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Personalized Learning Opinion

Bay Blends Advance Personalized Learning

By Tom Vander Ark — December 16, 2015 3 min read
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Earlier this month we visited seven Bay Area schools from ourelementary and secondary schools worth visiting lists. When it comes to innovation, the
Bay Area is a great place to see a wide range of schools doing great things. From public options for montessori to design thinking models that challenge
traditional school, we were inspired to see the options that are available for students in the Bay Area.

1. Urban Montessori combines the traditional student-centered strengths of Montessori with design thinking
and integrated arts. Near Mills College in southeast Oakland, Urban is an intentionally diverse school. It is the first (and only) public montessori option
in Oakland.

After several years of struggling through an unsupportive charter school authorization process, Urban benefited from a planning grant fromNext Generation Learning Challenges in Oakland (@NGLCinOakland) operated by theRogers Family Foundation, one of seven regional grant programs advancing next generation learning (see paper describing the NGLC program).

2. Blanca Alvarado Middle School. Alpha Public Schools operates two middle schools and a high school. Founded by

John Glover

in San Jose in 2011, Alpha schools prepare students in low-income communities with the knowledge, skills and character traits they will need to succeed in
college and career.

During our visit, we were looking to connect with

Jin-Soo Huh

, Personalized Learning Manager, he notes five areas of focus:


  • Strong relationships: Students develop strong ongoing relationships with their teacher who work closely with parents to educate and engage them as
    advocates for their child’s education.

  • Personalized learning training: Quality development and leadership opportunities

  • Smart technology: Quality content on the Education Elements platform with MAPS and MasteryConnect assessments.

  • Family college readiness: Students and teachers create, monitor and accomplish individualized learning goals.

  • Computer science & design: Computer science is not just an elective, students all have the opportunity to engage in at least one CS course.

  • Career preparation: High expectation, opportunities for collaboration and job awareness are embedded in the school experience.

3. Design Tech High School: If traditional
schools answered the needs of the industrial revolution, then d.Tech is working on the solution for the technology revolution we are in now. Design Tech High School, or “d.Tech” is using design prinicples to personalize the learning experience
for high school students in San Mateo, California.

4. Summit Prep: Summit Prep opened in 2003 as the result of
a group of Redwood City parents seeking a better high school option. Prep is flagship of Summit Public Schools, nine
intentionally diverse schools (with two more approved). Summit continues to be a lead innovation in personalized learning.

5. Rocketship Spark Academy: A pioneer in blended learning, Rocketship Education was founded by John Danner and Preston Smith in 2007. The San Jose-based network supports ten Bay
Area elementary schools as well as two in Nashville and one in Milwaukee. Rocketship will open a school in Washington DC and more in the Bay Area in 2016.
In southeast San Jose, Rocketship Spark serves 620 students transitional k through fifth grade, 78% qualify for free or reduced price meals. Almost 60% of
students are new to English.

6. Katherine Smith Elementary: Located in
a low income neighborhood behind a strip center in the Evergreen School District in East San Jose, Katherine Smith is a
great example of what happens when you have a dedication to community, a drive for excellence and an innovation mindset. They are now one of the few
elementary schools that are part of the New Tech Network--a national network of Project- Based Learning
schools--and projects are at the heart of how students learn as well as how the school connects to the community.

7. Epic Middle School: Epic is an innovative blended middle school with a game-based UI. Students embark on their own
“Hero’s Journey” (in the Joseph Campbell tradition) using points, badges, and levels to mark progress. In the tough Fruitvale neighborhood of south
Oakland, Epic features personalized STEAM learning in a modern space. Curriculum includes design thinking workshops where students propose innovative
solutions to complex problems. There is a clean makerspace and a place to make a mess.

For more see:

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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Saras Chung, center, her daughter Karis, 14, left, and her son Jaron, 12, walk up to Saras's workplace office in St. Louis. Karis and Jaron, who are attending school remotely full-time, are participating in personalized learning programs.
Saras Chung, center, her daughter Karis, 14, left, and her son Jaron, 12, walk up to Saras's workplace office in St. Louis. Karis and Jaron, who are attending school remotely full-time, are participating in personalized learning programs.
Whitney Curtis for Education Week