Numbers to Watch

We look at the proliferation of devices in U.S. classrooms that open the possibilities to personalization, and we give a snapshot of how one diverse school district is tracking its personalized learning initiatives.

Numbers to Watch

The personalized learning story—told by the very data schools seek to gather—is just beginning to be written. As schools chart their own pathways, they are grappling with how they should define success.

Should it be in the vernacular of the math and English/language arts assessment scores used in their state? Should it come from looking at measures of engagement by tracking the attendance or attitudes of students?

Whatever the measure, leaders of districts and charter schools that take on a personalized learning challenge may be reluctant to share their failures.

Still, reporting the data from early personalized learning initiatives is the only way to see what might work on a larger scale with a wider student population.

Although technology is not a prerequisite for personalized learning, many programs rely on educational technology as part of their personalized approach. Here, we look at the proliferation of devices in U.S. classrooms that open the possibilities to personalization.

And we give a snapshot of how one diverse school district—Vista Unified, in San Diego County, Calif.—is tracking its personalized learning initiatives, and how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is monitoring some of its investments in this area.

It will take more independent research for conclusions to be drawn about the real promise of personalized learning. For now, here are some of the early reports.

1-to-1 Computing

Adoption of mobile computing devices to reach 45 percent of U.S. pre-K-12 students and teachers by end of 2016

SOURCE: 2016 Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

Promising Evidence?

Over a two-year period, student achievement grew most in math and reading where personalized learning practices were used, compared to more traditional classrooms, according to a RAND study of initiatives funded by the Gates Foundation. The National Education Policy Center questioned whether the study contained “promising evidence” as claimed, noting only "limited evidence" of such promise. Still, the practice of engaging students in analyzing their own data was consistently related to positive outcomes.

SOURCE: "Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning," RAND Corp., 2015

Personalized Learning in Vista, Calif., Schools

SOURCE: Vista Unified School District

Expenditures in Personalized Learning Schools

Startup costs in 16 charter schools with designated personalized learning programs varied greatly, the Center for Reinventing Public Education found. Most of the spending in personalized learning schools was on salaries, facilities, and operations—not technology.

SOURCE: "Financing Personalized Learning," Center on Reinventing Public Education, 2016

Read the complete special report, Personalized Learning: The Next Generation.

Design: Vanessa Solis
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Coverage of the implementation of college- and career-ready standards and the use of personalized learning is supported in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2016 edition of Education Week as Numbers to Watch