“Personalized learning” appears to be raising math and reading scores at 23 schools, according to “interim research” by Rand for the Gates Foundation.
The 23 urban charter schools in the study predominantly enroll low-income students with below-average scores. Yet students ended the school year above or near the national average. The lowest performers improved the most.
Most teachers use technology — adaptive software programs with short lessons and quizzes — to personalize instruction. Students work at their own pace and their own level, moving forward only when they’ve demonstrated mastery. Typically, teachers work with small groups while other students are working independently.
Slightly less than half of teachers said students use technology for educational purposes about a quarter to half of the time, and about 20 percent said students use technology between 50 to 75 percent of the time. Among the remainder, nearly 20 percent reported an even higher level of technology usage, and nearly 20 percent reported a fairly low level of technology usage.
Most schools used common elements, notes Chalkbeat
- “Learner profiles,” or records with details about each student;
- Personalized learning plans for each student (students have the same expectation but have a “customized path”);
- Competency-based progression, in which students receive grades based on their own mastery of subjects rather than on tests that all students take; and
- Flexible learning environments, in which teachers and students have physical space and time in the schedule for small-group instruction or tutoring.
Denver’s Grant Beacon Middle School has used blended learning to personalize for three years, reports Chalkbeat. Test scores and student engagement have improved, says Alex Magaña, the principal. Denver may create several new schools modeled on Grant Beacon.
I wrote about experiments with blended learning in Oakland schools — mostly district schools — in Education Next.
For more on using blended learning to personalize, check out: Blended. Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, How to get blending learning right and Does blended learning work?