Tools for State and District Leaders: Personalized Learning Case Studies

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Middle school students work at their own pace in iPrep Math classrooms in Miami-Dade County. (Photo courtesy of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools)

More than 100 exemplary school superintendents will convene at the White House today, November 19th, for the ConnectED to the Future Summit. As part of the President’s ConnectED Initiative, these leaders have committed to advancing technology-enabled instruction in their districts. The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) supports several of these districts’ efforts to use technology to personalize and enhance student learning. OII is pleased to release a report that highlights some of these districts’ initial experiences, which is intended to serve as a resource for school leaders pursuing a path to personalizing student learning.

Personalized Learning in Progress: Case Studies of Four Race to the Top-District Grantees’ Early Implementation shares the experiences of four diverse school districts as they adopt personalized learning approaches that will prepare their students to succeed in the 21st century global economy. The four districts — Iredell-Statesville Schools (N.C.), Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Fla.), New Haven Unified School District (Calif.), and Metropolitan School District of Warren Township (Ind.) — are highlighted in part because of their diversity, including the range in geographies, size of student populations, differing academic content areas, and their varied approaches to personalized learning.

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Huntsville Shows Off Its K-16 STEM Pipeline

Alabama A&M University leaders (l. to r.) Provost Daniel Wims; President Andrew Hugine, Jr.; senior-year computer science student Charlevester Wims; and College of Engineering, Technology, and Physical Sciences Dean Chance Glenn join OII’s STEM executive director, Russell Shilling (second from right), following Education Secretary Arne’s Duncan’s visit to NASA’s Space and Rocket Center. (Photo courtesy of Alabama A&M University)

As Education Secretary Duncan’s bus tour departed Huntsville, Ala., on September 9th, I remained to explore the STEM and technology education programs in the area. Huntsville, home to NASA’s Space and Rocket Center, has the advantage of being a small city with huge resources to support education. I wanted to see what they were doing that might be exported to a wide range of schools across the U.S.

After Secretary Duncan’s visit to the Space and Rocket Center and its Space Camp, I was greeted by the president of Alabama A&M University (AAMU), Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr., along with staff and students. Once on their beautiful campus, Dr. Chance Glenn, dean of the College of Engineering, Technology, and Physical Sciences, discussed the various programs AAMU has developed to help students pursue and excel in STEM fields.

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Ready To Learn Series Gets the Red Carpet Treatment

Billy Aronson (second from left) and Jennifer Oxley, co-creators of “Peg + Cat,” a production of the Fred Rogers Company, share their Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Series” and “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation for Production Design” with Ready to Learn (RTL) program manager Brian Lekander (left) and RTL program officer Adam Bookman. (Department of Education photo by Paul Woods)

Billy Aronson (second from left) and Jennifer Oxley, co-creators of “Peg + Cat,” a production of the Fred Rogers Company, share their Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Series” and “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation for Production Design” with Ready to Learn (RTL) Program Manager Brian Lekander (left) and RTL Program Officer Adam Bookman. (Department of Education photo by Paul Wood)

Peg + Cat, the animated PBS KIDS math series launched last fall, won three Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards last month, including Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Series. Funded in part by ED’s Ready To Learn (RTL) program, the series follows the spirited Peg and her loyal sidekick Cat, as they embark on hilarious musical adventures, learning math concepts along the way. The series provides young viewers with a new way to experience math and highlights its importance in a variety of everyday situations. Music is used as a teaching tool throughout the series and each episode features an original song.

Series co-creator and executive producer Jennifer Oxley also received the Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation for Production Design. Oxley made her first film at the age of 7 and has devoted much of her professional career to educational television and film, including direction of 15 short films for Sesame Street, as well as the award-winning adaptation of Spike Lee and Tanya Lewis Lee’s children’s book, Please, Baby, Please. Eleven-year-old Hayley Faith Negrin, the voice of Peg and the youngest nominee at this year’s Daytime Emmy Awards, received the award for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Program.

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NWP Teacher-Leaders Promote Civic Engagement in Cyberspace

Every spring, the National Writing Project (NWP), an OII grantee, brings together a core group of teacher-leaders from across the country to study and share effective practices that enhance student writing and learning. This year’s Spring Meeting was held on March 28 in Washington, D.C. Matt Williams, educational technologist at KQED, the San Francisco Bay Area’s award-winning PBS affiliate, led off the day with an engaging discussion about the powerful role of digital tools in promoting and improving civic engagement among the country’s youth. Matt was joined by NWP teacher-leaders Janelle Bence, Chris Sloan, and Meenoo Rami, who are implementing the Do Now project in their classrooms as part of a collaborative effort between KQED and the NWP’s Educator Innovator network. There are currently 150 schools across the nation actively participating in this endeavor.

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Art and Robots: Both Evidence the Creativity of Concept Students

Concept Schools student artists, teachers, and administrators join OII Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby (third from left) for a “photo-op” just before the official ribbon-cutting.

Concept Schools student artists, teachers, and administrators join OII Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby (third from left) for a “photo-op” just before the official ribbon-cutting.

From the Great Lakes to the nation’s capital, Department staff and guests were proud to welcome the talented student artists, their fellow students, and their teachers and parents to the Concept Schools Student Art Exhibit opening in Barnard auditorium on March 31. Some 130 charter school students, representing 18 Concept Schools from six states (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin), were in attendance to both celebrate their own artwork on display at the Department and support their fellow students’ work.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary, welcomes the students, teachers, and parents who came from six states for the exhibit opening.

