Personalized Learning in Connecticut: Working to Raise the Bar and Close the Gap

For Kathy Healy, the joy of teaching comes from seeing the process of learning unfold in the classroom.

“I enjoy watching students learn,” says Healy, a math teacher at Nathan Hale Middle School. “The AHA! moment, when they finally get it. That’s my passion.”

Healy is part of the instructional team at Nathan Hale Middle School that is reimagining how students learn math through personalized learning. Last year, the school launched Teach to One: Math for 6th grade students in response to a perennial national challenge. Each year, students enter middle school with different foundational math skills and teachers must provide them with customized instruction while simultaneously moving them through grade-level curriculum.

Nathan Hale students are seeing significant gains through the first year of implementation, outpacing peers around the country by 1.3 times in the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) from Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA). Now, the school is expanding Teach to One: Math to serve students in all grades beginning this year.

The progress mirrors district wide achievements across Norwalk Public Schools, which has made personalized learning initiatives central to the Connecticut district’s 2016-2019 Strategic Operating Plan. Year two of the three-year plan kicks off this week at Norwalk’s Convocation Day 2017, where 900 educators meet to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Joining them will be New Classrooms Co-Founder and CEO Joel Rose, who will deliver a keynote presentation on educational innovation and the future of personalized learning.  

“To develop citizens who can join an agile and adaptable workforce, we need innovative districts like Norwalk Public Schools to reimagine traditional learning models and meet each student where they are,” says Rose. “We’re thrilled to support Norwalk’s personalized learning initiative through our partnership with Nathan Hale, and it’s an honor to be invited to participate in Convocation Day 2017.”

A Partnership for Success

Meeting students where they has long been a priority for Nathan Hale Middle School, which is part of what made the school a good fit to implement a holistic personalized learning model. Teach to One: Math provides teachers with a curated bank of high-quality learning resources that match students’ skill levels and address knowledge gaps. Each day, it assigns individual students to at least one of nine instructional approaches, called modalities. An assessment taken the previous day determined each student’s customized lesson plan for the next day.

“We have different modalities, so the kids have the opportunity to learn a skill in different ways,” says Healy. “They could have a live lesson with a teacher, they could be learning with a peer, or they could be learning with a small group.”

Hear from Kathy Healy, other Nathan Hale Middle School educators, and New Classrooms’ Co-founders in this new video to see what Teach to One: Math looks like in action.

Principal Albert Sackey said that the shift toward personalized learning has led to unexpected benefits. The teachers appreciate the variety of each day and the opportunity to work more collaboratively with each other. Dr. Sackey said it also supports the school in ways that aren’t always visible.

“It does a lot of behind-the-scenes thinking that we don’t really have to focus on so that we can focus on teaching and learning,” Dr. Sackey says. “It’s been an incredible partnership.”

For more on Nathan Hale Middle School, check out our Geek Out Event page to hear directly from students. Be sure to follow @newclassrooms, @NCJoelRose, and @NorwalkPS on Friday, Aug 25, 2017 for live updates from Norwalk’s Convocation Day 2017.

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