KnowledgeWorks is excited to announce the launch of a new, interactive, online resource, A Nationwide Look at State Strategies to Advance Personalized Learning. This tool provides a comprehensive look at the ideas states are considering as they strive to advance personalized learning in their plans for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Our goals for the resource are three-fold.
We aim to highlight states’ leadership in creating high quality education systems that provide innovative and flexible learning opportunities.
We hope to help stakeholders identify and better understand the benefits of diverse approaches to personalized learning.
We aim to help states solve for potential unintended consequences of these ideas by opening the door to robust conversation among stakeholders and states.
ESSA provides states with substantial flexibility to design education systems that provide all students with access to a personalized learning experience. Since the law’s enactment, state departments of education have explored these opportunities in depth, engaging in meaningful consultation with educators, advocates, and community stakeholders. States are now developing draft plans to submit to the United States Department of Education (USED) either on April 3, 2017, or September 18, 2017 in anticipation of implementing the new law in the 2017-2018 school year. Many states have already begun to release drafts of their state plan for public review, soliciting feedback that they plan to incorporate into their submission.
To date, roughly one-third of states have released a draft plan. KnowledgeWorks has read through these public drafts, pulling out ideas that align with a shift to a personalized approach to education. Our information is organized into sections similar to those in the plans themselves, including long-term goals, assessments, accountability, school improvement, supporting excellent educators, and supporting all students.
KnowledgeWorks’ interactive site includes a map of the United States with a pop-up information box for each state that includes relevant areas of their plan, as well as information on what stage of the process the plan is currently in. Each state links to a PDF with a detailed description of all relevant personalized learning ideas incorporated into their draft. While not all states have released draft plans yet, here are some examples of what states are considering as they attempt to build a more personalized education system.
Accountability and Assessments, Including Long-Term Goals
Many states are interested in shifting away from a system focused only on proficiency to one that emphasizes continuous improvement for all students and schools. For some, this means awarding weighted credit based on where a student is along a learning continuum. For others, it means incorporating academic growth in a meaningful way that incentivizes large academic gains for students who are farthest behind academically.
Some states will pursue accountability indicators that emphasize multiple pathway options for all students, including accelerated coursework. These accelerated opportunities include early college options, career technical education (CTE), and dual enrollment, and emphasize successful completion instead of just access. Many states also recognize the need to look beyond a simple 4-year graduation rate and have included long-term goals that ensure all students graduate even if that requires a little extra time. Some states are even considering accountability indicators that emphasize social and emotional learning, showing a commitment to students’ full development.
As a way to underscore their commitment to an overall culture of continuous improvement, some states have created systems of support that include all of their schools, including those outside the threshold for those required to receive Comprehensive or Targeted support. In order to best assist schools in the lowest performing categories that require additional support under ESSA, many states have proposed online management systems that enable local school districts to personalize their school improvement plans. A handful of states even focus attention on advancing evidence-based personalized learning practices as interventions for improvement.
Supporting Excellent Educators
States are required under ESSA to develop strategies that support the continued development of excellent educators, both in their initial training and through professional development opportunities throughout their career. Many states are pursuing options that provide educators with customized support to ensure they develop the necessary skills to advance in their profession. Some states are considering incentives for districts that incorporate personalized professional development for their teachers, while others have decided to provide digital, self-paced professional development opportunities. Additionally, some states are emphasizing supports for teachers that help them best address the social and emotional, as well as developmental needs of their most vulnerable students.
Supporting All Students
Many states are considering strategies and programs that provide multiple pathway options for all students, especially at the high school level. These options include dual enrollment, early college high school options, CTE, and other college- and workforce-readiness pathways. Some states are considering competency-based education pilot programs, as well as other locally-driven approaches to innovative learning as a way to personalize education.
Additionally, some states have emphasized social and emotional programming as a way to ensure a well-rounded education for all students. This an emphasis on the social and emotional competencies critical to student success such as empathy, perseverance, critical thinking, and work ethic. Other states are emphasizing a well-rounded curriculum for all students that includes flexible ways to demonstrate mastery of the standards in subjects like the arts, physical education, and civics.
We are thrilled that states are taking a leadership role in efforts to ensure educational opportunities and interventions that are relevant and personalized for each student in each school. Although the hardest part is always implementation, we are encouraged to see such an incredible commitment in the planning stage to leverage the flexibilities in ESSA to expand personalized learning opportunities for all students.