All That Weve Learned Silicon Schools Fund 1

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1 All That All That We’ve Learned We’ve Learned Five Years Working on Personalized Learning Authors: Caitrin Wright, Brian Greenberg and Rob Schwartz Silicon Schools Fund 1 August 2017 www.siliconschools.com

2 Five years ago... ...we started the Silicon Schools Fund to support the launch of new schools figuring out better ways to educate students. We hoped that educators could reimagine schools to ensure that students got more ownership of their education and more of exactly what they needed when they needed it—so called “personalized learning.” Five years ago was also when one of us, Caitrin, had her first child, who is now entering kindergarten. In that span of time he’s learned to walk, to talk, dress himself, and play a mean game of Uno. Seeing his growth and learning got us thinking about all that we’ve learned over the past five years about personalized learning. What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning 2

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4 Silicon School Personalized Learning Journey WE'VE ALWAYS HAD FOUR STRONG BELIEFS: Students’ ownership of their learning is critical to long-term success. When it comes to learning, students should get more of what they need exactly when they need it. Ensuring equity requires getting each student what he or she needs to succeed. It is possible to redesign schools to work much better for students and teachers. What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning 4

5 What We've Learned • Promise of personalized learning is real • Personalized learning should not mean isolated learning • Students benefit from working in both homogeneous groups at their own “instructional level” and heterogeneously at their “developmental level” • Agency is important for all students Where We Go Next • Put in place more systematic and effective goal-setting and reflection cycles for students • Provide teachers high-quality training and supports • Consistently utilize rigorous curricular resources How We Get There • Embrace prototyping and piloting as the fastest way to learn what works • Create systems for continuous improvement so schools iterate to better outcomes • Ensure innovative practices show positive results before promoting them widely • Build bridges to academic research in learning sciences • Pay attention to change management; having a good solution is only half the battle • Practice urgent patience 5 Silicon Schools Fund

6 WHAT THE DATA SAYS: THE PROMISE OF PERSONALIZED LEARNING We do not believe that there is yet definitive proof that Further, there is a subset of schools in our portfolio that is dramatically outperforming all relevant academic personalized learning works better than other models. benchmarks. For example, at Hollister Prep (a Navigator Ultimately, we hope that personalized learning will School) 85% of Latino students scored proficient in improve life outcomes for students, with clear evidence English Language Arts (ELA) on the state assessment. to support its efficacy. In the interim, we look to In comparison, only 37% of Latino students scored traditional academic measures (e.g. state assessments or assessments like NWEA MAP), to provide early signs of the proficient in the district where the school resides. In efficacy of personalized learning. addition, in our analysis of the schools in our portfolio’s NWEA MAP assessment results (an assessment that Despite the lack of conclusive proof, there are two measures student growth over time), we found that important data sets that we find compelling. First, students in the bottom quartile of performance at the RAND conducted a study of 11,000 students and 62 beginning of the year were the ones that made the personalized learning schools nationally and found that greatest growth over the year. This was an important “students made significant gains in mathematics and indicator to us given our focus on ensuring equity reading overall, and in elementary and middle schools in personalized learning —that these models help ." More recently, RAND published the third of its studies [1] all students succeed, in particular those that have of personalized learning. It again found statistically traditionally struggled. significant gains in math, however, the effect size had While we realize our portfolio’s results aren’t a pure or [2] decreased notably . rigorous proof of personalized learning’s effectiveness, More directly, we have access to significant state strong academic outcomes at such an early stage of a academic assessment data across our portfolio of movement give us hope for what is to come and make us personalized learning schools that show that Silicon cautiously optimistic about the promise of personalized Schools backed schools consistently outperform state learning to improve student learning. averages, local district averages, and other charters within the state of California—both overall and even more dramatically for economically disadvantaged and Silicon Schools' portfolio of Latino students. personalized learning schools significantly outperform the top quartile of schools in California, as well as California's average charter schools and district schools. What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning 6

