SCV35 Provides Educators With Lessons Learned During The Shift To Personalized Learning - AZEdNews
Sections    Friday March 24th, 2023

SCV35 Provides Educators With Lessons Learned During The Shift To Personalized Learning

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  • Shannon Enciso   |   SCV35


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

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.#END