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By: Nate Franz on December 13th, 2016

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It's Not About the Tech: PL and CRE

Personalized Learning  |  School Districts  |  Curriculum Strategy & Adoption

The Syracuse City School District is in the second year of our Personalized Learning (PL) initiative. Schools are at different points of learning about, designing, and implementing school-based models to tailor student experiences to their unique strengths, needs, and interests. The PL work in SCSD is anchored in Education Elements’ Core 4:  Integrated Digital Content, Data-Driven Decisions, Targeted Instruction, and Student Ownership & Reflection.

The Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) work is not limited to discipline but is an equally important lens to view instruction and curriculum. One tool we use to do this type of analysis is the Mississippi Cultural Responsivity Matrix. It is a self-study guide to assess the degree to which culturally responsive practices are embedded throughout the stated and enacted curriculum.

Currently, SCSD staff are engaged in deep thinking around both PL and CRE but there has been little conversation on any overlap. Viewing these as separate and sometimes competing initiatives might have to do with the focus on adaptive digital content in personalized learning or the misunderstanding that CRE is just about classroom climate and culture. PL is not just about the tech -- in fact PL and CRE are supportive and dependent initiatives.

The table below highlights a few of the connections between the PL and CRE by comparing elements of two tools we are using in the Syracuse:

Core 4 of Personalized Learning

(Education Elements)

The Mississippi Cultural Responsivity Matrix

 

(via NYU’s Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality)

Integrated Digital Content

Texts and instructional activities represent diversity in terms of culture, racial, ethnic, religious and language groups.  Teachers can enact curricula that explore multiple perspectives, ideas and outcomes.

Data-Based Decisions

Teachers infuse their curriculum with opportunities for students to explore questions of fairness and equity as they relate to classroom practices such as grouping, rule setting, consequences for conduct, and grading.

Targeted Instruction

Teachers consciously and explicitly alter the conditions of learning such as access to learning materials, opportunities to question, study, and collaborate. Teachers discuss changes with their students explaining how changes in classroom procedures are designed to ensure that all students have access to learn and opportunities to lead.

Student Ownership and Reflection

Teachers involve students in making decisions about their classroom culture, ensuring that decisions are made with attention to consequences for all students. Students study and reflect on the practice of equity pedagogy, assist in collecting and examining the impact of classroom practice on students in the class and work to ensure equity for all students.

 

In selecting home-grown digital content, educators have an opportunity to provide students with texts and instructional materials that not only are reflective of the diversity in their classrooms but highlight the complexities of diverse cultures. The Office of Shared Accountability has made progress in providing teachers and leaders with disaggregated academic data that can be used to find inequities in student outcomes. Both PL and CRE focus on this idea that equal isn't fair and fair isn't equal especially in terms of targeted instruction.

It is time to start thinking of PL and CRE not as separate initiatives, but as a unified instructional approach that can only be actualized by leveraging both. In the end, what could be more unique or personal to a student than the factors that make up their identity?

 

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Nate Franz is the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning at the Syracuse City School District. Inspired by teaching swimming lessons, volunteering in preschools, and mentoring adolescents in group homes throughout his time at the University of Wisconsin, Nate quickly developed a deep interest for working with young people. This passion stuck with him as he relocated to Washington, DC, leading him to pursue a master’s degree in early elementary education at American University. While teaching in DC, Nate was recognized as a finalist for DC Teacher of the Year and awarded the Agnes Meyer Award by the Washington Post. Since moving to Syracuse in 2011, Nate has earned his building and district leadership certificates from Syracuse University and deepened his commitment to urban education. When he is not advocating for equity in education, Nate spends his free time transporting his two sons to their respective swimming lessons and preschools.
Download the new Core Four Elements of Personalized Learning White Paper

 

About Nate Franz

Nate Franz is the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning at the Syracuse City School District. Inspired by teaching swimming lessons, volunteering in preschools, and mentoring adolescents in group homes throughout his time at the University of Wisconsin, Nate quickly developed a deep interest for working with young people. This passion stuck with him as he relocated to Washington, DC, leading him to pursue a master’s degree in early elementary education at American University. While teaching in DC, Nate was recognized as a finalist for DC Teacher of the Year and awarded the Agnes Meyer Award by the Washington Post. Since moving to Syracuse in 2011, Nate has earned his building and district leadership certificates from Syracuse University and deepened his commitment to urban education. When he is not advocating for equity in education, Nate spends his free time transporting his two sons to their respective swimming lessons and preschools.

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