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Make It Personal

Strategies to Make the Vision a Reality

Expansion of student success plans

Student success plans will include learning goals and strategies that will guide the learning activities so each student progresses on mastery at his or her own rate and develops a body of evidence that reflects his or her learning over time. These plans empower students to pursue their passions while encouraging them to take more responsibility for their education. Students work with their teachers to identify their learning targets and the strategies to meet those targets. Although a class may work on a common topic, individual students work at their own pace to address their personal learning targets.

Personalized learning pathways

Personalized learning pathways blend a variety of educational experiences that satisfy requirements and meet state-required standards. At the high school level, pathways can include career and technical education, college-level courses, online courses, as well as internships, apprenticeships, and volunteer opportunities that are designed to integrate with a student’s academic learning. Schools may support institutionalized pathways (for example, career academies where learning is organized around preparation for a career in health care) but also work with individual students to develop personalized pathways to support them as they progress on mastery of knowledge and skills.

Mastery-based graduation standards

Students earn credits toward graduation by demonstrating mastery of required knowledge and skills rather than by completing courses. Mastery is demonstrated within a traditional classroom setting or in other learning opportunities that are aligned with graduation standards.

Mastery Based Learning is an instructional strategy and educational philosophy. It maintains that students must achieve a level of mastery in prerequisite knowledge before moving forward to learn subsequent information. If a student does not achieve mastery on an assessment, he or she is given additional support in learning and reviewing the information, then assessed again. This cycle will continue until the learner accomplishes mastery and may move on to the next stage.

Mastery Based Learning methods require that the focus of instruction should be insuring that all students master the standards, realizing that the time required for different students to learn the same material and achieve the same level of mastery may differ. This is very much in contrast to classic models of teaching, in which students are given approximately the same amount of time to learn and the same set of instructions.

In Mastery Based Learning there is a shift in responsibilities so that students are responsible for their own learning. In a mastery-based learning environment, the challenge becomes providing enough time and employing instructional strategies so that all students can achieve the same deep level of learning.

Educators as facilitators

When learning is student-centered, educators guide students through a learning process. In addition to offering their own content expertise, teachers also design learning opportunities, coordinate learning resources, and serve as advisors to help students construct and apply knowledge as well as develop skills.

Educational technology

Technology opens up new avenues for student-centered learning. Whether students take courses online or use technology to enhance learning in the traditional classroom setting or to support learning in out-of-school activities, technology is a powerful tool for student-centered learning. Technology systems must be deployed in ways that enable data, content, and tools to be shared seamlessly.

Current Status

In May of 2013, the state legislature passed Connecticut’s Act for Unleashing Innovation in Connecticut Schools.13  This bill states that local boards of education may grant a high school diploma through a “demonstration of mastery based on competency and performance standards, in accordance with guidelines adopted by the State Board of Education.”14

Currently, there are 29 secondary schools and 7 school districts in the process of transforming their education system to be based on a philosophy of personalized learning.