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Rochester Schools Launch Customized Education Program
Published Monday, December 4, 2017

Sixth graders Emanuel Casey and Makenna Stevens work on a problem solving activity as part of the Rochester Schools Personalized Learning program. (Courtesy Photo)


Rochester is launching a new program at five schools aimed at providing a custom educational experience based on each student's needs, strengths and areas of emphasis. The Personalized Learning initiative is an educational framework that leverages students' strengths, needs and interests in the planning and delivery of classroom instruction. The completely custom approach is Rochester's next step in developing competency-based learning, which emphasizes increased student reflection and ownership of their education.

"The Rochester Public Schools strives to provide a superior education to every student, and we feel that the best way to do that is by offering personalized learning. Everyone deserves to be engaged and passionate about their education," says Superintendent Michael L. Hopkins. "Using this model, our teachers will be able to better connect with their students and develop a stronger sense of their strengths and interests."

Rochester Schools will target students individually and maximize their ability to grasp topic areas and move on to new ones at their own pace. Personalized Learning will launch next week at Spaulding High School, McClelland School, East Rochester School and Gonic School. It will also continue at Rochester Middle School, where it was piloted during the 2016-17 school year.

The Personalized Learning model relies on four core elements:
• Integrated digital content, giving teachers and students a broader range of choices curriculum choices that can be sorted by academic level and topics of interest for each student.
• Targeted instruction, where teachers and students will meet in small groups based upon student performance.
• Student reflection and ownership, allowing students frequent opportunities to reflect on what they are learning and the success they are having. Students will identify goals to improve their learning outcomes and have opportunities to make authentic choices for their learning.
• Data-driven decision making, which relies on formative assessment data that will support students and teachers as they work to make personal learning plans for success.

With the implementation of the program, there will be some noticeable changes in the structure of classroom instruction. Teachers will be using an individualized list of activities and classroom projects, called "playlists," as well as flipped classrooms and other activities.

A flipped classroom model may have students viewing video lessons or working on special programs in small groups while other students are meeting with the teacher for targeted instruction. At the upper grade levels, it may mean students are viewing videos or preparing at home to allow for more work in the classroom.

Playlist activities would be developed based upon a short formative assessment done digitally, which would provide teachers with immediate feedback about students' understanding of a concept. Teachers will then use their students' interests and learning styles to provide them with individualized lesson plans -- or playlists -- that most closely match their interests, abilities and areas of need.

As these five schools integrate the Personalized Learning model, faculty will be provided with feedback. Each school has a Personalized Learning Leadership Team of four to six members who will lead the work done at their schools. These groups will conduct informal classroom walkthroughs that will generate feedback and support a smooth implementation process.

Education Elements, the organization that developed the program, is working with these Leadership Teams to assist them in developing instructional models, support plans and communication plans.

Rochester Middle School launched the initiative last year with a pilot group of approximately 20 teachers, and those faculty members will be leaders in helping to grow the program to other schools in Rochester. Last year, Rochester Middle School moved to 1-to-1 technology to support this instructional model and is continuing to expand the Core 4 of Personalized Learning to more teachers.

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