college programs, the upper school program is dedicated to preparing students to get the most out of future learning experiences. Hill graduates also find success at technical school, in the military, or in the workplace if these are post-graduation plans are better suited to their goals and learning profiles.
Our upper school program emphasizes student self-awareness and self-advocacy for learning requirements. Students attend conferences with parents and teachers three times per year to discuss academic goals and brainstorm strategies to meet these goals. Upper school students examine their learning diagnoses through research, self-reflection, and practice in advocating for their own accommodations. As sophomores, Hill students write reflective papers on their learning journeys. As juniors, they write a paper describing their College Board-approved accommodations and practice presenting this information so they are ready to communicate with a college campus’ disabilities office. Upperclassmen examine their aptitudes using the Highlands Ability Test and receive a debriefing session with a certified affiliate through The Learning Center of North Texas. Reflection and exploration of aptitudes help prepare our students for the future.
Hill School offers three distinct degree plans and three endorsements that meet or exceed the requirements under House Bill 5. The majority of Hill seniors will graduate under the Foundations Plus plan with the Arts and Humanities endorsement (including classes like Research and Writing, Literary Genres, and Foreign Language). Some students may elect to add the STEM endorsement (requiring classes like: Algebra II, Chemistry, Technology Applications, Advanced Science and Math courses). Other students may elect to add the Multidisciplinary Studies endorsement (Physics, Chemistry, Research and Writing, and Cultural affinity classes). These degree plans will better prepare students for post-secondary education and career focus and expose them to additional learning opportunities while they are in high school. Students who would like to pursue the Distinguished Level of Achievement degree plan would pursue higher level classes in Math and Science to amass 26 credits of instruction during their upper school career. Each student is different and individual consultation with our full-time Director of College and Career Counselor is the best way to plan for learning after Hill.
Consistent with the Hill School programming at other levels, our upper school students are ability-grouped for English-Literature classes and again for Mathematics instruction. The demands of high school subjects with regard to content and complexity are matched with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requirements but Hill’s upper school programming allows for flexibility with regard to pace of instruction and volume of associated follow-up homework. The small upper school classes of no more than 12 students in a content-area classroom provide an environment to focus on learning not just the material but also how best to process it, manage time, prioritize learning, and leverage strengths and digital devices to accommodate for long-standing academic weaknesses.
In support of student development and learning in the upper school are numerous opportunities for student collaboration and social interaction. Our upper school students lead the community in the fall’s weeklong Homecoming celebrations and are encouraged to attend the Homecoming dance. In the spring, Sophomores and Juniors are celebrated at special events like Sophomore Portfolio Night and the Junior Recognition Ceremony. Our Senior class is honored with many celebrations (Senior Showcase, Senior Dinner, Robing Ceremony, Senior Pep Rally) on their way to graduation. The annual Junior-Senior Prom is a highlight for upperclassmen every April.
Special leadership and collaboration opportunities are available to our upper school students, including:
Key Club: This service organization open to all high school students. Meetings are twice a month and service projects take place during and outside of school. Past efforts include canned food drives, blanket drives, and travel to community organizations to volunteer onsite.
National Honor Society: Hill School’s chapter of the National Honor Society is by invitation to any student that achieves at least a 3.25 overall GPA by the spring of their sophomore or junior year. In addition, the student must have an excellent behavior record and have demonstrated leadership and service to the school and community.
Fellowship of Christian Athletes: FCA is the largest interdenominational school-based, Christian sports organization in America. FCA at Hill School is focused on equipping, empowering, and encouraging students to make a difference in their community for Christ. FCA is a service organization which sponsors projects both in and out of school and membership is open to all students in the Upper School.
While not an exhaustive list, the targets listed below provide some insight into the school-related expectations for high school-aged children in grades 9-12. The comprehension demands in upper school increase dramatically; assistive technology and accommodations provide tools to help upper school students reach their learning goals.
Multiple degrees of saliency in information; heightened attention-memory and attention-language intersections, increased scenarios for mental fatigue, stress on previewing, pacing, and self-monitoring, flexibility of bottom-up/top-down processing
Demand for sequential solution for geometric proofs, call for effective reconstruction of sequences, heightened stress on time management, increased need for logical step-wise reasoning/production; appreciation of historical perspectives; need to master computer sequences.
