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Education Organizations Tout ‘Personalized’ Learning

by | Feb 6, 2015 6:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Education, Equality, Labor, Nonprofits

Christine Stuart photo Officials from three education organizations said Thursday that personalized learning is the key to improving public education in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, and the Connecticut Association of Schools released a paper that argues personalized learning should be adopted by school districts, but not mandated by the state.

“This is not something that can be mandated from the top,” Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of CAPSS, said. “You just don’t produce this kind of change by coming up with a formula, some cookie-cutter approach and tell everybody to do it.”

What is personalized learning?

Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools, said it’s recognizing that all children learn differently and it’s about helping them learn the way they learn best. For example, if a grade schooler is interested in dinosaurs, it’s giving him an assignment related to dinosaurs that allows him to demonstrate his abilities.

“Everybody wants to have the time they need to learn something and everybody wants to be taught in the way that they learn,” Cirasuolo said.

He said the paper the organizations released Thursday says they want to encourage that process.

But the largest teacher union in the state doesn’t believe this is a silver bullet.

“While we support the overall concept of personalized learning, it is not the transformational silver bullet public schools require, and everyone should be wary of rushing too quickly to implement it,” Connecticut Education Association Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said Thursday. “Personalized learning strategies should not be mandated by the state, but rather developed locally with parental, educator, student, and community input — and only with assurance that quality training, proper funding, and equitable resources will be in place.”

Cirasuolo said the group isn’t asking the state Education Department to mandate personalized learning. However, the paper identifies a number of barriers to allowing districts to voluntarily move in this direction.

One of those barriers is the way in which teachers are evaluated. According to the paper, the current teacher evaluation system uses grade-based student achievement as a primary way to measure teacher effectiveness. It suggests that an evaluation system based on evidence of student growth and and progress toward the district goals as a better measure of learning.

But in just one month the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests will be given to students throughout the state. The tests are new and as controversial as the Common Core standards they are expected to test.

Niehoff said the new SBAC tests actually allows teachers to give students a “formative” test when they think they’re ready for it. That’s in addition to the ones scheduled to be given during certain times of the year.

Patrice McCarthy, deputy executive director and general counsel of CABE, said the organizations see personalized learning as complementary to the new SBAC testing system and the Common Core standards.

“What we’re really saying is: How can we help each individual student make sure that they’re successful in meeting those new standards?” McCarthy said.

Cirasuolo said they’re not advocating against standardized tests, but “it’s how you use them that makes a difference.”

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(10) Archived Comments

posted by: ocoandasoc | February 6, 2015  1:19pm

You can always count on the CEA to throw cold water on any possible innovation in public education.

posted by: Linda12 | February 6, 2015  6:27pm

Every single minute of every single school day is personalized learning. It’s called listening to the children speak, reading everything they write, accommodating their strengths and weaknesses, advocating for their well being, caring for them as individuals. It’s called teaching. Stop with all the meaningless reformy jargon. It is embarrassing to our profession. CAPSS and CABE need to do more than repeat the latest slogans.

posted by: Dean2030 | February 6, 2015  8:34pm

CEA is doing a great job.  They support whatever works for the kids, they advocate that the teachers are getting fair pay and a fair work load for the challenges they face.

posted by: ocoandasoc | February 6, 2015  11:49pm

CEA does a great job… for their administrators and members. But not so much for the public school kids and their parents. If they were, public education in Connecticut would not be in the mess it’s in. The State’s urban school systems are now turning out a second generation of students who – in good part - can barely read, write, or speak in coherent sentences and are economically doomed for life before their 18th birthday. Any potential solution to the problem that doesn’t involve more money for more teachers (and, ergo, more union dues and political power for the union) is quickly dismissed, and then the CEA follows up with intense lobbying efforts among the legislators whose re-election campaigns they fund. In the immortal words of one of the great teachers union’s presidents, “I’ll start worrying about the school kids when they start paying union dues.”

posted by: Dean2030 | February 7, 2015  9:13am

Sorry oco, but I think you are wrong.  I am not sure you have even been in an urban school.  Students are given individualized lessons, teachers are given coaching for working with urban students, kids are given the opportunity for modified schedules, online courses and credits, field trips, connections with the communities all supported by the CEA or the AFT of Hartford.  Students are also given time with social workers, mentors, drug counselors, etc. whenever they need it.  All backed by the union.  Keep in mind as well, the CEA also represents teachers who teach in the top districts of Avon, Tolland, Glastonbury, and Farmington.  But teachers are blamed for student achievement as the students battle poverty, dangerous neighborhoods, language barriers, drug use, abuse, and racial and economic segregation through Connecticut’s town lines.  Again, oco the CEA works hard for teachers and students.  They just want any new program to have appropriate funding and follow through.

posted by: Politijoe | February 7, 2015  5:28pm


Your anti-union, anti-education, anti-science, anti-intellectual diatribe echoed from the anti-government wrecking crew is predictable if nothing else. However, The elephant in the conservative room is that students in affluent, well-funded schools do very well academically. In contrast the outcomes of students in low-income, racially isolated, poorly funded schools. This clearly indicates that broader challenges facing our public education system today are not unions or teachers but poverty. Studies have shown that a white student and a minority student, both from affluent schools achieve equal outcomes; therefore race is not the predominant problem. In contrast when an affluent minority student is compared to a low-income white student the outcome gap is significant. Not surprising when studied nationally, some of the poorest-performing schools were in the poorest neighborhoods.

