Educating the Whole Child, Part 1: Mind

by: Jessica Raba ’98, Assistant Head of School | Principal

When I think of LuHi, it is impossible to consider it one-dimensionally. Instead, I see it through the lens of my myriad connections to this place: as a product of it (proud class of ‘98 alumnus!), as a school leader, and as a prospective parent (my daughters are currently in 1st and 4th grade). There are so many schools on Long Island, terrific ones at that, so why LuHi? In considering our mission – a Christ-centered, college-preparatory school that educates in body, mind, and spirit – I will take on a different piece of our mission in this series of blog posts aimed at exploring what sets LuHi apart. Today, I focus on mind.

Jessica Raba, Assistant Head of School

LuHi is, first and foremost, a school. Defined, a school is “an institution for the teaching of children” (Merriam-Webster). From grades six through twelve, LuHi’s academic programming focuses on preparation for higher education, as indicated by our mission statement. How do we do this? 

Small classes. 
This is plain and simple. At LuHi, students are known, in and out of the classroom. The average class size is 18, with a cap of 24 for most classes (exceptions are in performing arts and physical education classes). Teachers provide regular extra help, and through our block schedule, deeper investigation into course content is possible.

Foundation building. Beginning in 6th grade, and through middle school, core academic courses are focused on building the critical knowledge and skills base for each academic area. Aside from mathematics and world languages, students follow a schedule for core classes that ensures development of skills needed for success in the transition into high school. With partial departmentalization in 6th grade (English/Social Studies taught by one core teacher, and Math/Science by another), students are introduced to a more traditional departmentalization in 7th grade. Courses are designed with consideration of the vertical build of skills throughout each respective department. For example, in English, students write a position paper each year, with a build in complexity and independence as the years progress. In Science, all eighth grade students take Earth Science, a high school course, for credit. This provides an entry point and experience for students in a more rigorous course while still in middle school.

Authentic Skill Development. If you are well-versed in eduspeak, you’ve likely heard of the concept of 21st century skills, time and time again. Now well into the 21st century, these skills are vital, but often considered soft skills. Our Freshman Seminar course, required of all 9th graders, seeks to engage students in the development of key collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills. This course, a cornerstone of the high school experience has now been expanded to include some coding and has been introduced in developmentally-appropriate ways to our 6th and 7th grade students, who each take a semester-long “Focus” class. In 8th grade, our students apply the skills in our newest middle school course: STEM 8. These courses support students in their success throughout the core curriculum and beyond, as they move into high school.

Personalized Pathways. At LuHi, high school students are able to take multiple levels of their core courses, rather than being placed in a “track” as at some other schools. Depending on the year, two to three levels of courses are available: college preparatory, honors, or Advanced Placement (more on these courses below). Based on teacher recommendation, students may take courses in different departments at different level (for example, a student may take college prep level math, but honors level in other core subject areas). All courses are designed to prepare students for college-level work, though honors and AP courses will be more rigorous in the depth and breadth of content, as well as in the workload for students. Our school counselors work with each student and family individually to ensure that class selections are adequately challenging yet manageable.

Advanced Placement. 17 Advanced Placement courses are available to our students in 2021-22, beginning with World History: Modern and Computer Science Principles in 10th grade. Our teachers attend rigorous training in teaching these college-level courses, and our students perform well! In Spring 2021, 179 AP exams were taken by our student population and 79% of those tests scored at a 3 or higher (passing is a 3 on a 5-point scale). In most cases, LuHi’s average scores exceeded those of New York State and the worldwide average. Through a partnership with Molloy College, students who complete certain AP courses at LuHi, regardless of their test score, may receive college credit. Our first cohort of AP Capstone students successfully completed the 2 year program, and 100% of the students earned the Capstone diploma. Counselors provide guidance and support in mapping an Advanced Placement course sequence, and LuHi students earn AP scholar distinction each year, at a variety of levels.

Elective courses. Each year, our school counseling team, along with department chairs and teachers, evaluate our elective course offerings, considering new courses based on student interest, learning about real-world demand, and faculty passions. This year, for example, several new courses have been added: Murals and Street Art, Theatre, Introduction to the Stock Market, and Ecology and Human Impact, to name a few. These courses become available to students in 10th grade, and help students to further individualize their academic experience.

Student Leadership. Students have the chance to explore areas of interest through internships in various departments of our school, such as communications, marketing, and athletics. Additionally, each year some students are selected to support teachers and younger students as teaching assistants. Leadership extends to opportunities to suggest and forward ideas for elective courses as well, as students propose ideas to their teachers and/or counselors.

Beyond Boundaries. We are thrilled to bring back this week-long project-based experience after a year’s hiatus. Aimed at engaging students and faculty in authentic experiences that engage learners and spark interest and passion, this week represents a departure from the typical schedule and has become, even in its relative newness, a foundation of the LuHi educational experience. Stay tuned for more – Beyond Boundaries 2022 is scheduled for late May!

Graduation Requirements. LuHi’s graduation requirements exceed that of public schools, and the purpose is two-fold. First, our requirements help to ensure that our students are competitive among the applicants to rigorous college and university programs (for example, we require 4 years of Math and 3 years of World Language, where public schools require 2 and 1, respectively. Second, our students are able to experience a wide variety of elective courses or pursue particular pathways in areas of particular interest. Our goal is for students to enter college with a clear sense of purpose.

Intentional use of external assessment. While LuHi does not participate in any state testing (grades 3-8 or Regents exams), we value the use of external assessment as a way to continually evaluate our academic program. The use of NWEA MAP Growth in grades 6 through 9, the Pre-ACT in 10th grade, the PSAT in both 10th and 11th grade, and continual monitoring of our students performance on the SAT and ACT, as well as our Advanced Placement exam performance help us to both support individual student growth and examine our curriculum.

What’s to come? 

Shine, our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, lifts up a clear goal for our school: Engaging Education. The goal statement, “Design and deliver a broad spectrum of deeply engaging and enriching programs that will engender passion in both students and faculty, giving them deep wells of experience along with the skills to evolve”, charges our school administration and faculty, along with the entire community, to continue to evaluate programs and design and implement programs that will continue to support our students during their time at LuHi and support them as they move forward in their pursuit of higher education and beyond. From off-site internships to capstone programs, the possibilities are endless and are in discussion. I look forward to sharing more with you as we design and implement programs that will shape the experience of our students, both now and into the future. 
Stay tuned for parts II and III in this blog series – focused on body and spirit!