7 AVERAGE POINT Silicon Schools 15 Portfolio DIFFERENCE ON CAASPP 2015-2016 Top Quartile of 3 NUMBER OF California Schools SCALE POINTS THE AVERAGE STUDENT California -22 Charters SCORED ABOVE OR BELOW THE STATE STANDARD California -23 Districts FOR PROFICIENCY California Low -42 Income 0 THE DEFINITION OF PERSONALIZED LEARNING “Personalized learning seeks to accelerate student learning The emerging field of personalized learning has suffered by tailoring the instructional environment from a lack of a shared and clear definition of what — what, when, personalized learning is. This is not surprising given — to address the individual how, and where students learn the nascent state of the field and people's different needs, skills, and interests of each student. Students can take ownership of their own learning, while also vantage points on the work. Our core beliefs around developing deep, personal connections with each other, the importance of agency, equity, and students getting .” [3] what they need when they need it, inform our views their teachers, and other adults of what constitutes personalized learning. The Office To gain perspective more concretely of what we look of Educational Technology also shared a synthesis of for when we think about personalized learning, you can the existing definitions of personalized learning. The Personalized Learning Rubric access our evolving . [4] definition that rang closest to our view was: Comments https://www. [3] "A Working Definition of Personalized Learning." [1] Pane, John F., Elizabeth D. Steiner, Matthew D. Baird, and Laura S. documentcloud.org/documents/1311874-personalized-learning-working- Hamilton. "Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized definition-fall2014.html Learning." RAND. November 2015. https://drive. Silicon Schools Fund Personalized Learning Rubric, [4] [2] Pane, John F., Elizabeth D. Steiner, Matthew D. Baird, Laura S. Hamilton and Joseph D. Pane. "Informing Progress: Insights on Personalized Learning google.com/file/d/0B2ubnjLq02bVcjE1RmtJT1h2MUk/view Implementation and Effects." Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2017. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2042.html . 7

8 What We've Learned. 8 What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning

9 While we care about math and reading proficiency, we hope that personalized learning will do more than just raise test scores. Schools play other important roles too: teaching empathy, supporting democracy, fostering creativity, and helping create well-rounded students. Increasingly we see educators designing schools to right moment. Instead, we think it is important to create a balance between some personalized time address these varied goals. The best educators that we work with have figured out the power of the school where students might be tackling individual work in a modular way, and more social and collective learning design choices they make to maximize student learning. where students might work in more heterogeneous These educators make decisions about how to use settings. Intentionality in these decisions is key. When each minute of the day with intentionality. Rather than do students work on their own and why? When in assuming school should always run from 8 am to 3 pm, or that every subject should last fifty-five minutes, these groups? What is the right number of students to have in a group depending on the task? schools realize that making a schedule and organizing students into classes are design choices. By allowing Our work has led us to three key insights: educators to think differently, we’ve seen schools start to experiment with periods of flexible time during the Personalized learning should not mean isolated day, adjust class sizes that can vary depending on the learning subject or content, and create more opportunities for Students benefit from a mix of working in students to make choices that impact these decisions homogeneous groups at their own “instructional on a daily basis. level” and working in heterogeneous groups at Great schools also pull up to the 30,000-foot level their “developmental level” and consider how to integrate a student’s experience across a day and throughout the year. It is important Agency is important for all students to make connections between subjects and to think about the different modalities a student experiences across a day. But too often schools create chopped up days where every subject is distinct and every lesson stands on its own. In personalized learning contexts this can sometimes happen as a result of trying to “modularize” what students need to learn in hopes of being able to free students to move at different speeds and tackle information at the exact 9 Silicon Schools Fund

10 PERSONALIZED LEARNING SHOULD NOT BE ISOLATED LEARNING A few years ago, as our team was spending more time When schools buy into personalized in personalized learning schools, we were struck by something that made us a bit uncomfortable. The learning and shift to more independent schools were often very quiet. Students were heads- and small group work, they should be down working on their computers, doing work at their exact level. But we missed the rich social interactions and careful to protect enough time for social joy. Such an environment wasn’t what we wanted for our own kids, and it got us thinking about the balance of time and collaborative learning too. spent learning individually versus socially. Clearly software can be a powerful addition to the classroom, but students should not spend the majority of their time working independently on software. The goal of personalized learning was never to have students sitting alone on a computer all day long. Comments Peterson, Paul and Michael B. Horn. “The Ideal Blended-Learning [5] [6] Annotation 6: Steenbergen-Hu, Saiying, Makel, Matthew C., and Paula Olszewski- Combination: Is one-third computer time about right?” Education Next. Kubilius (2016). "What One Hundred Years of Research Says about the Effects of Ability Spring 2016, Vol. 16, No. 2. Grouping and Acceleration on K-12 Students' Academic Achievement: Findings of Two Second-Order Meta-Analyses." Review of Educational Research. Vol 86, Issue 4, pp. 849 - 899. 10

