How We Learn at HCA

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Learning at HCA is project-based and place-based, grounding students in a purposeful exploration of the natural and human worlds.

What is school like at HCA?

HCA is a Standards-Based school, meaning students progress by producing work and completing tasks that demonstrate proficiency in individual standards. We expect our students to be active participants in their education, and we hold them to high standards.

Our academic program is rigorous and prepares students for post-secondary success, whether that is college, technical training, or the workforce. We work with students to help them understand their strengths and challenges as individual learners. Many students feel successful at HCA in part because they have the opportunity for project-based and interest-driven learning, where we support them as they become well-rounded learners who know how to lean into their struggles. We honor our students’ diverse strengths and allow them to show their proficiency in standards in a variety of ways, including projects, performances, traditional assessments, and standardized tests. All are components of a complete picture of a student.

HCA students learn in a variety of ways, including:

  • Workshops: skill-based classes that develop math, literacy, and science competency. These include whole-class, small group, and individual instruction, all supported with online and independent learning.
  • Investigations: interdisciplinary, student-driven courses that culminate in projects presented to the public. These include fieldwork.
  • Electives: short-term experiences driven by student and faculty interest. These vary by season, and include outdoor pursuits, arts, sports, music, and more.
  • Community service: students regularly give back to their community. Examples include: beach and roadside clean-ups, volunteering at Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program and Habitat for Humanity, and trail work. We also all pitch in to maintain our school facility by cleaning classrooms, common spaces, and the school grounds.

What do HOWLs mean?

HOWLs are Habits of Work and Learning. Students at HCA are expected to work to their best ability, and to meet our Habits of Work and Learning expectations that follow.

1) Participation in the Learning Community:

  • Students are willing to try new things;
  • Students use class time effectively;
  • Students contribute positively to the learning environment;
  • Students follow procedures and community agreements;
  • Students take accountability for actions;
  • Students regulate their own behavior.

2) Preparation & Work Completion

  • Students prepare adequately for class;
  • Students ask necessary questions to tasks;
  • Students plan for and utilizes adequate time to complete assignments;
  • Students meet deadlines and established criteria.

3) Perseverance & Revision

  • Students remain determined and pursues goals, even when he/she encounters large-scale and complex obstacles;
  • Students seek solutions to problems;
  • Students learn from feedback;
  • Students improve work with each draft.

4) Reflection

  • Students find strengths and weaknesses in own work product;
  • Students identify beneficial and detrimental habits of work and learning;
  • Students identify strengths and weaknesses in collaboration skills;
  • Students identify obstacles to learning and strategies to overcome them.

5) Initiative

  • Students pursue opportunities to expand knowledge, skills, and abilities;
  • Students attend to tasks without reminders;
  • Students recognize and advocates for rights of self and others;
  • Students show a willingness to take academic risks;
  • Students demonstrate openness to new ideas and perspectives.

How are assessments made at HCA?

The purpose of assessment is to get a clear sense of student academic growth and achievement, which are tracked in Infinite Campus. Students earn course credit by successfully meeting course standards that demonstrate essential skills and knowledge. Students will be regularly assessed to both inform future instruction and measure student progress and achievement. The form of assessment will vary depending on instructional goals but will routinely include both formative and summative assessments.

To receive a diploma from HCA, students must show mastery of approximately 250 individual standards spanning 8 content areas, including Math, ELA, Science, Arts, Health and Physical Education, Career, Social Studies, and World Language. We use Infinite Campus, an online Student Information System and Learning Management System, to track student progress with these standards. Students are assessed on a scale of 1 – 4 for all academic standards:

4 = Exemplary
3.5 = Meeting plus
3 = Meeting
2 = Approaching
1 = Beginning
Incomplete = insufficient evidence to assess a student’s mastery

HCA does not provide a GPA equivalence. Standards-based systems, which track proficiency on individual competencies, do not translate into traditional grades, which represent an average of performance.

HCA also uses Marzano’s Taxonomy for establishing the level of cognitive complexity necessary for proficiency. Students earn a “3” when they can demonstrate their knowledge and skills at the level of difficulty in the taxonomy that best describes a particular standard. For example, if a standard is best described by the “Analysis” level, students would be asked to complete a task such as making inferences or identifying errors. When a student is able to complete that task independently, this is evidence of proficiency. Then, students can earn a “4” when completing work in a way that demonstrates thinking at a level of difficulty in the taxonomy that is above the target level (e.g. Knowledge Utilization for the prior example). Students earn a “2” by approaching the standard; this may mean they have developed some foundational knowledge towards proficiency, but haven’t yet applied the skill or concept at the level of difficulty required by the standard.

Also, students can receive a “meeting plus” (“3.5”) when they demonstrate proficiency in a standard either in a novel context or through a long term project. For example, a meeting+ would be used when a student not only demonstrated their understanding of how Bernulli’s principle explains the spinning of a wind turbine that was taught in class, but also how it could be applied to modify a sail’s design to make a boat go faster.

What about standardized testing?

