Hancock County High School recently received state-wide recognition at the Continuous Improvement Summit in Lexington. Hosted by the Kentucky Department of Education and Cognia, a non-profit education accreditation organization, the annual conference invites schools from across the Commonwealth to showcase innovative strategies that increase student achievement.
Participating educators have the opportunity to attend a variety of sessions that focus on methods for improving learning and teaching. This year, Hancock County High School’s Elizabeth Helm and Wes Meserve were invited to present their “playlist model” at the conference. They attended the summit last week, along with other educators from HCHS.
To present at the Continuous Improvement Summit, teachers and education leaders first must submit a proposal to the conference organizers, who then review and select those that best represent sound instructional practice.
Once Helm and Meserve were notified of their selection, they developed an exhibition of their playlist model to share with conference attendees. Helm said that the goal of their presentation was to showcase their work and help other educators see how the model could be used in their own schools.
Principal Ginger Estes, who also attended the summit, spoke highly of the presentation. “Watching our teachers deliver the playlist strategies to a room packed with Kentucky administrators just reaffirmed what I already knew about the staff at HCHS,” Estes said. “Mrs. Helm and Mr. Meserve exemplified the vision of our school in that we want to be the very best in Kentucky.”
According to Helm, the development of the lesson playlist model sprang from the unique challenges brought on during virtual learning in the spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced teachers to create new ways to meet the needs of each student. “The playlist model is an organization tool for student tasks, assessment, reflection, and data mastery,” Helm explained. “In order for students to know what they’re learning and why they’re learning it, they need to be able to explain the learning in their own words. Reflection is also embedded in the playlist because students must be able to accurately identify where they are in the learning process in order to know what to do next.”
Meserve spoke about the success of using the playlist model at HCHS. “Playlists are not a one-size-fits-all approach as every class is different and every school is different, but they work very well at Hancock County High School for helping us organize our lessons and engage all students,” he explained.
Today, every teacher at Hancock County High School has adopted a version of the playlist model. They provide students with a clear roadmap of what is being taught, the expectations for their learning, and where to go if they need additional help or if they are ready to explore a topic in more depth. “We began using playlists as a way to make learning more student-friendly during virtual learning, but once we realized how effective it was at meeting the needs of students, we decided to revise and continue using it,” Helm said.
Playlists provide opportunities for students to engage on a more individual basis with the subjects being taught and take ownership of their learning. As Helm noted, “In our classroom, this is a way to make sure we are meeting the needs of all of our students.” Meserve, who provides special education services at HCHS, agreed. “The way playlists are designed allows teachers to embed resources and supplemental materials that engage students who are struggling, gifted, and everywhere in between,” Meserve said. He stated that playlists were especially beneficial at reaching the needs of students in special education.
For their efforts in developing the playlist model, the Kentucky Commissioner of Education awarded Hancock County with five hundred dollars. Helm added that although it was an honor to be recognized for their work, she said that “the opportunity to network and learn from other educators made the entire experience worthwhile.”
Estes sees being asked to present at the summit as yet another example of how Hancock County High School is on the path to success. “Our staff and students are continuing to grow as leaders in our state,” she said. Like the name of the summit itself, Hancock County High School is continuously improving and shines as an example for other schools to follow.
By Josh Scherrer