11 What percent of time should students be spending on and teachers to interact with each other, working on computers? Michael Horn and Paul Peterson surveyed communal tasks and interacting with communal texts. parents, blended learning experts, and teachers and When we walk through their school now, we hear a din landed on a range of 20-40% of the day [5] . None said of discussion—students conferencing with teachers and more than 50% of the day. We would tend to agree. with each other, students working in groups, students Depending on the school model, 20-40% of a day in a Makerspaces, and yes, sometimes students working devoted to individual work via a computer is consistent independently on or off a computer. We think this is with our upper bound, based on what we’ve seen in the right balance of personalization and communal classrooms and our analysis of the academic outcomes learning. We have come to listen for that productive that result from different models. hum rather than silence as an indicator of success. Across many successful personalized learning schools, we have seen how critical it is for students to learn through a variety of settings. For example, all students TIME STUDENTS SHOULD (especially English language learners) need to produce BE SPENDING ON a lot of “academic talk”. In a personalized learning COMPUTERS BASED ON school, students need opportunities for discussion with A SURVEY OF PARENTS, space for student voice and peer-to-peer conversations. BLENDED LEARNING Collaborative work also helps students navigate EXPERTS, AND TEACHERS relationships and teaches students to work with many different types of people. A few years ago, a school that we support concluded 20-40% that learning in their school had become too isolated— that the students were too quiet for too much of the day. They began to shift to more time for students STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM WORKING BOTH AT THEIR PERSONAL “INSTRUCTIONAL LEVEL” (WHAT THEY PERSONALLY ARE READY FOR) AND AT THEIR “DEVELOPMENTAL LEVEL” (OR GRADE LEVEL). Traditionally, schools sort students by age, not by Makel, shared that “most forms of ability grouping readiness to learn a given topic. In personalized can be powerfully effective interventions. They help learning settings, students are more often grouped so increase academic achievement for both lower- and that they can tackle the right material when they are .” We believe that students [6] higher-achieving students ready for it, regardless of age. A recent meta-analysis benefit most from a mix of these homogeneous “personal confirmed the power of grouping students so they instructional level” experiences and heterogeneous can work at their instructional level. Co-author, Matt “developmental level” times with their peers. 11 Silicon Schools Fund

12 For students at the top, time to work at an accelerated Two of the top performers on academic assessments in our portfolio are Summit Public Schools and Navigator speed allows them to feel challenged and learn more material. However, also having them in heterogeneous Schools. Depending on when you walk into one of their groups for part of the day allows them to benefit learning environments, you might see all of the students students who are struggling, while helping them wrestling with a concept at their developmental level or you might see groups of students working on topics that learn how to navigate diverse groups, which they will are grades above or below their age level. experience in college and the workforce. When we began this work five years ago, we focused most on meeting students at their instructional We should remember that the level, regardless of what grade they were in. However, distinction between students we have come to appreciate the value in students being exposed to a mix of on-grade level material in “at the bottom” and “at the top” heterogeneous groups as well as personalized work in more homogeneous groups. For students who is much more complicated are struggling, the mix can accelerate their progress, than it appears. ensuring they aren’t left behind and giving them time to shore up weaknesses and experience the rigor of working on-grade level. If we separate struggling Students often excel in some areas and struggle in students into purely homogeneous groups, we create others, and there are dangerous historical race and the downside of tracking – lower expectations that class issues at play in how we sort students through ensure students at the bottom stay at the bottom. tracking. For these reasons we are much more in favor of sorting students more dynamically and allowing grouping to be somewhat flexible based on what any student demonstrates on any given subject rather ESTIMATED MIX OF ON-GRADE than into fixed tracks. Lastly, but importantly, there OR DEVELOPMENTAL LEVEL are also broader social and communal benefits to all VS. ON-INSTRUCTIONAL students learning to work in both homogeneous and LEVEL. BASED ON OUR HIGH heterogeneous groups that benefit our democracy. PERFORMING SCHOOLS. We don’t yet have a conclusive answer on the exact right mix of time on-grade or developmental level vs. on- instructional level. But many of the higher performing schools in our portfolio seem to be landing close to a 50/50 split throughout the day. 50/50 12

