LEAP from the Era of Accountability to the Age of Personalization

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LEAP from the Era of Accountability to the Age of Personalization
By: Dr. Chip Pettit and Dr. Eric J Ban

In 2001, the passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act officially marked the beginning of the accountability era in American education. Among its other provisions, NCLB mandated an annual test of academic progress based on the administration of a standardized test and tied the funding and other administrative aspects of schools to meet the so-called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). As a result, educational leaders have been working to ‘claw their way up the mountain’ in the spirit of equitable college and workforce outcomes. In this era of accountability, standardized testing has been at the forefront in analyzing the inequities within our systems.

We have made gains in our quest to scale the mountain. The emphasis on data analytics has allowed us to zero in on student groups (socio-economic, race, gender, special education, language learners). This analysis will remain a part of every principal and superintendent’s work. We looked at what each of these groups of students needed to make educational progress towards testing outcomes. We grouped, created interventions, and brought educators together to examine student work in the context of ensuring more equitable testing outcomes. We began to make progress on our workforce pathways, being more intentional about career exploration and career and technical education. However, for the vast majority of our students, high school looked and ran like it has for the past one hundred years, where the student zip code is still the most powerful predictor of college and workforce success.

For the vast majority of our students, high school looked and ran like it has for the past one hundred years, where the student zip code is still the most powerful predictor of college and workforce success.

Then COVID hit and we slid back down the mountain and lost the modest gains we achieved while using our levers of accountability. Today, we have a choice to stay with the status quo and continue climbing to retain our position on the same inequitable mountain…using the same accountability-era strategies and the same limited tools we have been leveraging for the past 20-years. Or, we can take what we’ve learned and LEAP to a new age of personalization at scale.

LEAP – Leadership for Educational Acceleration through Personalization. At Duneland School Corporation, we believe we must emerge stronger to understand and support the personal journey of every Duneland student and family. How do we step into this new age with our community?

Portrait of a Duneland Graduate: We must engage our community to co-create a holistic portrait of a graduate. Chesterton High School graduates will demonstrate powerful and equitable outcomes on skills and competencies to include work ethic, teamwork, problem-solving, digital and financial literacy while completing at least the freshman year of college while earning a regionally market valued workforce credential in their career pathway of interest.

Digital Credentials: Students and families must own their data and build their narrative with new CLR (comprehensive learner record) technology. This creates a verified “Linked In” for students to market themselves for scholarships, college offers, internships and jobs. The school district’s role is to help them create a powerful and marketable narrative to open and secure equitable opportunities.

Case Management: There is no way to scale personalization without a CRM (customer relationship management) approach. Students must be placed at the center of the work and all data needs to be linked to that student record to help teachers, counselors, and administrators work as a team that supports each unique student journey. In this system, data is automated from many different systems (LMS – learning management system, SIS – student information system, etc.). When a student does not log in to their coursework for a day a critical alert is generated for the team of adults supporting that student.

Partnerships: School districts cannot do this work in isolation. College and university partnerships, workforce partnerships, community partnerships are all required to deliver on the portrait of a graduate. Every partner must write data to the CLR (comprehensive learner record) and that data flows into the CRM (customer relationship management system) so students see their performances in real-time along with every adult who is supporting that student.

Accelerated Pathways: To think that a traditional school district is going to completely change the core technology of teaching and learning overnight is not realistic. However, we can select critical milestones in the student journey like 3rd-grade reading, middle school math, and college and career readiness to demonstrate accelerated pathways with teachers who are skilled with personalized learning tools.

Improvement Science: The age of personalization makes improvement science possible with automating real-time data. What used to take days and dozens of spreadsheets to create, now is part of our professional DNA. We meet to look at personalized student data organized around the individual needs of students because we have stepped into the age of personalization.

As we enter into this new age of personalization, we will continue to leverage the lessons we learned in the era of accountability (skill-based instruction, mastery learning and leveraging student achievement on end-of-course assessments for post-secondary gain). However, we must become more accountable for the personalized success of every student. Our charge now will be to embrace the age of personalization and inspire every student and family towards the valued goals they have outlined on their journey to college and career readiness and attainment.

Dr. Chip Pettit is the Superintendent of Duneland School Corporation and Dr. Eric J Ban is the Executive Director of Economic Mobility Systems.

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