A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

School Reform and Student Diversity - September 1995

H. Case Study Summaries

6. Hanshaw Middle School

Hanshaw Middle School created a learning environment designed to enable all students, including those learning English, to reach their full potential. The school offered a full program for LEP students in science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts, as well as specially designed instruction to enable them to acquire literacy in English. Hanshaw opened in 1991, organized around the principles of the middle school model promoted in California's blueprint for middle schools--Caught in the Middle. Its goal is to develop a school organization uniquely suited to young adolescents' developmental needs. While planning the new middle school, the principal visited 500 homes to talk with families about their school experiences. He found significant alienation between the community and the schools; this alienation contributed to the high dropout rate of teens. He recruited faculty that understood and were committed to addressing the issues that caused this alienation. Based on the community-centered planning process, the principal and faculty agreed on four principles that would be the foundation of Hanshaw's program: high expectations for all students, support for the Latino and Chicano experience, a meaning-centered curriculum, and a conscious effort to impart life skills as part of the curriculum. These principles were supported by a partnership with Susan Kovalik & Associates from Washington State.

School Structure

Hanshaw was organized into five houses, each named for a campus of the California State University system. The houses were organized by grade level and each contained six to nine teachers, one of whom was designated team leader. One or two teams of two core teachers (one for mathematics/science and one for language arts/social studies) taught each family of students. All students took two 90-minute core courses each day; students also took electives and exploratory courses. Each year students visited their namesake university campus, met college students, heard lectures, and received a T-shirt and diploma. Identification with the college campus was strong among students and provided a positive alternative to gang affiliation.

Hanshaw at a Glance

Location--Modesto, CA
Grade Levels--7-8
Number of Students--860
% LEP Students--29%
LEP Student Language Diversity--79% Spanish, 10% Cambodian, 5% Lao, 3% Hmong
LEP Student Programs--Spanish Transitional Bilingual, Sheltered English
% Eligible for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch--94%

Classes at Hanshaw explicitly taught life skills and stressed the importance of students taking responsibility for their own learning. A specific life-skills curriculum was taught in the first month of school, when students were oriented to the culture and expectations of Hanshaw; It included such things as integrity, initiative, flexibility, effort, and cooperation; students were rewarded for behavior that exemplified such attributes.

Hanshaw also provided medical, dental, and social services to its students and community through a comprehensive Family Resource Center on campus. The center was staffed with social workers and counselors who were bilingual in Spanish and English. Medical and dental services were coordinated through a California Healthy Start grant.

Hanshaw faculty were recruited by the principal from industry, from other schools in the district, and from schools of education. There was a high degree of collegiality among the diverse faculty, who worked together in teams to plan curriculum and make decisions about the school's budget. Administrators and faculty devoted considerable categorical aid resources to purchase staff development from Susan Kovalik & Associates.

Innovative Curriculum and Instruction Strategies

The cardinal principle that guided Hanshaw teachers' curriculum design decisions was that the lesson or skill must be relevant to the students' lives. Teachers built on students' experiences through thematic units that unified instruction across science, mathematics, language arts, and social studies, incorporating topics from the curriculum frameworks of the state of California. Curriculum themes helped students make connections and achieve a deeper understanding of a concept by studying it from various disciplinary perspectives. The development of these themes required intensive work initially, but they were used year after year, with the lessons learned in one year repeated and extended in subsequent years with new groups of students. In all Hanshaw classrooms, teachers focused on helping students understand the why of an answer and explore multiple ways of getting to an answer rather than one single answer.

Kovalik & Associates worked with Hanshaw faculty in intensive summer and weekend retreats. A Kovalik coach assisted the school on a monthly basis, designing curriculum, providing instructional coaching, and helping the faculty identify problems and solutions. Kovalik had assisted Hanshaw staff since the school opened with development of a meaning-centered curriculum, thematic instruction, and an approach to teaching life skills.

Program for LEP Students

The program for limited English proficient students at Hanshaw included instruction in Spanish in core curricular areas; Sheltered English instruction for more advanced Spanish-speaking LEP students and for students who spoke other primary languages such as Cambodian, Lao, and Hmong; and mainstream instruction for clusters of transitioning LEP students speaking the same primary language. All LEP students participated in two 90-minute core courses (social studies/language arts and mathematics/science) and a daily period of ESL. When students were considered ready to make their transition, they were clustered together in mainstream classes. Many of the mainstream class teachers held the California Language Development Specialist credential and had special training in second language acquisition. After-school tutorial services for LEP students moving into mainstream classes were provided by bilingual Modesto Junior College students.


Hanshaw Middle School had created a unique learning environment that stressed high expectations for all students and a meaning-centered curriculum, implemented within the context of a well-developed program for LEP students. As a result, students learning English at Hanshaw had access to high-quality thematic instruction in math, science, social studies, and language arts. The curriculum and instructional program were, in large part, the result of a partnership between the staff of the school and an external partner, Susan Kovalik & Associates. A solid foundation of life skills, attention to the broad school community, and a positive school climate underlay Hanshaw's academic programs.
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