13 AGENCY IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL STUDENTS that students have learned over years of traditional Caitrin’s son’s experience in a Montessori preschool classroom with a mix of three to five-year olds, gives schooling. If we focused on agency from the beginning, a glimpse into how capably younger students can we are inspired to imagine what students would be able to do by the time they reach the middle and high direct their own learning. Some days he choses to spend 60 minutes constructing a decanomial square school years. We have been particularly impressed to see a strong focus on student agency in the early (a conceptual representation of multiplication), and some days he chooses to polish metal and dust elementary school years at schools such as Lighthouse shelves. Within clear boundaries, he has the ability to Lodestar (Oakland), Urban Montessori (Oakland), make choices in how he spends his time. If the activity Khan Lab School (Sunnyvale) and Montessori for All is not available, he must choose another; if he hasn’t (Austin). With all this being said, there is still significant work ahead to determine how effectively to build had a lesson on the materials yet, he may not use ownership of learning in all students. There have been them; and if he isn’t using the materials respectfully, struggles in the past in Montessori schools for example, he must put them away. His teacher’s role is to keenly to ensure every learner, especially those who are observe his choices and the learning he demonstrates. When the time is right, his teacher may nudge him historically disadvantaged, succeeds. towards an activity that he should spend some more time on (like the movable alphabet). Over his years in We don’t believe providing the Montessori classroom he has learned both content and how to self-direct his learning. agency, especially to younger When educators redesign schools there is often buy-in students, is easy, but we are to the power of student agency but questions about what younger students are capable of. We hear claims asserting its importance in that students “are not ready for” independence or improving students’ long-term that high-stakes exams require teachers to drive the learning process. Interestingly, when we work with trajectories. educators in the upper grades who are increasing agency in their students, we hear how much effort they devote to “undoing” the passivity and lack of agency 13 Silicon Schools Fund

14 Where We Go Next. 14 What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning

15 Personalized learning has come a long way in the last five years and yet it still has a long road to travel to reach its full potential. There are three areas that require further focus: THE PROCESS OF STUDENT GOAL-SETTING AND REFLECTION How much does this approach unlock any intrinsic (or Imagine that you give Student A a basketball, point to a hoop, and say “throw this at the basket for 20 even extrinsic) motivation? minutes." Then you hand Student B a basketball saying, When students are learning on their own for chunks “free throws are critical in basketball--sometimes the of time, goal setting and reflecting on progress are difference between winning and losing. If you can critical for success. If a school creates a schedule improve your free throw shooting, you might win the where students work independently for five hours a game for your team. Last week, you averaged making week, would it be worth an investment of ten minutes 50% of your shots. This week, what goal do you want to per week for a student to meet with their teacher to set for yourself to practice towards?” set appropriate targets and reflect on progress against goals? Too often we see schools commit significant time Which student do you think would use their time more intentionally and improve more? Too often we see to independent learning without building in structured time for goal-setting. classrooms that look more like Scenario A. Students are told, “Spend 20 minutes of this software. Go.” How bought-in to their learning are these students likely to be? 15 Silicon Schools Fund

16 Further, we’d suggest that the process for goal setting The social sciences have learned a lot about what and reflection should be based on the considerable makes for effective goals and how you develop the academic research base on motivation, self-efficacy, meta-cognition to reflect on your progress. But we and learning sciences. For example, the advice given can’t expect teachers and principals to figure this out to Student B above is in part based on research that on their own. The examples of homemade goal-setting systems that we’ve observed in schools rarely include demonstrates that students persist through tedious tasks if they have broader social/communal purpose the elements that academic research has determined [7] . are key (identifying likely obstacles and how one will such as the team winning overcome those obstacles, for example). Of course, it is hard to build a bridge between what academics have Students persist through learned through research and what practitioners do in the field. We are optimistic in two areas, however. tedious tasks if they First, some organizations are explicitly tackling the have a broader social or link between academic research and teacher practice Character Lab, Carnegie’s Student Agency including the communal purpose. Improvement Community, and Transcend Education . Second, we see potential in this area for software products to build some of these goal-setting and reflection techniques directly into their programs. If researchers can inform how software thoughtfully asks students to set goals and reflect on progress, more classrooms will likely benefit from these approaches than if we were to attempt to train teachers and schools through traditional means. TWO FINDINGS ON GOAL SETTING FROM SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH (MCII). With MCII, students contrast their desired Self-Transcendent Motives: When students have goals that are not only outcome with the relevant obstacles that are in the self-directed (I want to be a doctor) but also self- way of achieving this future state. They then form transcendent (I want to help people), they are able implementation intentions ("if-then" plans) for what to persist through tedious tasks (like math problems) they will do when they encounter these obstacles to for longer than a student who has no goal, or just a overcome them. In a recent study, students taught MCII . self-directed goal improved their GPA, attendance, and their conduct [8] relative to students randomly assigned to merely positive thinking about their academic wishes . [9] Mental Contrasting and Implementation Intentions: Many goal-setting activities encourage students to visualize the future state they want to strive for. However, research has shown that this is not nearly as effective (and sometimes not effective at all), as when students go through a different process called mental contrasting and implementation intentions 16

