By Sarah Wang
School districts across the nation have been investing incredible amounts of time and energy into furthering modern education reform, but Arcadia Unified School District (AUSD) has stepped forward to lead the way toward personalized learning for each and every student.
Personalized learning, an innovative, new campaign led by AUSD Superintendent Dr. David Vannasdall, has long been a goal of the district’s many teachers and educational leaders. However, the movement’s push to promote district-wide transparency, community involvement, and student feedback has seen much growth in its recent years — namely, at events such as special idea-sharing Board of Education meetings, Digital Education Stations, December’s Fireside Chat on the “changing landscape of education” and AUSD’s role in creating it.
In May 2017, AUSD utilized a thought-sharing platform called ThoughtExchange to facilitate community feedback and encourage student response to the then newly-introduced concept of personalized learning and the attributes of an ideal Arcadia graduate. The month-long survey registered 1,010 participants (139 of which, were students), 1,130 “Thoughts”, and 52,952 Stars, which indicate agreement on a Thought.
In early December 2017, AUSD released a comprehensive summary of the results of the survey. The report’s overwhelming amount of responses cumulated in five major principles that participants believed personalized learning ought to constitute:
With the advanced nature of the courses many Arcadia students seek to take, it’s no surprise that the district offers Advanced Placement (AP) and honors programs at its high school. However, only the mathematics department offers an accelerated track beginning in middle school, allowing students to advance up to two years ahead of the norm. Many participants voiced a strong interest in initiating accelerated programs for other subjects like English and science as well.
Class Size and Assistance
At a district renowned for its incredible academic achievements, it’s no wonder parents are relocating to Arcadia to secure a top-notch education for their children. As a result, Arcadia High School graduates nearly 1,000 students each year. Despite the record-breaking number of students per grade level, AUSD remains committed to their goal of keeping teacher to pupil ratios low (ideally 1:15-20) to allow for more in-class participation and closer interactions.
Each child is unique in his or her own way, and the same applies to their learning styles. Personalized learning aims to identify each student’s optimal learning style (auditory, visual, physical, etc.) and apply it in the classroom. By addressing each individual child’s specific needs, teachers can better help their students reach their maximum potential, both within the classroom and outside of it.
Students’ Current Skill Assessment
Periodic assessments of a student’s growth allow parents and teachers to evaluate a child’s current holistic standing, as opposed to the standard progress report updates. A student’s strengths and weaknesses can then be more accurately identified, which would ideally lead to targeted personal improvement.
Communication is the key to maintaining a healthy, active parent-teacher relationship and keeping students on track. Frequent updates help to ensure that parents will be notified as soon as problems or weaknesses are identified so that additional help can be arranged earlier on. Although PowerSchool is a means of checking a student’s grades and citizenship, brief email updates may offer more insight into the student’s true progress.
As for the ideal characteristics of an Arcadia graduate, participants agreed on five defining attributes and abilities: communication skills, critical thinking and problem solving, well-rounded and balanced lifestyles, persistence and learning through mistakes, and lastly, independence and responsibility.
As AUSD develops new internal strategies to address these new goals and principles, community members, parents, and students can look forward to innovative new classroom practices and add their contact information to the roster for future participation opportunities by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.