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The Metropolitan School District of Warren Township: Personalizing Learning by Redefining Where and When Students Learn

Serving over 12,000 students in Indiana, the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township’s mission is to prepare its students “to be self-directed learners who are literate, creative, curious, civic-minded citizens who do meaningful work in school and life beyond school.” As part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) initiative, Warren Township was awarded $29 million to provide its students with a more robust and equitable education, including the 75% of the student population that comes from low-income families, by purchasing and implementing new educational resources. Inspired by what Warren administrators and teachers saw while visiting fellow RTT-D grantee Middletown City School District in New York, Warren Township developed a comprehensive plan for implementing personalized learning by prioritizing blended learning in the classroom and beyond.

At the heart of the plan was Warren Township’s decision to provide its students with voice in how, when, and where they learn. In the classroom, this meant that teachers’ lessons would be adjusted based on student feedback, student discussion would become more prevalent than the teachers, students’ choices would increase in rigor and complexity of task, and students would participate in creating a plan for their own learning. To achieve this level of student agency, Warren Township chose to implement a variety of strategies, including deploying a district-wide system to collect and organize student performance data for use in data driven decisions, small group instruction, integrated digital content, and student reflection. Another strategy was to convert devices into individualized active learning tools by allowing students to conduct online research, collaborate online, and make multimedia presentations. In a student and teacher satisfaction survey administered in May 2016, 72% of students felt their teachers knew them better, 80% of teachers felt students were more engaged, and 60% of teachers reported that they enjoyed their job more after implementing personalized learning.

Warren Township also recognized the need for students to be given alternative paths outside of the classroom that were personalized and could enable them to demonstrate their mastery of coursework, for which they would be given school credit. The district created flexible virtual learning opportunities that could be augmented by teachers to engage and support the learning needs of their students at risk of not graduating. One advantage of virtual learning is that it allows some students who are off-track to graduate on time; the curriculum can be adjusted to meet their time constraints while still ensuring students demonstrate mastery over the material and meet rigorous standards. Enrolled students are each assigned an e-learning mentor who monitors student progress and provides individual support when needed. Since the program’s inception, the number of students taking advantage of virtual learning has continued to increase. In 2015,166 students enrolled in one or more of the online courses. Currently, Warren Township offers eight virtual courses that range from English to economics.

While virtual courses provide students with flexibility, Warren Township also wanted to provide students with real-world opportunities, called Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO). This tech-enabled program provides students with experience and knowledge about the work place and grants students the opportunity to get directly involved in something about which they are passionate. Because ELO is based on competency-based learning, students demonstrate mastery of the material to earn credits. To provide these opportunities, the Warren Township worked with local businesses to set up internships, independent studies, and shadowing opportunities for the students. The district also offers students the opportunity to work in a state-of-the-art media production studio through its FrontRunner program, which pairs students with local television professionals who cover major community events together.

Each ELO is as unique as the individual student. With more than 117 students participating in 2015, 38.5 ELO Credits were awarded for a variety of subjects and areas of interest such as foreign language, health, manufacturing, business, and fine arts. Warren Township hopes to continue to increase student participation and expand its ELO program by fostering more relationships with businesses and professionals in the community.

Additional Resources

From Warren Township:

From the U.S. Department of Education:

Points of Contact

Ryan Russell, Personalized Learning Project Lead