Community School – Core Instruction and More
Hillcrest Drive Elementary serves the greatest number of students–approximately 400–of the three programs on the campus. And while it is the closest to a traditional neighborhood school, the innovation that characterizes the community school program is far from traditional.
The hallmark of the Community School is rigorous instruction aligned with the California Learning Standards. It's our approach to this instruction that sets Hillcrest apart. Firstly, we are committed to culturally responsive teaching and learning to create greater access to the curriculum for our Latino and African American learners historically underserved by traditional schooling. We validate and affirm our students culturally first, then build and bridge them to academic success.
Next, we adhere to a trauma informed approach to schooling that is guided by a whole child philosophy that addresses the social emotional well-being and mental health of students who have suffered adverse childhood experiences.
Another creative curricular pathway is our one-to-one iPad initiative. Every student at Hillcrest is provided an iPad that remains with them each year as long as they are enrolled. Teachers and students use the technology to enhance teaching and learning. All classrooms at Hillcrest are outfitted with SmartBoards™, and other innovative instructional delivery technologies. To make all of this technology work to advance our scholars' academic achievement, our entire campus is equipped with robust broadband wireless internet access.
We also offer itinerant music and art teachers that work with targeted grade levels to ensure arts education throughout the year.
Music Magnet – Where Musical Intelligence, Cognitive Development, and Performance Converge
The approximately 100 scholar musicians of Hillcrest Drive Music Magnet are musically intelligent, responsibly disciplined, and intellectually inspired! And almost all of them have discovered a passion for music early in their lives, which has inherent academic benefit but also, the research shows, supports children making good choices and staying out of trouble.
Hillcrest Music Magnet, the only elementary program of its type in the Los Angeles Unified School District, establishes students' musical foundations while developing instrumental proficiency, all the while engaging them in the same rigorous core instruction that the community school offers. Students begin as early as first grade studying general music and, possibly, beginning choral music instruction. By the time students enter 3rd grade they choose an instrument and commit to disciplined study and practice on that instrument for the remainder of their tenure at Hillcrest.
Among instruments students can choose to study are the piano, violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone. Additionally, students have the option of choral instruction. Beginning and advanced classes are offered for all instruments.
A hugely positive aspect of the Music Magnet are the performance opportunities that students have as musicians. Showcase performances include Latino Heritage Month in October, a winter holiday performance in December, Black History Month in February, and a spring concert in April.
Our Music Magnet also has a great relationship with the Colburn Community School for the Performing Arts that brings their music teachers and musicians to our school twice a year as well as a field trip to Colburn for students once a year. Colburn offers summer school scholarships to our music magnet students each year too!
Dual Language Immersion – Developing Brilliant Bilingual and Bi-literate Scholars
Like the rest of Hillcrest Elementary and Music Magnet, our dual language Spanish immersion program stands apart from other dual language programs. For one, unlike most dual language programs in the district that are 50/50 or 90/10 (percent instruction in target language/percent instruction in English), Hillcrest adheres to a 70/30 model.
The rationale for this when the program was developed was to be responsive to parent/community concerns about 90/10 models being too much for the approximately 120 students participating in the program and that their academic achievement in English, especially standardized testing performance, would suffer. At the same time, the 70/30 model provides an immersive language experience that, contrary to parents fears, results in bilingual and bi-literate youngsters early and which research suggests actually results in higher performance in English.
The other big difference in our dual language approach is that our teachers are both the Spanish language model and the English model for their students. This contrasts with the traditional practice of separate teachers being the monolingual English or Spanish models for students. Our rationale for this is based on sound language acquisition science: interacting with a bilingual and bi-literate language model is the most intuitive and effortless way that children grow to be bilingual and bi-literate.
We marvel at our scholars who, starting the program in kindergarten, are fluent and literate in both English and Spanish by the time they graduate from 5th grade, and because of this, score higher on standardized achievement tests. Our dual language program helps produce scholars who are brilliant!
Special Education – Equity Work in Action
One of Hillcrest Elementary and Music Magnet’s core values is equity. And there Isn’t a more perfect example of our commitment to the equity imperative than the work we do on behalf of our students receiving special education services. Put another way, Hillcrest teachers and service providers of students receiving special education services are our quintessential educational equity practitioners.
At Hillcrest, what puts the special in special education is that education is truly individualized for each student. Special education is NOT a student or a group of students, nor is it a place or classroom. It is a series of services and supports to allow students with formally identified needs progress in the general education curriculum.
Our special education program at Hillcrest serves approximately 104 students with eligibilities ranging from autism to specific learning disability, speech and language impairment to developmental delay. We offer 5 special day classrooms including a primary autism classroom, primary, intermediate, and upper grade Specific Learning Disability (SLD) classrooms, and a Preschool for All Learners (PAL) program. We will also offer a Preschool Collaborative Classroom (PCC) program in a co-teaching model with our Extended Transitional Kindergarten (ETK) program. Finally, our resource program serves our special needs students in the general education classroom. The Resource Specialist Teacher either pulls students out for small group instruction or pushes into the classroom and supports the general education teacher in a co-teaching arrangement.
Students receiving special education services are included in all aspects of the school (events, clubs, general education, and activities). We cultivate a community of integration and respect so that we make an impactful difference in how all of our students and families feel about school in general and Hillcrest in particular.