Arianna, a third-grade student, puts a thick binder on the shelf of the Chicago classroom, which records in detail her achievements as a student, strengths and goals, and some information about her personality. It describes her love of guitar and singing, and points out that she wants to improve her reading and master mathematical concepts faster. Her sister, Alanni, an eighth grader, also has a binder. It discussed her grades and standardized test scores, as well as her academic goals: talk more in math class and read text more carefully.
To some extent, binders are similar to individualized education plans or IEPs, and they are the core of education for students with disabilities. But Arianna and Alanni are not special education students. Every child in Belmont-Cragin's pre-K-8 school had a so-called personal learner profile. Introduction is part of the school’s acceptance of personalized learning, based on the belief that the teacher who teaches in the front of the classroom is not suitable for today’s students. Instead, students must be encouraged to learn at their own pace and tailor the curriculum according to technology and needs, which usually requires technology.
In recent years, personalized learning has become one of the most concerned trends in education. Driven by donations from Silicon Valley philanthropists, this teaching method has spread to classrooms across the country.
. As education leaders seek solutions to address the performance gap exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, some people are beginning to think of the idea that a more personalized approach can help schools better serve this year’s educational experience Completely different students. In the process, they are looking for inspiration in special education. Since the passage of the federal government now known as the Federal Disability Education Act in 1975, the act has provided students with disabilities with special services and accommodation to help them reach their full potential. .
"Can you imagine the power of a personalized education plan for each student?" New York City Secretary of Education Richard Carranza (Richard Carranza)
Discussing his institution’s plan for new tools to help students recover the learning they lost during the suspension. "Just consider identifying the explicit skills that students need to learn, and our plan to help them master that explicit skills."
But there are many reasons to be cautious. If anything, special education presents a huge challenge for personalized education. Learning tailored to meet the exact needs of students requires a lot of resources, teacher training, and, ideally, close cooperation with families. This is a goal that many schools strive to achieve. Although the comparison between the two educational methods has limitations-special education is required by law, and personalized learning is a loosely defined teaching philosophy with various forms-some defects in personalized learning and special education faced Is a little different. For example, both types of education require a lot of resources and well-trained staff, but they often get nothing. Schools that introduced personalized learning have faced criticism for relying on technology to help children learn at different speeds in the same classroom because the district has avoided a substantial increase in the number of employees. Long-standing staff shortage
. At the same time, despite all the publicity surrounding personalized learning, there is still very little evidence of its success.
"The school system and schools have been working hard to deliver on the promise of special education," said Betheny Gross, deputy director of the non-profit Reshaping Public Education Center. "It's not just a matter of accepting the principles of special education and implementing them on a large scale."
Currently, there are about 7 million students, or
Of public school children have received special education nationwide. As advocates of personalized learning continue to advance plans to promote their methods to more American school-age children, it is worth considering how the lessons learned from 45 years of education for disabled students can help shape this latest educational experiment.
One morning in 2019, nearly 40 educators gathered in a commercial building on the Chicago Riverfront that houses LEAP Innovations' offices. LEAP is a non-profit organization that aims to train schools and teachers to use personalized learning in the classroom. As alumni of the plan, for these Chicago public school teachers, the career development on this day is refreshing and can strengthen their teaching practice, share ideas and return to the newly inspired classroom.
Chicago has largely embraced personalized learning. In early 2018, Chicago Public Schools and LEAP received a $14 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to train teachers and principals in personalized learning. (CZI is one of the many donors of the "Hessinger Report.") The grant fund provided 35 city schools with two and a half years of professional development and guidance training through LEAP, the district's technology and classroom resources.
It is planned to bring personalized learning to 150 Chicago schools by the end of 2021. At the same time, part of the funds is used for LEAP to help train principals and teachers of more than 100 schools in the Chicago area for personalized learning.
After a morning seminar, the theme is to help students solve problems, teamwork and design learning goals, and then the teachers will have lunch on that day in 2019 and meet at the big table. On a table, the conversation becomes the pain of changing the course from the traditional "sage on stage" teaching model. In the traditional "teaching on stage" teaching model, the teacher stands in front of the classroom while listening in front of students , Turn to a student-centered personalized model.
