Personalized Learning

President-Elect Advised to Scale Personalized Learning

The new president and his secretary of education aren't in office yet, but one education organization has already begun lobbying them on personalized learning. KnowledgeWorks, a nonprofit that works with federal, state and district leaders to expand competency-based and personalized learning, has issued four recommendations on how Donald Trump and his proposed secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, can "scale personalized learning."

The advice focuses on streamlining the path between K—12 and higher ed for increased college enrollment; removing barriers to innovation within states; adding flexibility to the federal financial aid system; and prioritizing personalized learning initiatives for discretionary grant programs.

The emphasis is placed especially on flexibility, a concept of great importance to DeVos, a strong advocate for the use of school vouchers, which would support parents using federal dollars to send their children to private schools, among other choices. In a speech at last year's South by Southwest Education Forum, the education reformer called for revolutionizing the "education delivery system" by opening it up and allowing "for choice, innovation and freedom."

In a five-page "memo," KnowledgeWorks suggested:

  • Finding ways to promote the "effective transitions" of students between their secondary education and college. One idea would be the creation of a "postsecondary transition innovation fund," that could be used, for example, to support the transition to competency-based pathways in education and re-engagement of students who have dropped out.
  • Helping states and districts scale their personalized learning systems. The components needed would address many of the stipulations covered in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — assessment, accountability, school improvement and the education workforce — and also suggests expansion of learning opportunities outside of school and support for research and development tied to personalized learning.
  • Supporting individual pathways toward postsecondary credentials by making federal financial aid more flexible. This would require a move away from basing financial aid on the number of hours a student attends college or the number of credit hours he or she is pursuing — shifting the emphasis to other areas, such as competency education and dual enrollment.
  • Giving a priority score to grants that focus on personalized learning. The characteristics of that include alignment with standards students need to be successful in college, individualized learning experiences and varied pacing of instruction based on student need.

"We look forward to working with the new administration to create a policy platform that makes it easier for learners to access high-quality, customized pathways to college and career success," wrote Lillian Pace, senior director of national policy, in an article on the organization's website. "In a time of uncertainty, there is no better strategy than to build on our strengths. By empowering our local innovators, we can turn their energy and dedication into a system that works for all."

The full memo is available on the KnowledgeWorks website here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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