17 PRACTICALLY, THERE ARE THREE AREAS THAT SCHOOLS SHOULD FOCUS ON AS THEY ARE FIGURING OUT GOAL SETTING: 1:1 MAKE TIME IN THE SCHEDULE Make time in the schedule for 1:1 goal setting and FOR 1:1 GOAL SETTING AND check-ins. These 1:1s won’t reliably happen if they CHECK-INS. are not built into the weekly schedule. Make 1:1 meetings effective and high-impact: put data in student and teacher’s hands ahead of time so they can be prepared. Provide students and teachers a thoughtful protocol to follow. Students and teachers can accomplish a great deal in ten minutes if both parties come in prepared and clear on the focus of the conversation. Give teachers the chance to practice goal-setting meetings, get feedback, and observe other more skilled teachers lead successful goal-setting sessions. Comments [7], [8] Yeager, D., Henderson, M.D., D’Mello, S., Paunesku, D., Walton, G. [9] Duckworth, Angela Lee, Grant, Heidi, Loew, Benjamin, Oettingen, M., Spitzer, B., Duckworth, A.L. “Boring but Important: A Self-Transcendent Gabriele and Gollwitzer, Peter M. (2011) "Self-regulation strategies improve self-discipline in adolescents: benefits of mental contrasting and Purpose for Learning Fosters Academic Self-Regulation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2014, Vol. 107, No. 4. implementation intentions." Educational Psychology, 31: 1, 17-26. First published on: 14 September 2010. 17

18 ALIGNED TRAINING AND SUPPORTS FOR TEACHERS Similarly, we should not simply ask teachers to do less Like students, teachers need “stand and deliver” teaching, but rather train them on strategies to use once they are freed from the front of a combination of increased the class. It is easy to quote the educational maxim agency and support if they are that teachers should be a “guide-on-the-side not a sage-on-the-stage." But what does a good guide-on- going to learn to effectively the-side do? How should teachers prepare the night before for lessons that will take place in small groups lead in more personalized rather than to the whole class? What are highest classrooms. leverage uses of a teacher’s time during a personalized learning class? At one school in our portfolio, the leadership team is building a rubric of “teacher moves” Returning to the goal-setting example, if we want for when the students are working independently. It teachers to learn how to effectively facilitate goal starts with basic monitoring (are students on task) setting, we should provide great examples along with and progresses to more advanced moves that require opportunities to practice and receive feedback. Too preparation, looking at data, running mini-lessons, or often we’ve seen administrators hesitate to observe intervening based on potential misconceptions. 1:1 goal setting meetings for fear of being intrusive. But at Khan Lab School, staff videotape their 1:1 sessions, give feedback to each other, and share positive examples across the faculty. What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning 18

19 “Personalized learning will not help students if they are working with content that is below their capacity. Rigor and personalization need to go hand in hand...it's easy for schools caught up in these sweeping changes to lose sight of what will really push student learning forward: high-quality, challenging, rich content [10] .” RIGOROUS, QUALITY CURRICULAR RESOURCES THOUGHTFULLY UTILIZED But teachers who have experienced both settings tell With leaders from across our portfolio of schools, we recently visited some of the highest-performing East us they prefer significant curriculum support— they Coast charter schools (Success Academies, Uncommon just want it to be high quality and want the freedom to make improvements. For example, when one charter Schools and Achievement First) to understand what was driving their success. One of the things that stood out management organization in our portfolio rolled out more was that teachers received strong base curriculum rather standardized curricular supports to their math teachers, than creating lessons from scratch. The base curriculum they worried about resistance to centralization. Instead, they found that their English Language Arts teachers were elevated classroom learning and discussion because the upset that they didn’t get the same curricular supports as teachers had used their prep time to intellectually grapple with the material. They had clearly thought deeply about the math teachers did. the material ahead of time, and it showed in the lessons. One challenge, however, is that much of the best As the schools in our portfolio discussed this, most curriculum being created by Achievement First, Success Academies, and others is built for classrooms that are more agreed that by providing high quality curriculum, traditional rather than personalized. We want personalized we could create more time for teachers to prepare for class by intellectually grappling with the classrooms to benefit from this base curriculum, but we material, analyzing student data, and planning don’t want to inadvertently push them back towards how to differentiate for students. The pushback we more direct instruction pedagogy. We are curious about sometimes hear on this topic is that teachers prefer how easily teachers can modularize this more traditional curriculum so that it can be deployed in more personalized to make their own curriculum, crave autonomy, and don’t want to teach someone else’s lessons. learning environments. Comments Gross, Betheny. "Beware the Iconography Trap of Personalized Learning: [10] Rigor Matters." Education Next, September 22, 2016. 19