"We started this process five years ago, and all I can think of is:'Oh my God, this is going to be a nightmare!' Because I think it means that in addition to everything I have done, I will Create an IEP for each student," said Kathleen Bourret, a teacher at RH Lee Elementary at the University of Chicago K-8. Southwest. "I don't have this kind of shifting mentality. I have been teaching for 30 years, what will you let me do now?"
Chris Liang-Vergara, who was the leader of LEAP learning innovation at the time, said that Bourret's personalized learning curve is very typical for teachers. LEAP personnel try to alleviate this situation by attracting past peers (such as the group of the day) to communicate and continue to share ideas and inspirations.
"There are definitely not always rainbows and sunshine," Liang Weijiala said. "It's important to be honest and truthful. You won't say: "I will do personalized learning and it will become beautiful. "As a professional, your child has undergone a real transformation in the classroom, and this transformation process takes time."
The change of mentality involves changing from a curriculum-centric and benchmark-oriented teaching model to a student-centered approach, which requires differentiated teaching based on children’s interests, strengths, weaknesses and backgrounds. With the help of cooperative teachers or one-on-one, students usually work in small groups and teach according to their skills and abilities. In theory, their progress will be closely tracked, and their goals and tasks will be constantly updated to meet their needs.
To teachers of special education, most of them sound familiar. As part of the job, special education teachers will evaluate students and develop a teaching plan based on the skill level of each student. They teach students in class and one-on-one or in small groups. They work with school service providers such as vocational, physical, and speech therapists to collect a lot of information and write IEPs, which usually run more than a dozen double-sided pages and ideally provide details about your child’s strengths Documentation, weaknesses and goals.
However, teachers are often not prepared to do this work, nor do they receive the support that schools and districts need, partly because special education is
. Educational researchers say they may have difficulty assessing students’ abilities and needs.
Teachers in special education are often very tall. The paperwork involved can be onerous. All this shows that for personalized learning to be successful, it is necessary to emphasize supporting teachers and investing in their professional development, education experts say.
"When you get a master's degree in special education, will you know how to teach every child with various disabilities? Absolutely not," Megan Benay, senior country director for data systems and strategy at Great Oaks Charter Schools (a network of charter schools) Said that the network is committed to preparing children for college through personalized counseling. "As far as I know, the only way out is to figure out how to invest in our employees and how to invest in ongoing professional learning, so as to provide practical and applicable research-based training for our educators in their daily practice. This is difficult. , Because the reality of teaching is that you are in class every day, every day you are planning a class, calling your parents, and you are writing a class. Oh, and then you have to figure out how to fit lunch somewhere there."
Ace Parsi, a senior consultant at Equity Journey Partners and former director of innovation at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said that if school districts do not invest in teachers when they shift to personalized learning, they will definitely fail. "It’s not that educators don’t want to try personalized learning. But it’s a fragile feeling. When you try to implement this new feature, you’ll feel like: "Oh, my goodness, how do I provide these students with Help, I just don’t have enough skills to do this,” he said. “It’s a real responsibility to establish a real education system in the school district and the state. The system can meet the needs of educators and enable them to serve all Children implement personalized learning. "
The principal of Belmont-Cragin, Stacy Stewart, is a school located on the northwest side of Chicago, where Alanni and Arianna are enrolled. He heard that teachers compare personalized learning with the IEP that promotes special education. Stewart said: "My teacher said: "It's almost like all our students have an IEP-certainly not formal, but each of them has a personalized plan." "It's always developing; it's a Very vivid document."
However, Stewart cautions against creating too direct parallels between the IEP and the individual learner’s description of their school usage (also called a personalized learning plan). IEP is a strict legal document, not written for students, but for teachers, parents and lawyers. She said that the purpose of individual learner profiles is to allow parents to participate in their children's learning, while also allowing students to better control their education. In her school, students lead learner meetings at least twice a year to introduce their parents to their progress, goals and challenges. This is different from an IEP meeting hosted by an adult.
Stewart began to accept personalized learning even before the Chicago school district began to conduct personalized learning. A few years after joining Belmont-Cragin in 2010, she turned to ways to help close the school’s performance gap. The school’s students are mainly Hispanic and low-income people, approximately
Of students are English learners.