Standardized testing is one of several ways we monitor and track student growth and achievement at HCA. All HCA students will complete the NWEAs three times annually, and the SATs as juniors & seniors. Additionally, students will complete annual state mandated testing (MEA’s).

Do students present work?

A portfolio is a collection of work showing what a student has been thinking about, working on, and learning. It may contain written work, artwork, recordings of performances, photographs of three-dimensional constructions, and more. It is used as a formative or summative assessment. A portfolio does not include all work; instead it is a selection made by the student with teacher support. The purpose of the portfolio is to give an ongoing record of:

  • How a student’s thinking about significant issues and questions has grown
  • How a student’s range of knowledge and skills has developed
  • The effort that the student has made to achieve worthwhile goals, taking into account reflection on and revision of work

Portfolios help students learn at a deeper level and are an effective way to demonstrate and document their growth over time.

Is there homework?

HCA is aiming to provide time at school for students to get the majority of their completed during the school day. We are intentional about limiting the amount of homework so that students can be well-rounded family and community members in their towns. Students do, however, have independent work that they must complete outside of class time. Learning to manage their independent work is an important skill, and we support students in this. Standing assignments such as a set number of minutes of silent reading or math work will at times be required at home. Families should help set aside this time and work with students to plan ahead if some days are busier than others. Teachers will post independent work digitally, using Google Classroom.

What is the Learning Pace?

We are a school that supports students learning at their own pace by providing both clear expectations and scaffolding to support their success as learners. Due dates and deadlines are still important components this, which means:

  • Teachers will frequently remind students of due dates, help them learn strategies to track their work (e.g. dedicating the closing minutes of class to writing down assignments or making reminders on their laptops), and proactively monitor progress during work times.
  • Students should know that they will not progress if they do not complete assigned work, and that work assessed in Infinite Campus as beginning (1), approaching (2), or incomplete does not contribute to graduation and will have to be redone or revised.
  • Students will have a set period of time to complete work after the completion of a Trimester.
  • Crew leaders will hold monthly portfolio sessions to address academic progress with students.
  • Students who are not on track for passage may be recommended for Summer Academic Programming.

Are there electives?

HCA is committed to providing a balanced, inclusive, and diversified co-curricular program of activities as an important dimension of student learning. Our electives are designed to get students involved in the arts, environmental sustainability, physical activity, and more. It is also a time when faculty are available to provide academic support to students.

HCA offers a full slate of electives. Offerings have included: Art Studio, Makers (robotics), coding, Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Yearbook, Sustainability club, Cooking, Yoga/Dance, Journalism, Documentary Filmmaking, Fiber arts, Digital Photography, Model United Nations, House Band, hiking, and more. Students with adequate HOWL’s may propose and facilitate student led electives.

Are there parent-teacher conferences?

Yes. Students, with guidance from their Crew Leaders, are responsible for preparing for and leading Student Led Conferences (SLCs), once in the fall and once in the spring. These conferences are an opportunity for students to share their strengths and challenges with their parents, and an opportunity for parents to see student work and check in with student’s Crew advisors. We request that parents/guardians attend both SLCs annually.

What are Culminations (“Celebration of Learning”)?

A culmination is a public demonstration or exhibition that often occurs at the end of an investigation and which lets students show parents, teachers, and members of the community what they are learning. Culminations often involve education of the broader public and a call to action. The exhibit may be artwork, research, results from an experiment, written work, tests, or other projects; it may involve performances or presentations. The culmination is a kind of summative assessment that can demonstrate what has been learned more clearly than just a grade on a report card can. It also gives other students ideas that will help them improve their own work and helps to set a standard for excellent work from all students. In investigations, the combination of a high stakes audience, purposeful work, teacher support and focused revision can lead a student to creating professional quality work that even s/he did not think possible. The public sharing is an important way for us to both celebrate work and to hold students and the school accountable to parents and others who care about our school.

How do students graduate?

HCA is committed to ensuring equitable access to a rigorous Proficiency-Based Diploma. Content and skill-based standards can be learned and assessed in a variety of settings, including at HCA, Region 10 Technical School, local colleges, accredited online courses, internships, and other work/learning experiences. These requirements will take full effect with the Class of 2021, with modifications of these requirements applying to the Classes of 2019 and 2020.

The Universal Graduation Requirements of HCA are:

  1. Standards: Students must achieve a “Meeting” level of proficiency on 80% of the Learning Targets of the Division 3 Standards in ELA, Math, NGSS Science Content, Science and Engineering Practice, Visual and Performing Arts, World Language, Career and Education Development, Social Studies, Digital Citizenship, Physical Education, and Health.
  2. Habits of Work and Learning (HOWLS): Strong habits of work completion, perseverance, reflection, initiative, and revision are requirements for college and career readiness. Students must demonstrate consistent “meeting” assessments in each of the 5 HOWLs for at least three Trimesters in two years prior to graduation.
  3. Satisfactory Completion of an Internship or 3 credits of College or Vocational Courses.
  4. Submission of a Portfolio which showcases high-quality, project-based work.