How States Are Using Personalized Learning To Support All Students In Their ESSA Plans

Topics: Education Policy, ESSA

Read 5 approaches states are taking to support students under ESSA, as well as 2 trends for leveraging personalized learning serve more student needs. Enthusiasm around the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) focused on a new opportunity to create education plans tailored to the needs and context of individual states. At KnowledgeWorks, we have been tracking how states have used this opportunity to advance systems focused on personalizing education according to individual students’ needs and interests.

Now that all states have either submitted or released a draft of their state plans under ESSA, we have looked at how personalized learning is advanced through accountability systems, school support and improvement and educator effectiveness systems. The final area of exploration in this blog series looks at how states leverage the flexibility under ESSA to support all students through personalized learning.

Based on our analysis of state plans, we’ve identified five common approaches that states are taking to support their students. In addition to those five common approaches, we also identified two emerging trends in how states are leveraging personalized learning to serve the widest array of student needs.

Five common approaches:

1. States are providing multiple pathways to students.

Many states are providing students with access to career and technical education pathways, early colleges and dual enrollment, advanced level coursework and work learning experiences.

2. States are explicitly prioritizing personalized systems.

A number of states are emphasizing that their education systems will be based on a foundation of providing personalized, and sometimes competency-based, structures to truly meet students where they are.

3. States are leveraging technology to meet students’ needs.

Many state plans include a financial investment in technology to sustain personalized systems as well as training and competencies in technology use.

4. States are focusing on providing individualized support during transitions.

Almost half of the ESSA state plans specifically identify the types of personalized supports that students will receive before, during and after key transitions to prepare them and ensure that needs are being identified and met throughout the educational experience.

5. States are emphasizing a well-rounded approach to education.

While accountability systems focus primarily on math and English language arts proficiency and growth, many states aim to provide access to a broad variety of courses, including arts, history, health, STEM and physical education.

Additionally, some states are using personalized education as a way to meet more specific needs of students:

1. States are prioritizing personalized learning for students needing extra supports, including homeless students; English learners; migrant students; and youth who are neglected, delinquent, or at risk.

Several ESSA plans discuss the how students and families in these designations will be supported to navigate the education system. Individual plans for students will be transferable between schools to ensure that transitions between schools and levels of the system will not lead to students being overlooked.

2. States are proactively looking at ways in incorporate social emotional learning into their systems.

Some states are partnering with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning to identify social emotional competencies to deepen how schools approach the individual needs of students.

These seven approaches demonstrate that state education leaders have been thoughtful in how to use ESSA to meet individual student needs. States prioritizing systems that serve individual students from a variety of approaches are maximizing on the promise of ESSA to be a better fit for local contexts.

See for yourself how states are incorporating personalized learning into their ESSA state plans and what is happening in your state with our interactive map.