Personalized Learning and District-Charter Collaboration: Why I’m Never Looking Back

No matter what your calling may be, there are times in your career when you joyfully find yourself surrounded by people who share your passion. In that instance, you become inspired to do great things. Those encounters, whether planned or not, can change your path, influence your future, or strengthen your convictions. My recent trip to the Summit Public School District in California with Rhode Island educators from both charter and district schools was that kind of experience.

The partnership to advance personalized, blended learning in Rhode Island has been a true leap of faith. In an unlikely alliance, the work has brought traditional and charter districts together to improve teaching and learning in all of our schools with the help of Summit—a charter leader in the personalized learning space who has generously shared their tools (developed with the help of Facebook), curriculum, resources, and professional development with us.

The partnership to advance personalized, blended learning in Rhode Island has been a true leap of faith. In an unlikely alliance, the work has brought traditional and charter districts together to improve teaching and learning in all of our schools with the help of Summit—a charter leader in the personalized learning space who has generously shared their tools, curriculum, resources, and professional development with us.

The RI partnership’s 2-week trip to Summit’s Basecamp training was to prepare the team for the implementation of personalized learning at the Pawtucket Learning Academy (traditional public), Blackstone Valley Prep High School (charter public), and Providence’s Pleasant View Elementary School (traditional public). It was the culmination of months of preparation, planning, and dedication on the part of the teachers, school leaders, and district leaders from Providence, Pawtucket, and the Blackstone Valley Prep school districts. The catalyst and supporter of the the work has been the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies.

We all approached the Summit Basecamp with the knowledge of the impact it could have on the lives of our students. The responsibility weighed heavily on our minds. We knew then, as we especially know now, we are collectively changing teaching and learning in our schools. It’s a big deal!

We knew then, as we especially know now, we are collectively changing teaching and learning in our schools. It’s a big deal!

Thankfully, our colleagues at Summit Public Schools guided us thoughtfully into this groundbreaking work. Teachers from across the country met at Basecamp each morning with a full-day agenda of learning and planning ahead of them.

Below are some highlights of what made the experience so powerful for educators who were positioned as learners for those 2 weeks:

  • We experienced personalized learning in the same way our students will this fall
  • We participated in a mix of whole class, small group, and independent work
  • We worked in a project-based learning environment
  • We were held accountable to set goals and to work towards those goals with fidelity
  • We were respected as learners
  • We were encouraged to bring our experiences, passions, and interests into our learning
  • We were asked to step outside of our comfort zones and experience teaching and learning in a way that was new to us
  • We were mentored and coached when we experienced struggle
  • We were reminded of why we were there and of our learning goals

Our venture into personalized learning at Basecamp set us all upon a path to realize great things in Rhode Island, together. Moving forward, the Rhode Island group will support, share, and learn from each other starting with, but certainly not limited to, this crucial implementation year.  Because of my experience at Summit, I look forward to:

  • bringing personalized learning to our students—to watch them set goals and strive to meet and exceed their own expectations;
  • being part of a cohort immersed in a personalized learning environment that helps students to become self-directed learners;
  • seeing our students truly become college- and career-ready; and
  • having students leave our schools with a clear plan and the skills they need to succeed.

Most of all, I look forward to never looking back.