Hillcrest High School

An Insideschools pick
160-05 HIGHLAND AVENUE
QUEENS NY 11432 Map
Phone: (718) 658-5407
Website: Click here
Admissions: Neighborhood school; screened, ed. opt.
Principal: David Morrison
Neighborhood: Jamaica Hills
District: 28
Grade range: 9-12
Parent Coordinator: BILQUEES AKHTAR
Humanities & Interdisciplinary
Performing Arts
Health Professions
Law & Government
Zoned
Business
Teaching

Buses: Q1, Q110, Q111, Q112, Q113, Q114, Q17, Q2, Q20A, Q20B, Q24, Q25, Q3, Q30, Q31, Q34, Q36, Q4, Q40, Q41, Q42, Q43, Q44-SBS, Q5, Q54, Q56, Q6, Q65, Q76, Q77, Q8, Q83, Q84, Q9, X68

What's special:

Career-oriented institutes help build community

The downside:

Overcrowding; many students start school below grade level

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

NOVEMBER 2014 UPDATE: David Morrison, assistant principal of English at the time of our last visit, became principal in February 2014 after Stephen Duch left to become an adjunct professor at St. John's University and head of College Now at York College.

2011 REVIEW: Hillcrest is a large, orderly neighborhood school with energetic teachers who get to know the students well and students who aren’t afraid to speak up in class. It is divided into nine smaller programs, including a Pre-Med Institute that has steered many students towards M.D. and R.N degrees.

Every morning, watched over by several police officers, thousands of students stream past delis and houses to climb the gentle hill on which the school sits. Inside, the atmosphere is calm and ordered as students pass through metal detectors. Wide hallways and large classrooms filled with light help lessen the effects of overcrowding, as do three staggered entrance times. The school is diverse, serving an influx of West Indian, Russian, Arab, South Asian, Dominican, Puerto Rican and African immigrants as well as long-established African American families. A large selection of teams, electives, clubs, and languages (Spanish, French, Benagli and Modern Arabic) offers something for everyone.

In 2006, with a grant from the Gates Foundation, Hillcrest made the transition from one large school into nine career-oriented programs overseen by one principal. Each “small learning community,” or SLC, as they are called, serve roughly 450 students and has its own set of teachers, its own director, guidance counselor and suite of classrooms. In addition to Pre-Med, the school offers Humanities, Business Tech, Teaching, Theatre, Health Careers, and Public Service and law. Students get instruction in core subjects of math, science, social studies and English and most of their elective classes from their own program's faculty. Sports, clubs, and the school’s art and music programs are open to all Hillcrest students.

The small learning communities seem to be serving Hillcrest well. The school’s graduation rate went up 20 percent, its Progress Report steadily improved, and suspensions declined in the five years after the SLCs were introduced. “If anything, I think we’ve become closer as a staff,” said Perdo Cubero, director of the program in Public Service and Law. “The way guidance works in collaboration with the teachers, we really work as a team.”

Two small programs serving at-risk students in smaller classes seem supportive, including the Senior Future Academy for seniors: “I’m in Senior Academy for cutting classes,” said a boy wearing a suit and tie in preparation for a job interview after school. His classmate said she likes that she can make up credits online, even from home, using the iZone program. Newcomers Academy is an immersion program for those have been in the country less than one year. “It’s the most difficult group because everything is new,” said a social worker. “They really cling to us.” In some classes, those from the same country work in small groups together so they can support each other.

Many rooms had desks facing front in jumbled-looking rows and teachers posed rapid-fire questions to keep kids interested. There is a pointed effort to draw out girls especially those from countries where education is not a priority for girls, like Pakistan and Afghanistan. “We try to push them outside their comfort zone,” said Principal Stephen Duch. There are almost twice as many girls as boys at Hillcrest. According to assistant principal John Michalos this is because Hillcrest offers programs that are more female-dominated, like teaching, health, theater and humanities.

