SCV35 Personalized Learning

SCV35 Provides Educators With Lessons Learned During The Shift To Personalized Learning
Posted on 03/03/2023
On February 16th, Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35 (SCV35) welcomed more than 60 educators to the SCV35 Inquiry Lab where they showcased various ways in which they have begun shifting towards a Personalized, Competency-based Learning model of instruction. Known as PCBL, personalized learning seeks to measure each student against state standards and to focus feedback on how well each student has learned the material.

PCBL offers students options on how they can demonstrate their learning, so traditional mechanisms such as quizzes and tests are no longer the only method. Also, PCBL grants students more flexibility on when and where they can learn the material. SCV 35 has taken advantage of recent state legislation known as Instructional Time Models to create flexibility in the daily schedule that allows students to learn in environments outside of the classroom. Visitors saw some of these shifts in action as they toured all five school sites and selected two of six small group sessions that explained in depth various components of the SCV35 journey. During lunch, all visitors listened to a student panel discussion with students from elementary, middle and high school explaining how PCBL has impacted their learning thus far.

Adelyn Bacon, an 8th grader at Coatimundi Middle School stated,“I feel that I fully understand the topic more and it’s more clear. I also find that I retain the information a lot better than traditional learning because I’m using methods that work for me, and not just the teacher standing up there teaching and handing out homework.”

Four years ago, the Center for the Future of Arizona invited SCV35 to learn more about PCBL by traveling to Marysville, OH and tour some schools there. That trip proved instrumental for the district’s academic vision. “I’ve been to quite a few conferences and visited plenty of schools over the past 20 years,” stated SCV35 Assistant Superintendent
for Teaching and Learning Stephen Schadler. “But nothing spoke to me so directly as that one visit. There was quite a lot I did not understand right away but I know intuitively that this model was what our students needed.”

From that trip, SCV35 became a founding and active member of the Arizona Personalized Learning Network (AZPLN), a consortium guided by the Center for the Future of Arizona in partnership with KnowledgeWorks, an education consulting company based in Ohio. District leaders and teachers have attended multiple convenings since then while also visiting districts in Wisconsin and Ohio to learn strategies for shifting to a more equity-based educational system in which all students thrive through their own potential. Systemic changes underway include rethinking grading and assessing systems, flexing bell schedules and seat time, feedback delivery systems to students and parents, and even furniture within the classroom. With each change, teachers and leaders absorb research, debate within the AZPLN, and dialogue with multiple local stakeholders before recommending the changes necessary to facilitate greater alignment with student and community needs.

“As schools and students recover from pandemic-era learning disruptions, [PCBL] remains one of the most effective, research-based academic models to meet all students where they are, accelerate them to where they need to be, and ensure they are in the driver's seat of their own education,” said Peter Boyle, the Director, Educational Leadership & Innovation, Center for the Future of Arizona. “Based on the positive results we're seeing in partner schools and the demand from schools, districts, educators, and families across Arizona for transformative models like those adopted in SCV #35, we see PCBL as becoming a primary instructional methodology across the state within the next few years.”

How transformative will this ultimately be?

In the past, every student in a given classroom would experience more or less the same education - the same curriculum, at the same time, at the same pace, and at the same place,” explained Boyle. “This ignores the tremendous diversity of our students, in terms of their interests, needs, and abilities. With high-quality support for implementation from national and local thought leaders like KnowledgeWorks and the Center for the Future of Arizona, we see PCBL as a truly transformative way to shift our educational system from one built in and for the nineteenth century to one the meets the needs of all students and the demands of a dynamic twenty-first century world.”

Those attending the Inquiry Lab include representatives from the Arizona Department of Education, the Center for the Future of Arizona, A for Arizona, the University of Arizona and district representatives from Yuma Union High School District and the Amphitheater School District in Tucson. Also, the entire Executive Board of Knowledgeworks traveled to Rio Rico from Ohio to lay witness to the work being done. The Mesa Unified School District,although an AZPLN member district, was unable to attend.

“It is always great to reinforce the why and this site visit does exactly that. Every member of the SCV learning community we interacted with, from the Calabasas Dad securing the parking spaces, to the parent volunteers welcoming us, to the littles and middle and high school kids, to the campus leaders, teachers, support staff, and your TLA (Teaching, Learning, and Assessing) team showed us in action and attitude what it truly means to belong to a community that puts its children first.” Robin Kanaan, Knowledgework.