HSC's theme is leadership, social justice, public policy and service. Because we are the small school for students who want to do big things, we empower our students to step up and make a positive impact on society while pursuing their individual educational goals.
High School in the Community was founded in 1970 as a teacher-run school and was the first small school option for New Haven’s high school students.
Long before the state began promoting regional magnet schools, up to a dozen suburban teen-agers were attending High School in the Community.
High School in the Community was born in an effort to address racial issues directly in the heady spirit of the 1960's, say some of its teachers who were there for delivery.
"We were going to show the world that all kinds of people could work together and that integration could work," said Karen Wolf, a history teacher elected by her colleagues to serve as the facilitator, a stand-in for a principal without the hierarchy.
Matt Borenstein, Ms. Wolf and some other teachers felt another approach [different from traditional schools] would be better, and in 1970 they opened their ”high school without walls” with 150 students in a former auto parts store. The following year, a second unit started in space in a girdle factory. They were later combined in a community hall of a public housing project.
Courses were commonly combined across disciplines, as well, taught by pairs of teachers working as a team, which reflects the way real life problems require knowledge of multiple skills or subjects. Social development and career orientation, which have lately become fashionable in high schools, were standard at High School in the Community 20 years ago.
Most of all, the hallmark of its educational philosophy was a democratic organization. As close as possible students are admitted to maintain a balance of one third each white, black and Hispanic, half male and half female, but otherwise by lottery with no advantage for higher levels of ability.
A State Department of Education profile for 1993, when its students were almost exclusively from New Haven, showed its dropout rate and percentage of students who admitted using tobacco, alcohol or drugs were higher, and average test scores lower, than the state averages.
But the profile also showed significantly higher test scores than at any other New Haven high school. The scores and statistics were also superior to many suburban high schools.
It was the students, however, who provided the school’s strongest endorsement. What students stressed most was how they appreciated their teachers’ personal attention.
Our School Today
HSC continues to be an innovative and vibrant learning community. Through a multi-disciplinary project based approach that values diverse perspectives, HSC teaches future leaders the skills they need to drive change in the professions of law, government, education, politics, and nonprofit and business management. We ask students to wrestle with tough questions and justify their answers with carefully analyzed evidence. We also help students design and implement innovative solutions and policies for real world issues in greater New Haven and around the globe. As communities grapple with the challenges of social unrest, poverty, injustice, hunger, environmental degradation and a host of other issues, the need for HSC graduates to be able to lead with these skills is clear.
Video credit: Adam Coppola