So far, the effect is great. During the 2015-16 to 2018-19 school year, the reading level of standardized "Academic Achievement Tests" for third to eighth graders rose from 35% to 65%, and the math rate rose from 30% to 66%. The growth of students in reading and mathematics is much higher than average: reaching the 95th and 98th percentiles respectively. Between the 2014-15 and 2017-18 school years, the teacher retention rate rose from 60% to 90%.
There are many aspects to personalized learning in schools, some of which are reminiscent of special education. One is to involve families in the learning of their children. In special education, according to the law, the opinions of parents and the advice of educators and therapists must be accepted
. Stewart said that she found that parental involvement has always been the key to student learning because it allows teachers to understand students’ needs more deeply and parents become partners in their children’s education. But she is not limited to arranging meetings in the office.
On a working day morning in front of the school building closed by the pandemic, students gathered in an aging auditorium for daily morning meetings. A student read the morning announcement in English, and her partner made the same announcement in Spanish. The audience cheered, cheered, cheered to the pupils in the whole school, plus more than a dozen parents, some of whom were walking around with toddlers.
A few years ago, Stewart and her team started encouraging their parents to attend morning meetings. Her colleagues also began to "take your parents to school", inviting parents to enter the classroom to see how their children learn. They created a parent leadership team and trained parent mentors who visit students in class. Before the pandemic, Belmont-Clarkin also sent teachers to participate in the "compassion walk". They spent a whole day with the students at home in the early morning, then traveled with them to school, and then returned home to watch See how it unfolds at night. Stewart explained that this is important because it can help teachers gain a deeper understanding of the factors that motivate students, so as to better guide them in meaningful learning.
Even the Belmont-Cragin classrooms can be personalized according to the needs of students. Some lighting is softer-flashing holiday lights replace flashing overhead lights. Seating ranges from bean bags to structural armchairs. Students can choose to study alone in a quiet work space near a lava lamp or bubbling fish tank, or they can choose to sit in groups and study at tables.
Gross of the Innovation Public Education Center said that one way special education has problems is to become too compliant, and teachers are struggling to meet the legal and documentary requirements of the system. She said: "The compliance requirements are very strict and numerous, and it is easy to fall into the compliance mindset." Schools that successfully educate children with disabilities must not only comply with the law, but also find the best service for each student. method. She said that the same spirit will be the key to solving personalized learning.
At the same time, educators across the country have found that if they do not rely heavily on technology (for better or worse), it is almost impossible to conduct personalized teaching. Otherwise, the burden of having children learn at different speeds in one classroom is too heavy. Sean J. Smith, a professor of special education at the University of Kansas, said: “I find it difficult to find an area for personalized learning, and technology is not two or three things they do.”
John Pane, a senior scientist at the research organization RAND, said: "Ideally, every student will have a teacher, but this is impossible." "It's too expensive." This is the technology tool. It is useful for children to learn at different paces and focus on different goals in the same class.
CICS West Belden (KICS West Belden) is a pre-K-8 school attended by Stewart Elementary School, not far from the University of Chicago’s International Charter School network. It began to reconsider its teaching model about six years ago. School director Colleen Collins said that the school initially started with blended learning, a teaching method that aims to combine online and traditional face-to-face learning. Since then, Collins and her teachers have been collaborating with LEAP after receiving several grants (including a $100,000 technology program grant and a breakthrough school next-generation learning challenge personalized learning grant). Start personalized learning for each grade.
In the eighth grade science class before the pandemic, students were grouped on various workstations. Some sit on stools around high stools, some work on traditional classroom chairs next to regular tables, and others work on standing tables. Every student is interested in the Dell Chromebook using summit learning software, a widely used online learning platform developed by the Chartered Web Summit Public School with the help of Facebook software engineers.
Since the sixth grade, students David Diaz and Emani Torres have been using Summit software at CICS West Belden. They sat side by side at a two-person table, facing the bulletin board on the other side of the classroom, each completing different courses at their own pace. A little yellow rubber duck sits on the table between them. This is a stressful toy, suitable for students to consume energy by squeezing cute things when they need it. Torres and Diaz described their feelings about using Summit learning software as a love-hate relationship.
