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Lack of Clear
Narrative and
Compelling Rationale
As a Result...
  • School leaders and teachers may understand pieces of what they should do - e.g. more small group instruction or flipped teaching - but aren't able to articulate why they are taking these new approaches and how these changes eventually lead to long-term expected outcomes.
  • Furthermore, district and school leaders struggle to identify early wins or proof points of success that would help them increase buy-in across the district and offer exemplars of good practice.
Avoid the Risk
  • Create a district vision statement and explain why personalized learning supports that vision
  • Connect personalized learning to the instructional language and priorities of the district
  • Identify measures of success early in the process - what's the expected path to this success and key indicators of success along the way
  • Agree on a process to check if schools are on/off track from expected path, and identify immediate supports to course correct
District struggles with painting a clear picture of
how personalized learning looks different from
what happens in classrooms today.
Instead, it turns to education jargon -
e.g. "we want to see 21st century skills
and higher-order thinking skills."
Curricular &
As a Result...
  • School leaders and teachers are unclear on expectations and how the news instructional model "fits in" with what they were already doing - for example, what does differentiation look like in a personalized system?
  • The lack of clarity can often lead to a compliance mindset among school leaders and teachers.
Avoid the Risk
  • Ensure any changes proposed are aligned with current pedagogy
  • Involve curricular leads at the district and school level early in the process in order to identify gaps, either real or perceived
  • Acknowledge realistic timeline for changes, e.g. revamping curriculum
  • Articulate what teachers should be doing less as well as more
  • Create process to continuously check on instructional alignment in the classroom (e.g. walkthroughs)
District does not spend the appropriate time
sufficiently early in the process ensuring that new
models and content align with the district's
current curriculum or instructional
. District curriculum coaches
and school-based instructional coaches are
missing from initial conversations
around planning, design, and
professional development.
Failure to Build
Capacity at District
and School Level
As a Result...
  • District may have a few shining stars at the classroom level, but limited examples of excellent, whole-school shifts to personalization.
  • Once the vendors or consultants leave, there is no one with the capacity or experience to continue to the work.
Avoid the Risk
  • Involve the principal in all key meetings and decisions
  • Set expectations for the principal role; do not allow principal to delegate key responsibilities to coaches or APs
  • Ensure district owns the message and does not defer to outside organizations to deliver message to school
  • Build capacity in the district to support school leaders and teachers
  • Be clear about expectations for the district vs. the school vs. outside vendors
District creates a rollout plan that does not identify
the principal as the main driver of change in the
. District may allow teachers to opt-into
personalized learning, but have no expectations
for principal involvement. District may also fail
to build internal capacity to communicate,
coordinate, or support the work. Instead,
it defers to vendors or consultants
to fully own the messaging and
delivery of training.
with the
Wrong Schools
As a Result...
District and school leaders may be unable to identify early wins or proof points of success that would increase buy-in across the district and with external stakeholders, e.g. parents and school board.
Avoid the Risk
  • Start with your strengths - schools who are instructionally and culturally ready to move forward right away
  • Pay attention to timing of rollout - determine if start of year or mid-year is most appropriate for schools
  • Change course or go slower if needed
  • Be open to schools or classrooms starting at different places
District begins the work in schools or grade levels
that may not be ready
for personalized learning.
District may choose to roll out at particular grade
level based on political pressure, e.g. "we can't do
this with elementary school students before
high school students." Or, district funds
personalized learning with turnaround
grant and starts in schools that don't
have the appropriate culture or
staffing for the change.
with Stakeholders
As a Result...
  • Parents think that their students are not getting sufficient instruction from teachers: "teachers aren't doing their job!"
  • School board does not understand the criteria by which the district will measure success of the work. They do not know the difference between "this is not working" and "this just takes more time".
  • Journalists do not have sufficient venue to air their questions or access to the right schools, and write stories with inaccurate information or cover schools with poor implementations.
Avoid the Risk
  • Create a strategic communications plan for each stakeholder group
  • Ensure plan includes spiraled approach - not just at start of the year
  • Identify strong schools and teachers early in the process to show examples of success
  • Empower teachers to speak about the initiative
District does not have a strategic communications
plan to ensure their stakeholders are hearing the
right message about personalization. The
district initially communicates its plan
with parents, school board, and
journalists, but does not follow up
with subsequent messages or
venues for discussion.
the Wrong
For Example...
  • District encounters problems once devices are deployed to students and loses significant instructional time.
  • District receives negative publicity from local press.
  • Parents, teachers and school board express frustration with the work.
Avoid the Risk
  • Carefully consider your instructional goals and how each device would support those goals
  • Rigorously check references for all devices
  • Pilot devices before purchasing districtwide
  • Create financial and technical sustainability plan
District does not have an adequate process to select
devices. District may not consider software
with devices, nor how the device
supports stated instructional goals. District
may not check references for devices, and
experiences significant breakage. Finally
the district may not have sufficient plan
in place to support devices
, both technically
and financially.