Dawn, Principal at Cleveland Elementary School

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To empower educators to provide the personalized, competency-based, and student-centered environments we seek for students, they need to first experience and truly understand it for themselves — and that’s the purpose of a new body of work that just kicked off at Cleveland Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Through the project, which launched in August after a year piloting the process with six lead educators, each Cleveland teacher is identifying a problem of practice based on the school’s vision and areas of instruction they want to improve. Teachers then will design personalized learning pathways composed of a range of learning experiences, content, and skills they’ll need to gain the competencies necessary to meet their goals, which they will demonstrate through authentic evidence. (No standard assessments here!)

Why do this work?

“In order for personalized, student-driven learning to work with our kids it first has to become a reality in our school for our teachers. They need to know what they are doing and how it feels. Really great educators have a keen insight of what they are good at and where they need to grow, and this practice lets them choose what they are learning and lets them go at their own pace.”

What are you hoping for this year?

“I want our teachers to transform and become facilitators of learning with our kids doing more of the heavy lifting of learning. Through that, I hope student agency will develop in a deeper way because we’re putting kids in charge in the classroom. If students know where they are and where they need to go, and they are motivated to get there, they are going to work harder, do better, and go farther. That’s the big thing I’m hoping to get out of this experience. Our student success data is not bad. We’re already good, so why do we need to make changes? We still have 30 percent of our students that we’re not reaching and we have kids that could do more than they are doing. That’s why.”