20 Where We Go From Here. 20 What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning

21 With these learnings in mind, we propose six practices to guide our work in the years ahead: EMBRACE PROTOTYPING AND PILOTING AS THE FASTEST WAY TO LEARN WHAT WORKS. We have a strong bias towards action rather than a brand-new school opens its doors, only to find discussion on these matters. We have seen schools out that a fundamental part of their model is flawed. Instead of rolling out new software across the whole make huge progress when they commit to quickly school, we have seen schools thoughtfully test out and effectively testing out new ideas for personalized learning. In technology, this concept is referred to as new programs with a single class, look at the data, tweak implementation, and then assess whether it rapid prototyping, as championed by Eric Rees in “Lean should be used more broadly. Smart educators look Startup” as well as many others. The core idea is to for opportunities to test out new approaches when the build a minimum viable product version of any new stakes are lowest. Teacher sick days, for example, are idea, one that is just barely good enough to try out and see if it works. In schools, this can look like building a a great opportunity for administrators to test a new approach by taking over class for a day and deploying test for a new classroom approach or way to organize students and running a pilot for as little as a few days a model they’ve been working on. Maternity leaves, after-school time, break weeks, summer school, etc. to observe, collect data, and decide if the idea is all provide opportunities to embrace prototyping with promising. When launching new schools, prototyping is even more important because it allows educators greater risk tolerance. Prototyping new approaches to test out elements of their proposed models before and bringing them to scale, takes time and resources. the school opens. It’s so much better to make mistakes We, as funders, must find ways to support this work if we value it. and learn as part of a three-day pilot rather than once 21 Silicon Schools Fund

22 CREATE SYSTEMS FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT SO THAT SCHOOLS CONSTANTLY ITERATE TO BETTER OUTCOMES. Many people focus on innovation and design prior Great schools build the to the launch of a new school. But it is perhaps even more important to build the culture and systems within system to formalize an organization to consistently test, measure, and continuous improvement, learn on an on-going basis. Frameworks such as the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s devote enough resources, process help schools learn Continuous Improvement how to identify problems, test solutions, evaluate and make their schools true outcomes, and revise solutions. We rarely see schools get learning organizations. innovations right the first time out of the gate. This is an area where a bit of external support and training can go a long way, and we have seen real power in schools embracing approaches like Carnegie’s Continuous Improvement process to bring a rigorous approach to test out new ideas and solve problems. We have also seen the benefit of devoting a coach, administrator, or project manager to lead the improvement process within a school. What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning 22

23 ENSURE INNOVATIVE PRACTICES SHOW POSITIVE RESULTS BEFORE PROMOTING THEM WIDELY SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE “COOL” OR INTERESTING. We cannot tell you the number of times that visitors There is so much demand for new models and practices have asked (with the best of intentions) how they could in education right now that we worry about over-hyping innovation. We need to hold a high bar for personalized replicate a practice they’ve observed, without taking the time to first inquire about the outcomes. When it comes learning’s academic and non-academic outcomes for all students, in particular for disadvantaged populations. to scaling solutions, we think a balance is required between the desire to replicate and scale a promising practice and waiting for the prototype to unfold to We need to give new ideas ensure positive outcomes. We need to de-risk failure in education so that people are not paralyzed from acting, time to ripen and mature but we shouldn’t try to spread practices at a macro- before trying to scale them level until we have some evidence that they improve student outcomes. too broadly. BUILD BRIDGES TO ACADEMIC RESEARCH IN LEARNING AND SOCIAL SCIENCES. Cognitive science, psychology, and other learning to K-12 educators, while teachers and principals feel sciences are rapidly increasing what we know about too busy to find relevant research. We see promise in intermediaries who share the most applicable findings how students learn and how humans are motivated. As directly with educators as well as the potential for educators design new school systems, we should be building upon the learnings from this research. This has software products to incorporate some of the findings been a historically hard problem to solve, as academics of learning science so that students and teachers are often produce research that does not feel practical guided to effective practices. 23 Silicon Schools Fund