One girl in a lilac headscarf did most of the talking as she stood with two boys in front of the class discussing First Amendment rights pertaining to religion. “We want thinkers who can connect ideas,” said David Morrison, the assistant principal of English. After reading a section of Dante’s Inferno, about lust, teens discussed Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” Kids were asked to create “life quotes” based on A Raisin in the Sun” and came up with a variety of themes: “Mama is always trying to support the family,” said one.

Not all students will necessarily pursue the track they’re on, nor did all choose it in the first place. David, a senior, placed in Teaching as a 9th grader, wants to be an engineer. He has nevertheless found value in spending time in elementary classrooms. “It has been quite an eye-opening experience for me,” he said.

Many 9th graders arrive with low reading scores and we saw some poor spelling and grammar as students worked in small groups, though peers corrected each other when the teacher prompted them to be “human spell checkers” for each other. The engineering teacher designed a class in which kids build model airplanes and straw and paper structures and learn 3D animation. “Some have never built anything in their lives, not even a kite,” he said.

Hillcrest offers nine Advanced Placement courses. Students may also take college classes at York and Queensborough community colleges. College acceptances include Queens College, Hunter, Stony Brook University and Queensborough Community College.

Special education: Special needs students, including 70 with physical challenges, are taught with general education students and two teachers, one trained in special education. We observed a child in a wheelchair work alongside four peers as they discussed a novel. The school also offers SETSS (special education teacher support services).

Admissions: Priority to students who live in the zonedl. The pre-med and humanities programs have screened admissions, students must audition for the theater program and the remainder follow the education option formula, which accepts students of all levels. (Lydie Raschka, October 2011; updated 2014 with information about change in principal)

InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building.

Number of Students 3321

Average Daily Attendance 88%

Uniforms? No

Metal detectors? Yes

Students at this school

Asian

  
32%

Black

  
29%

Hispanic

  
31%

White

  
4%

Free Lunch

  
77%

Special ed

  
11%

English Language Learners

  
12%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 2.40 2.39 CITYWIDE AVERAGE


1 = Far below grade level 2 = Below grade level 3 = At grade level 4 = Above grade level

Safety & vibe

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO STUDENTS LIKE THE TEACHERS?

How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?

98% 74% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE PRINCIPAL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

74% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

IS THIS SCHOOL SAFE?

How many students say they feel safe in hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?

95% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

 
 

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HOW IS
ATTENDANCE?

How Many Students are Chronically Absent?

30% 41% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Who graduates

Class of 2015

How many students graduated within 4 years?

76% 69% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many graduates earned an advanced regents diploma within 4 years?

14% 11% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students graduated within 6 years?

81% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many graduates dropped out within 4 years?

8% 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

College prep

Does this school offer a college preparatory curriculum?

How many students took an AP or IB class and scored at least a "3" on the AP exam or a "4" on the IB exam?

7%

How Many Students took a College Course and Got a "C" or Higher?

49%

How many students passed a Regents exam for algebra 2, physics or chemistry?

22%

Are students ready for college?

How many students graduated in four years with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?

32% 32% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

SAT reading scores

432
424 CITYWIDE AVERAGE 495 NATIONWIDE AVERAGE

How many students graduated in four years and enrolled in college?

68% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

SAT math scores

448
432 CITYWIDE AVERAGE 511 NATIONWIDE AVERAGE

Is the guidance counseling helpful?

How many students say that this school provides helpful counseling on college or job-seeking?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Special ed & ELL

How well does this school serve students with disabilities?

How many special ed students graduated within 4 years?

43% 48% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many special ed students graduated within 6 years?

66% 57% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students with disabilities spend most of the day with non-disabled peers?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say students with disabilities are included in all activities?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

How many English language learners graduated within 4 years?

48% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many English language learners graduated within 6 years?

56% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Programs and Admissions

Zoned

Zoned Guarantee

Academy of Public Service and Law

Ed. Opt.

