Using Policy to Expand Personalized Learning (Part 1)

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Spurred by advances in technology and a growing entrepreneurial spirit among educators, boundaries related to student learning previously believed to be permanent are expanding and in some cases, disappearing, faster than ever before. The greatest advances are coming in the form of personalized learning.

Personalized learning enables students to learn at their own pace and to chart their own course. This kind of learning model has the potential to rapidly increase student learning, while empowering teachers with the tools they need to teacher more effectively.

But in order to truly transform our education system, personalized learning must be available to every child. Right now, personalized learning is happening sporadically in schools and districts across the country, but it is the exception, not the norm. And in many cases, where it is happening, educators must overcome numerous obstacles and arcane rules only to end up with a significantly limited version of their original innovative vision.

Like most public goods, policy matters. Here are four policies that would enable states to expand personalized learning to every child:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Competency-based progression
  3. Outcomes-based accountability
  4. Funding that follows the student


Policy #1: Ensure that digital learning environments – including online and blended-learning schools, courses, and models – have flexibility with class-size restrictions and student-teacher ratios.

Flexibility around class size and student-teacher ratio requirements allows schools and teachers to meet the needs of their students using a variety of learning models. For example, students can learn in an online or computer-based environment one part of the day and in a traditional classroom – even one-on-one tutoring – for another part of the day.

Despite growing interest among school leaders in creating blended-learning programs and a number of models with strong track records of success, nearly half of states still mandate restrictive student-teacher ratios that prevent blended-learning models from existing and expanding

It’s time for a change. Realizing the potential of personalized learning depends on the ability of educators and providers to innovate. Capacity, quality, and imagination should be the only limiting factors.

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