HCPSS: A Case Study in Global Learning

I was pleased when the Global Learning Network, a professional learning community of educators and district leaders, selected HCPSS to feature in its case study videos. We’re highlighted as one of the first school systems in the country to participate in the OECD Test for Schools, an international benchmark aligned to the PISA test. Last year, all HCPSS high schools participated in this assessment, and the results have proven valuable in improving our instructional program.

The OECD test is the first real chance for us to compare our students’ performance against that of PISA-ranked nations, so we can better understand how to prepare our students to be global citizens. The OECD test doesn’t just measure what students know, but how well they can apply their knowledge to solve problems and the extent they are willing to take ownership of their own learning. This gives us a more complete picture of how we can enhance our instruction and will ultimately lead to better success for all our benchmarks of college and career readiness.

When we received our results last year, we were pleased to find out that most HCPSS high schools are performing as well as, or better than, the world’s leading nations in educational achievement. Now we’re in the midst of putting the data to work to continually improve each of our schools. We’ve had professional training sessions and meetings with our curriculum, accountability and professional development leaders, and principals. We developed an online course for high school and middle school leaders to help explain the results report for their school, or the schools their middle school students are likely to attend.

Principals and school leadership teams have begun to apply the OECD data with customized action plans for their school. Glenelg High School, the main focus of the case study video, celebrated its high marks in math and science. It also took note of areas for growth, such as enhancing student and staff engagement through achievement recognition and encouraging the development of students’ critical thinking skills through query-based classroom discussions. Now Glenelg has started implementing new staffing practices to ensure the most effective teachers are in the areas of most need; differentiated professional development sessions, so teachers’ skills specifically match the support required for their students; and shared lesson planning to develop professional collaboration focused on teaching and learning best practices.

River Hill High School, another example, discovered its discussion-based math practices, aligned with Common Core standards, led to very high OECD scores in that subject. Now the school is focusing on how to best encourage reading across the curriculum. And Centennial High School, after reviewing its results, is looking at its math and science instruction to continue encouraging students’ critical thinking and conceptualization skills. Centennial is also providing ninth and 10th graders in standard classes study skills training and access to mentors for enriched educational experiences.

These are just a few examples of how the OECD assessment is helping us do things differently, so we can raise the bar for all our students and close the achievement gap. Participating in the OECD is about changing habits of mind and classroom practice. It’s about changing students’ belief in how they approach their own learning, so they’re not just career and college ready, but globally competitive. For a closer look into our OECD experiences, watch the HCPSS case study video below. HCPSS is also featured in the “Effective Classroom Practices” and “Building a Better Future” videos on the America Achieves website.