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary, welcomes the students, teachers, and parents who came from six states for the exhibit opening.

To kick off the program, Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Nadya Chinoy Dabby welcomed guests to the Department and thanked Concept Schools’ families for making the long journey to share their children’s work.  According to Dabby, “Arts education … at Concept Schools … is an essential part of a well-rounded educational experience.” She said that her high school education at an arts magnet school “helped nurture a lifelong appreciation for the arts.” Speaking on behalf of the Department, Dabby said, “We believe … that all children should have access to great arts instruction … no matter where you grow up or what school you go to.”

Next, Concept Schools President Sedat Duman expressed his appreciation for the Department, students, staff, teachers, and parents for making the exhibit and opening a success. He introduced a video describing the nationally recognized work that Concept Schools does to prepare students for higher education. According to the video, about 90 percent of Concept students go on to college.

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Solving the Innovation Alignment Challenge With an Ecosystem Approach

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A New York City school student and parent, with the help of a software developer, view data on high school choice available through the School Choice Design Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Innovate NYC Schools)

“The lack of innovation in education is not due to a lack of creativity, but the misalignment of student and educator need to the market supply of innovations.” That’s the guiding premise of Innovate NYC Schools, a 2011 i3 Development grantee that is using technology to increase the degree of alignment and making students and teachers integral to the change process. The project is furthering the development and evaluation of the “Education Innovation Ecosystem,” a network of NYC schools, partner districts, solution developers, and investors that is helping to meet the STEM-related learning challenges of middle and high school students.

Two dynamics in school system bureaucracies combine to stymie innovation: On the one hand, changes in policy only get you so far; they “don’t lead to durable improvements in practice,” contends Steven Hodas, Innovate NYC Schools’ executive director. Moreover, this fact, he says, often causes the most innovative companies on the outside of the school bureaucracy to take a pass on responding to school systems’ RFPs to develop new products or services.

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Input Sought on Mechanisms for Educational Technology

On Jan. 13, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy posted a Request for Information (RFI) on advancing learning technology through “pull” mechanisms.

Traditionally, the federal government has favored “push” mechanisms, such as grants, contracts, or tax incentives, which pay for inputs; a problem must be solved and an organization is paid to try a particular approach, regardless of whether that approach is successful in solving the problem. “Pull” mechanisms, however, pay for outcomes, without specifying a course of action. Established pull mechanisms have been used in government and in other sectors; these include prizes; pay-for-success strategies, such as social impact bonds; and advance market commitments.

OII’s mission is to “accelerate the pace at which the U.S. identifies, develops, and scales solutions to education’s most important and persistent challenges.” An integral part of this work is serving as thought partners and collaborators in considering new and innovative structural solutions. A number of pull strategies are promising and could have strong applicability to learning technologies and our students’ future.

For more information, check out the White House’s blog post on the RFI.

Time Out for Writing

In mid-September, as most of the Department’s staff was focused on closing out the federal fiscal year, a group of more than 10 employees from a number of department offices, including Teaching Ambassador Fellows, took a hiatus from “end-of-the-fiscal-year mode” to learn about innovative and effective ways of teaching writing that are being used throughout the nation’s classrooms.

Margarita Meléndez with the June 2013 edition of Language Magazine, in which her article about Digital Is appeared. (Photo by Judy Buchanan, courtesy of NWP)

Margarita Meléndez with the June 2013 edition of Language Magazine, in which her article about Digital Is appeared. (Photo by Judy Buchanan, courtesy of NWP)

Staff from the National Writing Project (NWP) presented a two-part seminar that highlighted the organization’s cutting-edge work in the fields of digital writing and digital writing instruction, as well as information on successful initiatives that integrate writing across the curriculum at all levels of instruction. The seminar was organized by the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Teacher Quality Programs Office.

As most readers of this blog are familiar, the goal of the NWP is to improve student achievement by improving the teaching and uses of writing in the nation’s schools. Headquartered at the University of California – Berkeley, the NWP serves teachers nationwide through a network of more than 200 local sites hosted by colleges and universities. The Department has supported the NWP for many years, most recently as a recipient of the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program. The NWP received SEED grants in Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013.

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Three Lessons from My Unorthodox 10th-Grade Year

My name is Sophia Pink. I’m a high school junior at Washington International School in Washington, D.C., and recently had the privilege of speaking at the 9th Annual Private School Leadership Conference about my experience of creating a hybrid approach for 10th grade.

As a freshman in high school, about two months into 9th grade, I was frustrated. I liked my school, but I spent all my time marching to other people’s orders, and had little time to work on projects in technology, science, and moviemaking that I was really interested in. So I thought about it for a while, and came up with an unorthodox idea. Instead of filling my days with going from class to class, I would take the time to work on projects that really interested me. And, to keep up with my core academics, I would take advantage of the new world of online education.

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Virtual Poetry Slams Deliver Multiple Benefits for Urban Youth

Kimbrlyn Hernandez was so excited when she learned that she and her 8th-grade classmates at M.S. 145, Bronx, N.Y., would be going to Chicago and San Francisco for poetry slams. But the “trip” to those cities to share her poems would take seconds rather than days, thanks to the Internet and Global Writes, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to promoting literacy, communication, and collaboration among young people and an OII grantee. As the virtual encounters and “trips” began, Kimbrlyn’s thoughts were random sentences, but as the sharing and “travel” continued and she gained both confidence in her writing and comfort in the interpersonal relationships she formed online, Kimbrlyn’s poetry evolved.

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