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Closing success gaps with a comprehensive personalized learning approach

Indianapolis district enlists the expertise of Education Elements to transform instruction and redesign how we teach and engage our students

The span of abilities of the 13,000 students in the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township had been increasing over a period of ten years.

“One approach for all was failing to meet the needs of all,” says Ryan Russell, assistant to the superintendent for innovation and improvement. Teachers who used traditional pedagogical methods in the Indianapolis district were having significant challenges helping students succeed. With the introduction of the new learning standards, all educators needed to shift the way they were delivering instruction. “We knew we needed to call on people who had a track record of transforming instruction in a way that leads to real results,” says Russell.

A practical, informed approach

The consulting services of Education Elements fit those requirements. Education Elements works with districts to implement sustainable, personalized instruction that is based on design thinking through workshops, coaching, capacity building, PD and virtual support. Warren began working with Education Elements in January 2015. “As a team they are fresh and innovative,” says Dena Cushenberry, superintendent. “They are not about doing the business of education as it’s always been done. ” Education Elements helps make personalized learning a systemic focus, says Russell. The PD they provide goes beyond helping educators learn how to teach with a personalized approach. “Education Elements helped us communicate to the adults in our buildings that they too are learners who deserve a personalized approach,” says Russell. “The school culture has changed on every level.”

Decreased gaps, increased success

After an initial pilot with high school English classes, now all 250 K12 classrooms at Warren engage in some form of personalization. Schoolwide surveys revealed that 78 percent of teachers at Warren enjoy teaching more now that they have implemented personalized learning. Ninety-seven percent of teachers feel they are better able to meet individual student needs, and 80 percent feel their students are far more engaged. “Students reported they enjoy the opportunity to discover what they want to learn,” says Russell. “They have more voice and choice in their learning.”

The year before Warren educators began working with Education Elements, less than 50 percent of students were meeting their growth goals. Now, approximately 65 percent of students meet their growth goals. “We have also seen that student discipline issues are down,” says Cushenberry. “Teachers have the opportunity to build better relationships with students. They are transforming their classrooms to more student-centered environments. They help students move forward in different ways.”

Even with early success in implementing personalized learning, the team at Warren is dedicated to constantly improving. “As a district, it is really important we are always in a state of iteration,” says Cushenberry. “We make adjustments as we gain new information. There is never a time we think ‘We are done.’”

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