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How to Assess Your District

How to Assess Your District's Personalized Learning Implementation

The board wants proof that personalized learning is having a positive impact in your district. Parents are asking for evidence that these new strategies are improving their child’s education. How do you respond? The Education Elements team hears these questions a lot, so we shared our thoughts in the blog post, “Charting Your Personalized Learning Course.” If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. That enlightening post by Janice Vargo and Mike Wolking explained our philosophy and offered examples of how our district partners have approached the work. This sequel post seeks to extend your thinking by breaking those scenarios into 3 tangible ways you can incrementally measure the impact of your PL implementation. We’re highlighting Rochester School Department in New Hampshire as a real-world example.


1. Identify a theory of action

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Early in the design process, the Rochester School Department team identified incremental data points to serve as leading indicators, or early predictors of long-term change. They did not want to wait until year-end benchmark exams to measure the impact of personalized learning, so they created a theory of action. If they observed positive impacts on the following indicators, the district team felt confident year-end learning outcomes would eventually improve. They measured the monthly volume/frequency of:

  • exit tickets administered in class
  • data-driven instructional decisions
  • teacher-to-teacher observations
  • student reassessment after a failed test

Consider which early indicators you might want to monitor. Popular choices include behavior, attendance, teacher satisfaction, and student engagement. How you measure these variables can vary, but a solid rule of thumb is to use data you’re already collecting. Do you have monthly behavior referrals or attendance reports? Is there an existing feedback loop between teachers and administrators? How might those existing structures be harnessed to provide insights about your personalized learning initiative?


2. Ask your leaders and teachers

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The schools implementing personalized learning in Rochester, NH this school year participated in pre-launch leader and teacher surveys in September. Stakeholders shared their opinions on a range of key indicators including strategy, operations, teaching practice, and even working environment. This feedback was used by the district team to determine focus areas and plan targeted support such as redesigned PD days and investment in additional technical infrastructure to support online learning. A spring survey will be offered in March, and the district team will look for changes since Fall semester.

Surveys are incredibly telling. Simply asking key participants about the impact of personalized learning can offer both a snapshot of how things have changed and critical insights to guide ongoing planning and support. When Education Elements partners with a district to implement personalized learning, we encourage two teacher and leader surveys per year. The first survey is administered prior to launching personalized learning to establish a baseline. Subsequent surveys are administered approximately once per semester throughout the implementation and are compared to the baseline and previous results to determine change over time.


3. Visit classrooms

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In Rochester, schools hosted district leaders and Education Elements for their first learning walks approximately one month after launch day. Walkthrough teams spent 5-10 minutes in classrooms and completed a common walkthrough form for each visit. Observations were compared to pre-launch data to identify school and district trends, and establish next steps. Schools will continue to facilitate their own Learning Walks approximately once per month this school year. The data will be reviewed by both school and district teams to identify trends and examine change over time.

There is no better data source than watching personalized learning happen in practice and witnessing its impact on students and teachers. Some district leaders conduct learning walks, or tours of classrooms implementing personalized learning, to determine the fidelity of PL implementation - have their schools adopted personalized learning strategies? Others assess the depth of PL implementation - how well has personalized learning been implemented using these rubrics? Regardless of the type of implementation data collected, it is critical to establish a baseline prior to implementing personalized learning. This allows you to later track change over time.

Education Elements strongly believes that charting your course is the key to successful, transformational change in schools today. We are committed to using formative data to inform not only instruction, but also large-scale district initiatives. As such, we’ve been hard at work creating an additional data point to reference when implementing personalized learning. Have you heard about Onpoint? Your Onpoint score is a mechanism that allows you to compare your progress to that of other districts across the country. By creating a shared understanding of district strengths and weaknesses, you can easily begin to track and celebrate growth over time.

Interested in learning more? Request a free Onpoint score for your district today.

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About Brittany Griffin - Guest Author

Brittany is a former Design Principal at Education Elements.

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