Teacher sat around a crowded conference room at the end of a summer professional development session in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. The next school year would be an adjustment: Ninth graders were transitioning into a historically 10th through 12th grade environment.
Around the room, more than 400 large pieces of paper adorned on the walls. Each paper clearly displayed the name of an incoming ninth grader. The teachers were assigned a task: If you know something about a student – how they learn, their favorite food, something about their family situation – write your name on the paper.
It was an interested exercise, according to KnowledgeWorks Technical Assistance Coach Dr. Dan Hoffman, who is a former teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. Some students had 5-6 teachers signed on to their sheets. Others had none. It was a clear demonstration of which students still needed personal advocates at the school.
“It wasn’t simple, but we had to strategize to figure out how to personalize their learning experiences,” Dan said. “It was critical.”
Personalization is part of the recipe for early college high school student success. If students are offered high-quality, rigorous learning environments that are specific to their own interests and strengths, they have a better chance of succeeding. If students have personal advocates throughout the school, to whom they can turn with questions, concerns or hardships, they can be encouraged by cheerleaders who believe they can succeed.
“You can throw the rest out the door if you don’t know the kids and strategize how to know them,” Dan said.
To learn more about how to personalize education, check out these resources: