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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

A Collegiate House System for an Oklahoma School

— A story by Jesse Olivarez in today’s edition of The Oklahoman reports on a widespread educational trend at the secondary-school level that is running in parallel with the residential college movement at the university level: the increasing adoption of school house systems.

House systems in schools and residential college systems in universities are fundamentally the same: they are collections of permanent, cross-sectional, faculty-led societies that promote local integration rather than global segregation (by age, subject, or class). The adoption of house systems in secondary schools is an unmistakable trend, just like the growing global trend toward the establishment of university-level residential colleges.

School takes page from ‘Potter’ book

Victoria Crocker remembers nervously waiting for Father Jacobi’s announcement. The 11-year-old worried as she waited to learn which “house” she would enter when the new school begins.

The sixth-grader’s fears vanished when the Rev. Joseph Jacobi, administrator of St. Eugene’s Catholic School, drew her name from a hat.

“When he announced I was going to Kateri House…all the older kids clapped,” she said. “It was neat.”

Kateri House is one of five houses—or homerooms—the school’s middle school students are placed in, school officials said. Unlike traditional homerooms where students are separated according to grade level, these homerooms are a mix of students from the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Principal Suzette Williams said she was introduced to the house system while attending an education conference in New England two years ago. Several small parochial schools in that region had adopted a house system similar to that found in the “Harry Potter” books and films.

The point behind the houses, Williams said, is to improve school pride and the bond between students, teachers and staff.

Like the houses found in the popular books, each house has its own color, songs, mottos and creeds. But unlike the fictional Hogwarts School of Wizardry, the houses at St. Eugene’s are named for saints.

Since starting the school house system last school year, Williams has noticed older students conversing regularly with younger students to show them the ropes. Younger students no longer fear approaching older students.

Williams said she also has noticed a significant decrease in disciplinary problems and school suspensions, which she credits to the closer bond between students.

While student behavior may have improved, student Michael Schwarz said battle lines do get drawn when the houses compete against each other. Each week, school administrators offer challenges to the five houses. The houses also compete against each other four times a year in the school’s dodgeball tournament.

Michael and Megan Schwarz’s mother, Becky Schwarz, loves the school’s house system.

“This is a mentoring program for the kids and it’s wonderful,” she said. “They feel a part of something and not just stepping into middle school.”

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2016