Personalized Learning Podcast: Episode 3 | New England Secondary School Consortium facilitates knowledge sharing

Welcome to the third episode of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s Personalized Learning podcast series where we explore how different regions across the country are implementing next-generation learning. You can find the introduction to the podcast series here and the rest of the series here.


Cheryl Niehaus, Program Officer, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation


Mark Kostin, Associate Director at Great Schools Partnership

Debra Stoleroff, Renaissance Program Coordinator at Twinfield Union School


Ideas explored in this episode:

What are the New England Secondary School Consortium’s goals? (1:25)

The New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) is a partnership between the education state departments in five New England states – Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont – which came together in the interest of learning and sharing particular strategies to increase high school graduation rates and success rates in post-secondary education.


How is the next-generation learning challenge model structured in their region? (3:17)

The consortium is working to ensure that the lessons learned are shared with all 600+ middle and high schools across the region and they approach implementation in three ways:

  1. Creating a state and local policy environment conducive to next-generation learning
  2. Engaging communities to get stakeholder participation
  3. Ensuring there is support for increased educator capacity

“Rather than the teacher just delivering the information, the teacher is the facilitator.” – Debra Stoleroff

“That idea of sharing is absolutely critical in our particular model.” – Mark Kostin


Why they decided to implement personalized learning and how they measure success. (6:25)

NESSC views personalized learning as the culmination of a variety of best practices with an emphasis placed on student proficiency. Personalized learning was already beginning to happen organically in sections of the region, and they wanted to better understand what was happening and bring those best practices to other schools.

“We’re bringing the teachers the tools, resources, and support that many of them have recognized the need for.” – Mark Kostin

“It started as a result of a student going up to the Principal and saying ‘You’re a public school and you’re supposed to teach all of us and you’re not teaching me. I’m not learning. I have a different learning style. I’m ready to drop out of school but I want to learn.’” – Debra Stoleroff

“All of the policy efforts across our states have been informed by the success of schools like Twinfield.” – Mark Kostin


What’s happened so far with this work in New England? (9:09)

NESSC implemented an intensive summer design institute for schools and helped them create a three-year development and implementation plan, and then went on to select the NGLC schools from that group. They are focused on freely sharing best practices and programs among schools and educators.

“It’s about looking at who you have in your classroom and providing multiple opportunities for kids who have different learning styles to be able to learn about a similar topic.” – Debra Stoleroff

“To be able to be connected to people who have best practices can only improve our own practice… Great ideas come from many people.” – Debra Stoleroff


Advice Mark and Debra would give to anyone thinking about beginning to do this work. (12:41)

Implementing personalized learning is comprehensive and complex – for it to be successful, an organization has to have:

  • A multi-strategy approach that works to refining and updating local policies
  • Support and capacity for educators
  • Multiple opportunities to engage with and inform the community

“There’s power in partnership and collaboration.” – Mark Kostin

“Whatever program you decide to create, you need to stay flexible. Flexibility, when it comes to personalization, is key.” – Debra Stoleroff



Read more about our work with Next Generation Learning Challenges:

Introductory post: Kristi DePaul: Personalized learning- One size does NOT fit all

Episode 1: CityBridge Foundation rethinks education in Washington, D.C.

Episode 2: Leap Innovations grows student engagement in Chicago, IL

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