Education Elements, a Silicon Valley-based consultancy emerging as a national leader in the design and implementation of personalized learning, is out with fresh, forceful evidence that well-designed, effectively implemented, pedagogically driven personalized learning can yield inspiring educational outcomes.
Education Elements' new report, The Positive Power of Personalized Learning, details the academic, engagement, and organizational successes of the districts that have partnered with Ed Elements over the last several years, including the just completed 2015-16 school year.
The following results, from a subset of Ed Elements’ overall cohort of supported districts, are more than just directionally exciting, they are an opportunity for schools and districts to transcend mediocrity and incrementalism. Some of the highlights include:
- Educational outcomes accumulating over time. Several districts implementing personalized learning with Ed Elements support over three years saw an increase in the number of students meeting or exceeding growth targets on nationally normed tests: a 39% increase in math and a 33% increase in reading.
- Academic growth accelerating. Nearly 17,000 students in five districts achieved 142% growth in reading and 121% in math, when measured on the nationally-normed Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) by NWEA. In other words, personalized learning students gain more than a year’s worth of academic growth — catching students up, getting them ahead or moving them even further forward.
- Student engagement and self-directed learning increasing. Following a trend from last year, leaders in 11 districts overwhelming reported that the important precursors and sustainers of academic achievement — active interest and engagement with learning — is more prevalent in personalized learning settings. 85% of leaders said students were more engaged, and 75% said students were taking more ownership. (In a subset of districts, teachers were surveyed and reported similar observations.)
- Teacher satisfaction and perceptions of effectiveness improving. Ed Elements’ surveys of teachers found that 93% agree they are able to deliver more differentiated instruction, and 71% believe they are more effective in a personalized learning approach.
The Enlarged City School District of Middletown -- in its fourth year of partnership with Ed Elements -- is an exemplar district implementing a sustained and successful personalized learning implementation yielding breakthrough outcomes across all these measures. See here for more on Middletown’s exceptional and instructive experience.
It is worth pointing out, though, that these compelling data do not include all of the districts that Ed Elements supports. They acknowledge this in their report, noting that some districts do not yet have data available, not enough data, or not clear enough data to indicate the impact of implementing personalized learning. This provides confidence that the data are not simply cherry-picked for best effect, but a sensible summation of what is actually known and attributable to implementing personalized learning.
Ed Elements works with large and small districts with a variety of socio-economic characteristics; some districts have over 100 schools and one has only two. In particular, they are seeing larger districts embrace personalized learning. A great example of this is Loudoun County, Virginia, the third largest district in the state, which started its personalized learning implementation this school year.
A recurring question by some is whether personalized learning is another trendy technological fad, or a promising strategy that can produce positive outcomes at scale. The evidence presented in the Ed Elements report, while not yet definitive, provides compelling evidence that personalized learning, when implemented with fidelity and quality over time, can produce significantly positive academic, engagement and organizational results. The line between innovative practice and proven strategy is growing very thin.
Here’s hoping that Education Elements’ 2016-17 Impact Report shows even broader, deeper and longer lasting results as more schools around the country undertake this important work.