The Civil rights project identified family background as the most influential factor in student achievement and established a correlation between the academic successes of parents with the academic success of their children. The results were that only 11% of children from the bottom fifth of earners obtain a college degree while 80% of the top fifth of earners obtain one. Family background also influences these outcomes. Parents from the middleclass and above also have social networks that prove to be more beneficial than networks based in lower classes. These connections help students gain access to the right schools, activities, interviews, funding, etc.. Minority students account for close to 40% of high school students, but they constitute just a quarter of students taking Advanced Placement courses and exams and just 20% of enrollment in advanced math classes. Just 68% of black students attend a high school that even offers advanced math courses.

So before you throw political grenades about unions, democracts, teachers and urban school systems, take Deans advice-visit an urban school, at the very least do some homework on the subject

posted by: ocoandasoc | February 7, 2015  8:00pm

Dean and Politijoe: I don’t know either of you so I won’t jump to any conclusions.  You might also find that a helpful tactic before you knee-jerk label someone as “anti-union, anti-education, anti-science, anti-intellectual” because you don’t like their comment. I attended an urban school as did my two children. I have taught in urban schools. I have belonged to two unions. I have been a consultant on education to State and municipal agencies and schools and served on the Governor’s school-to-career task force. I worked extensively for President Obama’s two campaigns and on the effort to pass the Affordable Healthcare Act. I authored the first draft of the Low Income Family Earners program which was later championed by the State workforce development folks and inspired the EITC municipal action campaign in many CT jurisdictions. I have many friends who are teachers and greatly appreciate and fully support what they do. (And nothing in my post here says anything to the contrary, or, for that matter, denies that economics is a key factor in the education equation.)
So spare me your dismissive attitude, the PR flak and the CEA union talking points.  I fully stand by my comments above. The leaders and administrators of the CEA have consistently put money and political power ahead of the interests of children, parents, and cost-effective public education.

posted by: Politijoe | February 8, 2015  9:17pm


Ocoandasoc:  I will admit based on the background and credentials you shared I may have submitted a knee-jerk reaction, however I based this reaction on your initial statement “public education in Connecticut would not be in the mess it’s in…..The State’s urban school systems are now turning out a second generation of students who – in good part - can barely read, write, or speak in coherent sentences and are economically doomed for life before their 18th birthday.”  

This immediately struck me as a typical conservative statement painted with the broad stroke of anti-union bashing. I’m sure you can understand, when you suggested all the states educational deficiencies are the result of CEA incompetence and campaign influence peddling, without once mentioning the economic disparities that contribute to long-term educational outcomes, it comes across as very one dimensional. I do apologize if I may have jumped to a conclusion regarding your sentiments. On this comment board there is an awful lot of short-sighted thinking with very little if any context.

With that said, I believe there is a larger discussion to be had with regards to organized labor. Their valuable role in our history, the marginalized role they currently hold and the future of working class labor and the middle-class. For what it’s worth, I do feel that labor unions have lost sight of the bigger picture and larger social issues of the day and probably with good reason….the big labor battles of the 20th century have been won and with the governments blessing, corporate America has basically eviscerated organized labor over the last few decades. However, there are new and important challenges that face the middle class and working poor that organized labor could champion if they had an inspiring leadership willing to take up the cause. 

posted by: Dean2030 | February 9, 2015  10:01am

Cost Effective Education?  Spending billions on magnet schools because the state of CT is too timid to take on the real Sheff sources of segregation which are town lines.  That is the unions fault?
How about thousands of hours added to school administrator’s job to do evaluations that are more bureaucratic than effective?  Is that cost effective or the unions fault?  How about the high amount of stress the evaluations cause that drive a high turnover of teachers and administrators in cities like Hartford or even in towns like Manchester?  Is retraining new teachers every year cost effective or beneficial to kids?  Is that the unions fault?
Is the states cost sharing program where state funds can only go to new programs instead of filling town budget holes good for kids?  Towns have to raise taxes in a time when taxes, foreclosures, and child homelessness are high.  Unions fault? 
And with all due respect with your resume oco, which one of Obama’s has worked as it was intended?  In the ACA, if people liked their plan they were supposed to keep it and plans were supposed to be about $2000 cheaper.  I thought that was supposed to be “a cost effective” program.
Again, the union I am a part of and the union officers I are open to new programs as long as they are fair to the work load of teachers and I am sure some of your teacher friends appreciate the role the union plays for them.
So spare me your dismissive attitude on teacher’s unions.  Take a look at the charter school’s which are supposed to be the models for the public schools.  FUSE in Hartford was full of corruption and nepotism while Capital Prep has a 100% college acceptance rate because it counsels students out early in high school that are not college ready.

posted by: Truth_To_Power | February 9, 2015  8:06pm

Politijoe: How does that crow taste? You must have forgotten your own words on these pages. YOu know, the ones where you accuse people of not knowing what they’re talking about or not caring to know. Or the ones about ‘knee-jerk’ simplistic reactions without taking effort to research.

I agree with what others have said about your posts here in the past: your consistently one-sided posts cannot be considered seriously when you obviously are unwilling to acknowledge that others have valid, honest, and well-thought out position even if they DO disagree with your ideas and beliefs.

I know, you did condescend a little and admit you just MIGHT be wrong but unfortunately, you had to toss in a ‘however’, otherwise known as a ‘but’. Maybe it’s time to get over yourself, dude.

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