24 5 PAY ATTENTION TO CHANGE MANAGEMENT AND REALIZE THAT HAVING A GOOD SOLUTION IS ONLY HALF OF THE BATTLE. We regularly get asked, “Why don’t you just spread the the past innovations that failed to deliver on promises. The best leaders we see doing this work devote a lot best practices working in your top schools to all the of energy towards change management within their other schools in the country?" Unlike consumer tech organizations. We have seen frameworks such as or other sectors where winning solutions scale rapidly, Kotter’s 8 Steps to Leading Change education is a human endeavor, and change is hard. help organizations Teachers and principals have understandably built up become much more strategic in executing change. scar tissue towards new innovations because of all 6 PRACTICE URGENT PATIENCE. The transition to widespread personalized learning will that real personalized learning is ready for the masses not come quickly. Basic use of technology in classrooms because it still requires high quality human capital, willingness to endure initial challenges, and devotion is already happening quite broadly. However, the of significant mindshare and effort to be done well. changes that we’ve discussed in this paper towards There is a danger in trying to scale too quickly because much more student agency, effective differentiation, and radically new models will likely take more than if we do not have the right conditions, we run the risk a decade. We must move with urgency but not rush of worse outcomes, thus killing the innovation before it our efforts to reach scale. We have yet to see evidence has time to mature. What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning 24

25 "Five years of work has convinced us of personalized learning's potential. The work of the next five years is to deliver on its promise." 25

26 The next 5 years... We plan our work over five-year periods at Silicon It is with these challenges and Schools. In our first five-years we saw personalized learning transform from a niche concept to a solution opportunities in mind that that is intriguing educators all over the U.S. and we are excited to launch into abroad. In the next five years, we hope to support many more examples of innovative schools delivering our next five years of work in compelling student outcomes on the leading-edge of the movement. We hope to push innovation even partnership with so many of you. farther while laying the groundwork for scale so that others can replicate these models. Five years is both a long period of time and a very short amount of time. Five years from now, Caitrin’s son (and many other children) will be almost done with their elementary school experience. We feel the tension in our work between urgency and patience because we feel responsible to ensure that personalized learning lives up to its potential. Based on what we have seen over these past five years, we are cautiously optimistic about the power of personalized learning to truly improve our schools. And we are aware of how hard it is to embrace prototyping, build bridges to academic research, navigate change management, and balance urgency with patience. We would love to hear any thoughts or feedback at [email protected] If you are interested in opening a school like the ones described in this paper please reach out to us at http://www.siliconschools.com/apply/ What We've Learned: Five Years Working on Personalized Learning 26

27 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS to all of our partners that have made this Thank you We would also like to thank Summit Public Schools, work possible. In particular, we would like to thank Khab Lab School, Design Tech, Caliber Schools our past and present board members: John Fisher, and Alpha Public Schools for sharing images and stories utilized in this piece. Thank you to friends Michael Horn, Sal Khan, Ted Mitchell and Lisa who provided early feedback including Clair Clauson, Sobrato Sonsini. We would also like to thank our Michael Horn, Jeff Wetzler, and Emily Rummo. financial supporters who made our first five years of work possible and have enabled us to continue We have had the pleasure of working hand-in-hand forward over the next five years. Finally, a deep with a number of closely aligned partner organizations debt of gratitude and thanks to the schools we fund to find better ways to run schools and classrooms. and have the privilege of learning alongside. There are way too many to list individually, but your These schools ring the Bay and serve as inspiration partnership is one of the best parts of this work, and to educators and leaders across the country. you know who you are. College-Bound Language Academies Find your path and prepare for the future! Innovate Public Schools alpha public schools P e r s e v e r a n c e P r e p alpha public schools 27 Silicon Schools Fund College-Bound Language Academies Find your path and prepare for the future!

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