Personalized Learning in KPBSD

Where do you want your learning to take you and how can KPBSD help you get there? #PLinKPBSD

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Standards Driving PL in KPBSD

Often one of the myths surrounding Personalized Learning is regarding the misconception that students are given completely free reign Myth Buster - Fact: Personalized learning is driven by the standards we teachover what they study. This is not the case at all. In fact, teachers are bound more than ever to the foundational skeleton of the content areas: The standards! The Alaska State Standards guide all the work that we do as educators. It is what we are bound to teach. It is what our state has determined to be what our students need to know.

With Personalized Learning, we are innovative about the ways that we approach and monitor student progress on the standards, but the standards remain the foundation of education. Amy Angleton, Language Arts teacher at Skyview Middle School who has contributed to this blog in the past goes says it in more depth…

Amy Angleton Profile Pic“The first step to be innovative within the confines of parameters such as standards is to understand the parameters deeply. State Standards are an essential basis for education. Without standards, educators would have no framework for what their students need to know at specific levels in order to prepare them for the next levels. Think of utilizing standards like you would learn a sport. When someone learns a skill in a sport there are foundational skills that a player needs to have before they are able to progress and play the sport as a whole. To learn these skills they practice them slowly and perfectly hundreds of times to create muscle memory. Teachers create muscle memory with the standards. When a teacher knows the standards deeply they do not have to look at them every time they create a lesson that is innovative and creative. They create lessons that address the standards automatically because they have muscle memory, they have become automatic. Of course (just like in sports) it is important to refresh every now and then just to make sure you are on the right track.

After understanding the standards deeply, then teachers can create checklists and essential skills students will use and be familiar with that are based on standards without using them directly. Then, innovation can really begin. Once a teacher has the end goal set, the skill that students need to master, there are unending possible ways to teach a student to accomplish that goal. There are unending possible choices to give students to take ownership for their own learning. There are online portfolios and projects and videos and explorations that students can all do. This is the exciting part, the moment that teachers articulate the end goal to students is the moment that innovation can begin.”  

We see this playing out all over KPBSD! Amy is at a middle school, but if you look at West Homer Elementary, you will see “I can” statements I can statements charton their walls. An “I can” statement is the standard that you are trying to teach put into student-friendly and actionable language. For example, the Alaska State Standard says, “ Add up to four two-digit numbers using strategies based on place value and properties of operations.” The “I can” statement for this is “I can add double digits. I can name the place a number is in. I can tell if it is addition or subtraction.” The student knows exactly what they are trying to accomplish!   

At the high school level, we find teachers like Meredith McCullough at Kenai Central High School using standards-based grading. Students monitor their progress on the English/Language Arts standards during the course of the semester and provide evidence for their achieving the standards in regular conferences with their teacher. Even at the high school level, standards are put into student-friendly language that students can easily use. This is a clear example of Student Ownership and Reflection, one of the Core Four components of Personalized Learning. Students can progress at the pace that is healthy for them and understand the scope of their work to get credit for a course. This also allows the teachers to provide the resources and assistance that students need to master the standards.

The myth of PL being a free-for-all is clearly busted! Standards drive our work. Teachers and students all over the district use the standards as the basis for what we teach and study. This provides a clear foundation district wide and means that students are receiving their education with fidelity.

PL in the Bigger Picture

The implementation of Personalized Learning in KPBSD is directly related to the 5-year strategic plan that our school board put in place this year. PL is allowing us to more directly meet the vision and mission through guiding principles listed on the district seal (right). Using the Core Four, we can clearly see how each aspect integrates with these principles of ready, rigor, relevance, and responsive. When considering the guiding principle of “ready”, student reflection and ownership provides for building both grit and perseverance, while data driven decisions allows educators to monitor academic indicators and benchmarks. If we are doing both of those Core Four aspects, our students will indeed be “ready”. In fact, all of the guiding principles align to one or more of the Core Four aspects.

AK Ed ChallengePersonalized Learning is bigger than just KPBSD though… There is a statewide effort at play here. Districts around the state are heavily invested in building PL capacity. This is largely due to efforts to meet the Alaska Education Challenge. The Governor has put this challenge in the forefront of how districts are doing business through 3 very clear commitments – Increase student success, Cultivate safety and well-being, and Support responsible and reflective learners. When we consider the commitment of “Increase Student Success”, this aligns directly to KPBSD’s guiding principles of “ready” and “rigor”. The principles are in action on the ground in PL through data driven decisions, targeted instruction, and flexible content and tools.  Likewise, we also find that KPBSD is dedicated to focusing on the commitments of the AK Ed Challenge through personalized learning. Consider how KPBSD’s work crosswalks with the 3 Commitments in the image below!

For more about the Alaska Education Challenge and KPBSD’s Strategic Plan, please refer to the links below:

DEED AK Challenge

AK Challenge Report

AK Ed Challenge White paper

KPBSD Strategic Plan

KPBSD Key Performance Indicators

Crosswalk image for AK Ed Challenge and PL in KPBSD



Considering the Core Four

As we begin the final stretch of the semester, it is a great opportunity to consider The Core Four. The Core Four are the areas that we focus on when building personalized learning in our educational practice. Using them as a focus is both a methodical way of reflecting on our teaching and administrative practices, as well as, planning new strategies to implement. As the waves of schools go through the personalized learning transition, the PL teams from each school are working with their staffs to determine, for their school, which of the Core Four they are particularly strong in and which ones are going to be an area to focus efforts. So, what are they exactly?

Flexible Content and ToolsFlexible Content and Tools means that we have a wide variety of content and learning tool options that are both adaptable and responsive to student needs. It also means that the options provide opportunities to create, remediate, introduce material and practice, that the content is curated (selected) by teachers, and that students have the opportunity to contribute content.

Student Reflection and OwnershipStudent Reflection and Ownership means that we are continually asking students to reflect on their learning and take active ownership for their educational choices. Additionally, it means that students are learning to think more about their choices, that we are offer them opportunity for choice in their learning, and that student designed goals and direction are supported.

Targeted InstructionTargeted Instruction means that we align instruction to specific student needs and learning goals. Further, it means that we focus on small groups of students or 1-1 conferencing, that we use data to identify those groups, and that we vary instruction based on group needs.

Data Driven DecisionsData Driven Decisions means that we frequently collect data to inform instructional decisions and student groupings. It also means that we use data purposefully, both at the student and teacher level, that we use formative (as you go) assessments to inform our decisions, and that we are developing a culture of openness toward use of data and feedback.

Building each of these four areas more deeply into our practices is an ongoing process and looks more like a spectrum of growth than a set point of achievement. There is always room to grow! Check out what examples of what the spectrum looks like for each of the areas here. For more in-depth information about the Core Four, check out the Ed Elements White Paper.