Personalized learning- One size does NOT fit all

While everyone would agree that all students deserve a quality education, it’s not a reality for far too many students in the U.S.  Kids are falling behind, failing courses and often moving ahead to a new subject without having mastered the one before.  And what we’re coming to understand is: This “one size fits all” approach to learning doesn’t work for all students.

So what can we do about it? Our approach has been to support the design and implementation of personalized learning in schools across the country through the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC).  As part of NGLC, we host nationwide competitions designed to identify educators and entrepreneurs with the passion and know-how to design breakthrough school models, learn from their experiences and share promising emerging practices across the country.

Next Generation Learning Challenges

Since its founding in 2010, NGLC has made four waves of investments toward accelerating educational innovations to dramatically improve college readiness and completion—and its latest major funding initiative aims to accomplish that through a regional focus.

Building upon the promising progress of two 2013 pilots in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, the Regional Funds for Breakthrough Schools initiative is well underway, with grant competitions at various stages of development in an expanded group of six regions across the country.  The competitions are designed to support local “harbormasters” to incubate new personalized learning models in each city as part of an overall regional plan to increase the availability of these types of learning experiences for students.

The initiative is a prime example of NGLC’s new effort to leverage its national grantmaking into local and regional innovation incubation, which has been designed to meet four specific goals:

  1. Reaching more entrepreneurs at all levels of public education who have a dream—and the outlines of a plan—to design and launch new kinds of schools that engage students much more personally in their own learning
  2. Igniting a culture and community of innovation in the selected cities by enlisting local partners and building active, geographically-centered new school networks
  3. Encouraging city-level cooperation and alignmentbetween key partners including school districts, philanthropists, mayors’ offices, innovation incubators, community-based organizations, and (in some cases) state education agencies
  4. Expanding interest in personalized, mastery-based, blended learning models by other educators in the regional sites and surrounding districts and cities

Personalized learning, by design, takes the individual into account and embraces what we know about human learning: individuals need some degree of autonomy and decision-making to explore, discover and, even sometimes fail, to be productive learners.

 Meeting the regional challenge

In this next chapter, we are working with six partner organizations:

  • CityBridge Foundation, Washington, D.C.;
  • The Colorado Education Initiative, representing a coalition of three Colorado school districts and the Colorado Department of Education;
  • LEAP Innovations, Chicago, Ill.;
  • New Schools for New Orleans; in partnership with the Louisiana Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School Board, Educate Now!, and 4.0 Schools.
  • New England Secondary School Consortium, coordinated by the Great Schools Partnership;
  • Rogers Family Foundation, Oakland, Calif.

The leaders of these organizations are making it all happen, from outlining grant competition parameters to selecting and supporting grantees, funding the very best ideas. Ultimately, the grantees will work to accelerate student progress by incorporating leading principles of personalized, blended, and competency-based learning—models that are beginning to demonstrate very positive student outcomes in K-12 schools across the country.

They’re interfacing with a broad range of applicants—that is, charter school operators, teams of educators from local schools, and leadership from their primary district partners in the throes of planning and launching new schools—and are providing access to support networks and expert guidance along the way.

Sharing our experience

Personalized learning, by design, takes the individual into account and embraces what we know about human learning: individuals need some degree of autonomy and decision-making to explore, discover and, even sometimes fail, to be productive learners.

In this upcoming podcast series, you will hear from leaders of organizations and educators who have begun to implement this breakthrough model in their cities and schools.  You’ll get a firsthand account of what’s working and what’s not, as well as what comes next.  Each city has its own set of variables, so this work might look different from one city or region to the next.  But the common thread you will hear is that one size does NOT fit all in education, and students need more individualized instruction to be successful.

Stay tuned to hear more.  We’re excited to share our work with you.

In a global education career spanning ten years, Kristi DePaul has developed and taught university courses, led international marketing for edtech and consulting start-up companies, and has managed several institutions’ media relations and recruitment marketing efforts. As marketing manager for NGLC and ELI, Kristi leads communications, marketing, influencer relations, content management, and knowledge building and sharing. You can find Kristi on Twitter at @reallykristi.

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