The School of Science and Engineering (SEM), in Dallas Independent School District, participated in the OECD Test for Schools 2012 pilot and again during the 2013-2014 administration. The results from both years provided valuable information as to areas in which SEM could improve.
While SEM students performed quite well in all content areas, the school implemented practice shifts in the classroom in an effort to move more students to proficiency levels 5 and 6 in math, reading, and science. There was a shift in practice regarding math homework, which included moving away from grading homework assignments and towards assessing content mastery with daily quizzes. The school also implemented new problem solving techniques to improve students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.
SEM’s results also demonstrated a very strong school climate, but there was still room for improvement. Specifically, SEM found the need for improvement within the areas of student self-efficacy, student motivation, and teacher-student relations: 10% of students did not see a long-term role for mathematics in their lives, students reported the lowest self-efficacy for tasks related to life skills (reading a train timetable, using a map, etc.), and teacher-student relations were weaker when it came to how teachers engaged with and were available to students. In response, SEM implemented a number of new practices, including creating student surveys to receive feedback on teachers, providing more opportunities for one-on-one time for teachers and students, adding more real-world problems to math courses, and assigning students to teachers based on student performance and student interests.
Overall, SEM’s participation in the OECD Test for Schools drove a focus on data-driven practices. During common planning, instructional coaches shifted discussions from operational and procedural items to the systematic use of item-level, data analysis on all assessments. The use of this data helped to inform lesson plan design, instructional calendars, and curriculum redesign. With a focus on data, teachers developed personal professional development plans and were encouraged to attend any conferences they felt would strengthen their content knowledge or quality of instruction.