CTE Law Academy courses include Forensics, Criminal Justice, Criminology, Constitutional Law and Legal Studies; Preparation for public and community careers in legal, federal/state/local government agencies; College credit for selected courses; High School Law Institute at Columbia University and NYU; Participation in New York State Mock Trials, Moot Court competition and Police Explorers; Paid internship opportunities with the Justice Resource Center.

Health Sciences Institute

Ed. Opt.

New York State CTE Certified Nursing Assistant program that includes supervised clinical rotations with training from registered nurses; a developing Sports Medicine program with courses such as Exercise Physiology, Human Anatomy, and Nutrition; AP courses in Biology, Environmental Science; College Now courses (college credit bearing) in Health Professions and Nutrition; Paid and unpaid internships in the health field as well the opportunity to participate in HOSA (future health professionals).

Biz/Tech

Ed. Opt.

Biz-tek prepares students for college and careers in a range of business and STEM fields. CTE endorsed programs in Virtual Enterprise, Software Engineering; CAD/CAM-Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing and Information Technology & Computer Networking; training for Cisco certifications, CompTIAA+, Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (C-CENT) and Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA).

Theatre Arts

Audition

Interpretation of dramatic literature, acting, directing, playwriting, improvisation, scenic design, filmmaking and career counseling in the arts.

Selection Criteria

  • English (Scores 55-100) , Math (Scores 55-100) , Science (Scores 55-100) , Social Studies (Scores 55-100)

There may be additional selection criteria, see the High School Directory for more information

The Academy of Media, Arts and Music

Screened

Classes offered leading towards medical careers: earth science, living environment, chemistry, anatomy, physics, AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, DNA Forensics, genetics, health professions and medical anthropology; STEM Reserch Academy at York College; STEM Research Internship opportunities.

Selection Criteria

  • English (Scores 69-100) , Math (Scores 65-100) , Science (Scores 65-100) , Social Studies (Scores 65-100)
  • Math Levels: Levels 1.8-4.5 ; English Language Arts Levels: Levels 1.9-4.5

There may be additional selection criteria, see the High School Directory for more information

Teachers of Tomorrow

Ed. Opt.

Through the partnership with CUNY, the PERC/TAS Program allows students to lead lessons and mentor struggling students. Our Read Alliance paid internship allows students to become a Ζteacher for a dayΔ and visit local elementary schools to tutor children. We offer a Teacher Assistant Program through our Foundations of Education course as well as the opportunity for students to participate in job shadowing programs through Turner Broadcasting, American Express and NBC Studios.

Pre-Med Program

Screened

Classes offered leading towards medical careers: earth science, living environment, chemistry, anatomy, physics, AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, DNA Forensics, genetics, health professions and medical anthropology; STEM Reserch Academy at York College; STEM Research Internship opportunities.

Selection Criteria

  • English (Scores 65-100) , Math (Scores 67-100) , Science (Scores 68-100) , Social Studies (Scores 70-100)
  • Math Levels: Levels 1.9-4.5 ; English Language Arts Levels: Levels 1.9-4.5

There may be additional selection criteria, see the High School Directory for more information

Academics

AP COURSES: AP Art History, AP Biology, AP Calculus, AP English, AP Environmental Science, AP French, AP Spanish, AP World History

Source: High school directory 2015-2016

Sports/Clubs

EXTRACURRICULAR: Virtual Enterprise, HOSA, Model United Nations, Engineering, CADD, Moot Court, Microbiology, Medical Lab, Newspaper, Film Making, Forensics & Law, Stage Production, Musical Theatre, CISCO, Computer Programming, Criminal Justice, Legal Research, Concerts, Advanced Band, Strings, Choir and Keyboard Ensembles, Studio Art, Health Care, CNA, Sports Medicine, Junior Achievement, Read Alliance, Muslim Association, Girl Up, Ping Pong, Spark, Gay-Straight Alliance, ARISTA, Yearbook, Council for Unity

BOYS PSAL SPORTS: Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Handball, Indoor Track, Soccer, Tennis, Volleyball, Wrestling

GIRLS PSAL SPORTS: Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Gymnastics, Handball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Volleyball

Source: High school directory 2015-2016

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