Every Student Succeeds Act: Deeper Learning, Personalized Learning

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

This is the time of year when building principals begin determining their master schedules for the upcoming school year.

Jobs are posted, interviews are conducted, new teachers are hired, and teachers start to put plans in place for the next school year.

Teachers begin reflecting about what adjustments they want to make to set up for a new group of students.

Several days and hours will be spent rearranging classrooms, planning upcoming units, hanging posters and other inspirational items, and putting the final touches on beginning-of-the-school-year activities meant to build relationships and class culture.

Teachers are faced with the challenges of building relationships, teaching standards, and ensuring that the learning needs of each student are met.

Truly understanding the needs of each student is time consuming and requires sufficient and effective professional development opportunities for teachers to build their knowledge and skill set to address these needs.

ESSA and State Standards

ESSA requires states to have academic standards in reading, language arts, mathematics and science that “align with the entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the state’s system of public higher education and with applicable state career and technical education standards.” In addition to these standards, states are required to continue standardized testing.

Teachers are faced with the challenge of teaching the higher-order thinking skills students need to meet the standards. Because each classroom and each school is different, getting to know students and their individual learning needs allows teachers to differentiate their content and lesson activities to help all student receive the education they need to meet or exceed standards. Ensuring each student has the tools needed to be college and career ready requires adequate assistance by teachers, school leaders, districts, and states.

ESSA and Deeper Learning

The energy at the beginning of the school year transforms as teachers start to know and understand their students. The excitement changes from initial anticipation activities to problem-solving tactics enlisting the collective power of teachers to predict, reform, and adjust their teaching practices to address the needs of students in their individual classrooms. The mindset of students also changes as they determine how the content is relevant to them and how they are going to meet the expectations their teachers have of them to be creative and think critically.

ESSA provides support for states and districts to promote deeper learning through several means, including personalized learning opportunities. Deeper learning consists of “the delivery of challenging academic standards to students in innovative ways that allow them to learn, and then apply what they have learned.”

One way to support deeper learning is through personalized learning, which “emphasizes (1) developing trusted and caring relationships between teachers and students; (2) connecting learning to the real world; (3) linking curriculum to students’ interests, strengths, and aspirations; (4) providing students individually targeted instruction, practice, and support where they are struggling; and (5) creating more flexible learning environments.”

The outcome of providing personalized learning to elevate deeper learning is building equity by preparing all students regardless of their race, gender, background, and socioeconomic status with the skills they need to be college and career ready by the time they graduate high school.

The support ESSA provides is through Title I and Title II funds. States can use up to 3% of their Title II funds to support building leaders and principals by “developing high quality professional development programs.” States can use up to 3% of their Title I funds for “direct student services” helping students receive personalized learning services advancing their coursework through a variety of means to prepare them to be college and career ready.

Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  1. How are your schools and districts promoting deeper learning through innovative practices?
  2. In what ways can personalized learning opportunities help students grow as learners?

dr-john-helgesonDr. John Helgeson is a Secondary ELA Curriculum Specialist in the Northshore School District in Washington State. He is a member of KDP’s Public Policy Committee.

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