Supports for Historically Underserved Students

State Policy Framework for Personalized Learning

The state supports historically underserved students by establishing equitable policies and practices aligned to culturally responsive and trauma-informed practices to intentionally address gaps in outcomes. Along with setting goals, monitoring progress, increasing transparency and mobilizing stakeholders to achieve greater equity, the state collaborates with local communities to examine state- and local-level systemic issues, including long-held beliefs and values, that result in the education system failing to acknowledge and support student identities.


The Goal: The state has collaborated with a working group of diverse stakeholders to examine data on system inequities and to develop a plan that ensures historically underserved students benefit from high-quality personalized learning experiences.

Support Actions:

  • The state identifies and partners with regional agencies that have the capacity to collaborate with school districts and provide training and supports around cultural responsiveness and trauma-informed practices.
  • The state uses data to illuminate inequities in the state’s academic, discipline and whole child outcomes and develops a plan that leverages personalized teaching and learning to address those inequities. The state also uses accountability and reporting data to communicate to stakeholders how well the system serves historically underserved students and to track progress towards elimination of achievement gaps.
Strategic Question: What systemic biases have created barriers to educational success for historically underserved students, and in what ways might personalized learning create more equitable systems?


The Goal: The state has empowered school districts to implement personalized learning strategies to address system inequities and close gaps in both academic and whole child outcomes.

Supporting Actions: 

  • The state prioritizes competitive or administrative funding for programs that benefit historically underserved students through mentorships or other opportunities that broaden students’ access to informal community networks.
  • The state empowers school districts to pilot reporting measures that demonstrate student success and account for various student identities, life experiences and goals and to communicate outcomes and progress toward goals to stakeholders.
Strategic Question: What types of reporting measures would give stakeholders a more comprehensive picture of student success so they can better target supports to ensure the success of historically underserved students?

Statewide Transformation

The Goal: The state empowers districts to work with diverse community stakeholders to implement and continuously improve personalized teaching and learning solutions designed to eliminate gaps in student outcomes.

Supporting Actions:

  • The state engages diverse stakeholders during the policymaking and implementation process with the specific intent of ensuring that new policies eliminate rather than perpetuate systemic biases and the resulting inequities.
  • The state collaborates with diverse community stakeholders to monitor the effectiveness of strategies to close gaps in academic, discipline and whole child outcomes and proposes strategies to better serve students with the greatest needs.
Strategic Question: How can the state continuously collaborate with stakeholders to monitor the impact of personalized learning policies on historically underserved students and make necessary improvements to maximize their success?

Read About an Early Adopter

In Massachusetts, state policy flexibility enabled the creation of the Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA), a student-centered, competency-based school which targets learners who are considered off-track and do not feel a sense of connection in a traditional high school. Many are over age for high school and many have dropped out due to family or life circumstances.

At BDEA, there are no grades of any kind. Instead, content areas are broken into 11-week modules— each with associated benchmarks against which learners demonstrate their competence. Students progress according to their skill development, not their age or time spent in a seat. In 2018, 97 percent of students graduated within three years, and 70 percent graduated in two years. These numbers are up from the previous year’s rates of 81 percent and 55 percent respectively.

Download a PDF version of this page.

Twelve policy conditions are necessary for a successful statewide transformation to personalized learning.