Growing call for non-verbal reasoning with spatial concepts; opportunities to use visualizing strategies, graphic representations of knowledge, need for detailed appreciation of visual patterns and formats, increased nonverbal thinking in science and math
Memory Expectation for meta-memory sophistication; stress on cumulative recall; demand for summarization ability; differentiation of memory needs by content area, surge in volume of content to be stored and recalled; need for recognition of patterns in varied context
Demands for keen metalinguistics and comprehension monitoring; growing stress on abstract, figurative language; stress on linguistic-ideational density in texts, increasing use of writing language, word processing skill
Specialization of gross motor skills; lessened academic stress on fine motor dexterity; call for speed-writing, note-taking, and keyboarding skills; opportunities for artistic, craft, musical motor talent displays
Greater tolerance for diversity; high-profile interactions with opposite gender, increased perspective-taking during reading, listening, writing; need to control responses to peer pressure, demand for political acumen in teacher and peer interactions
Use of third-order analogies, need for multiple alternative solutions for problem-solving, reconciliation of knowledge from multiple sources, need to deal with abstract concepts within abstract concepts, call for hypothesis generation, importance of evaluative skills
Take-home technology, in the form of Surface Pro2 tablet computers with touch-screen, stylus, and keyboard capability is used by all students in the upper school. Students utilize these devices in class for taking notes, research, writing, textbook implementation, and organization. The tablets are also taken home each evening for students to complete homework, participate in online discussions, view videos from flipped-classroom instruction, and communicate with instructors if needed. The increased time management requirements of upper school programming can be assisted through the extended use of digital organizing tools—the widespread use of Outlook calendars and other tools are a feature of the upper school program.
Mastering the power of assistive technology gives Hill students a head-start in college and beyond. Seniors will also have the opportunity to practice with LiveScribe pens this year; these devices record the classroom presentation while students take notes during an instructor’s lecture. This is just one digital device that helps prepare Hill students to use technology as a learning tool to help bridge processing, language, or organizational gaps that may still exist.
Hill students take varied paths beyond the walls of our school. As unique as their learning profiles and interests—our students are guided to make personalized decisions and plans for their futures. The vast majority of Hill School graduates (over 84% the past five years) pursue further learning at two- or four-year college programs. Others are drawn to technical or vocational programs of interest and some join the armed services. Some find their passion in the community as volunteers or take to the workplace immediately or decide to take a mission trip for a gap year.
For those who are college-bound or interested in further studies at a technical school, it’s not enough to just “get in” somewhere. With careful consultation with our Director of College and Career Counseling, families can build plans for a future that fits and gives students their best option for completing a program or degree plan. Sometimes a two-year technical program is a perfect fit and our students seem to gravitate toward culinary studies, art institutes, or two-year technology-related associate degrees. Many of our students will stretch a four-year degree program into five years but just as many of them finish on time. Some of our Hill School alumni continue on with their studies and pursue Master’s level degree programs because they’ve found their passion in academics.
The Class of 2014 will begin their post-secondary journeys at Blinn, Tarleton State, Oklahoma Christian, TCU, Texas Wesleyan, TCC, Hardin Simmons, Weatherford College, Texas Tech, Stephen F. Austin, Florida Atlantic University, and pursue Fire Academy and EMT training, veterinary technical schooling, culinary programs, Step Above programming, and gap-year mission trips. We look forward to hearing about their future success.
Looking back, our first graduating class (2003) has alumni who are working as research engineers at universities, teachers, computer engineers, first-time business owners, and have started their families. Jake, Class of 2007, has a business degree from University of Denver and currently works in real estate in Dallas. Becca, Class of 2008, has a hospitality degree from Stephen F. Austin, and works in the industry in Houston while her classmate, Tate, graduated from Texas Tech and works here at Hill School. Marcos, from the Class of 2009, continues to serve our country in the Navy, as a field medical technician in Guam. Ryan, Class of 2010, completed his business administration degree at UTA and is working in Plano while Tanner, Class of 2010, finished his bachelor’s degree at SMU and has decided to pursue his master’s degree at Dallas University. Sarah, Class of 2012, finished her studies at Culinary School of Fort Worth and is checking out further programming in Chicago and New York this fall. Colby, from the Class of 2014, is already certified Emergency Care Attendant and is pursuing his EMT at Weatherford this fall and Fire Academy in the spring. With over 200 Hill School graduates, their paths continue to be diverse and we hope the success and confidence they experienced here has continued to support their learning later in life.