Diaz said: "I like working independently, I can really surpass myself." His eyes are glued to the laptop, and the screen is full of articles entitled "Creating Dramatic Tension."
On the other hand, Torres said she missed a more traditional way of learning. Frankly speaking, this is a lot of pressure. There are too many deadlines and there is still a lot of work to be done," she said, biting her lip. "But I think this does involve you. "
Belmont-Cragin's eighth grader Alanni also uses Summit and other online platforms. She said she is tired of all the time spent in front of the computer. She said: "I prefer to work on paper, because it really hurts my eyes, and makes you sleepy on the computer for such a long time, and is not motivated." Alani said that sometimes teachers will pass from The computer program prints out the lesson plan and allows her to complete the lesson offline to accommodate her.
In recent years, Summit has caused protests from parents and students in many places.
They worry about long screen time and other problems. It remains to be seen to what extent the pandemic and distance learning will affect the interest of students and educators in screening time and the new technological tools that may help lagging students catch up with new technologies. Smith and other researchers say that the quality of technology depends on how schools choose to use it. He said that technology should complement rather than replace.
At CICS West Belden, Principal Collins said that the school has never introduced new concepts to students through technology. She said: “The best experience for children every day is to interact with group teachers according to their own identities.” “Technology makes a lot of personalized learning possible. It can help us pay close attention to progress, but this should not be a daily routine for students. Main experience."
At the same time, despite the similarities between personalized learning and special education, educators are still trying to explore new ways to effectively provide services to students with disabilities. It is hoped that the full implementation of personalized education will bring huge benefits to students receiving special education. Education experts say that by helping educators realize that there are no so-called "normal" or "typical" students, and that differences in the brain are normal, personalized learning may stigmatize and improve the education of disabled students.
Laura Stelitano, associate policy researcher at RAND, said: “It’s incredible that the universal integration movement for students with disabilities has been trying for some time.” “But, to put it simply all Students with disabilities must be included. This is a bit different from saying that all students have unique learning styles and learning needs to be tailored. It may require a step forward."
In some schools, this seems to be happening. The Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School, which serves middle and high school students in New York, has accepted personalized learning. At the same time, it has earned a reputation for serving children with disabilities-rare among charter schools, which is often the case.
Introduce students with complex learning needs.
Eric Tucker, co-founder of Brooklyn School, said: “As a learner, my knowledge is very uneven. I firmly believe that we need to design in a way that can take advantage of the content provided by special education. And operating the school. Founder. "This means carefully considering how we process information, how we learn, how to fill the gaps in language acquisition and processing, and at the same time strive for a certain level of rigor and tolerance for all young people to Reflect their true ability. "
For example, in a school, every student, regardless of academic qualifications, receives two hours of group guidance every day. This has a double benefit, that is, it can help lagging students not to let their peers see it, and it can also enable teachers to help students with excellent grades to learn more deeply. It is said that this is a kind of straightener that can build confidence for disabled children, who are traditionally either pulled out of the classroom to receive special services or receive "push-in" support under the guidance of therapists and special education teachers. Tucker.
However, to realize the promise of improving the education of children with disabilities, personalized learning still has a long way to go. Parsi, a consultant who has worked at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said that because states implement personalized learning, children with disabilities are often ignored. When NCLD
He said that in Colorado, North Carolina and New Hampshire, researchers found that "a lot of modifications are underway." "They will say,'We are doing personalized learning for everyone,' and they will do it in the most versatile way. Implement it. Then they will realize, "Oh my God, our disabled children are not doing better, they are actually still struggling. "
Passy said this can be traced back to the idea that schools and the school system did not spend enough time to ensure that general education teachers have the skills to meet the individual needs of students, including children with disabilities. At the same time, he added: "Special educators have not received training and cannot carry out this more personalized and in-depth learning method. The two do not cooperate."
what can be confirmed is. Nevertheless, advocates and researchers of personalized learning still hope that the best models will continue to emerge, and that personalized methods can eventually avoid some of the drawbacks of special education and promote learning for all. RAND’s Stritano said: “If we build a [education] system tailored for all students, we are more likely to get high-quality special education.” “The system only needs the right resources. And correct teacher training."
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