Hammond High School’s meaningful, engaging learning opportunities draw everyone in. The excitement of Hammond’s students as they engage in their interesting classwork is palpable and was evident in almost every class we visited. Small groups of students in science class, for example, were making videos to share, while math students were working on a group quiz and enthusiastically discussing their teacher’s hosting of a “Problem Set Party” in which students are invited to spend the day working out answers to problems while enjoying tasty food. The school also offers an entertaining and edifying non-credit (voluntary) “Bonus Class” consisting of interdisciplinary seminars, a problem-based mystery game, and workshops facilitated by English, social studies, and fine arts teachers.
Hammond has strategically designed programs to increase students’ access to demanding coursework, often through project-based instruction. The school has, in recent years, systematically encouraged students to take at least one course at a higher level each school year. This has opened gates that were previously closed to low-SES students and students of color. The school has, for example, significantly increased African American enrollment in AP courses. It has also eliminated low-track classes and prerequisites to advanced courses.
Comprehensive academic supports facilitate student success. These include summer “Step it Up” workshops for students enrolling in upper-level classes, summer geometry classes as a bridge to advanced math, and support groups designed for African-American male students. Extended day programs, with transportation included, provide Hispanic Heritage Club, Algebra Boot camp, mentoring, homework assistance, and college awareness programs in partnership with community non-profits.
Hammond’s determination to close opportunity gaps has paid off. For instance, the school has seen significant increases in graduation rates from 2010 to 2016. African American students increased their graduation rate from 80 percent to 92 percent, Hispanic students from 81 to 95 percent, and students with special needs from 56 to 80 percent.
Promoting cultural proficiency and student voice, embracing restorative practices for behavioral issues, and adding a weekly advisory period to build community further solidify the positive learning environment. Hammond’s motto, “Where people are important,” proves itself true each day for everyone in this vibrant, welcoming community.