Friday, September 7, 2012

The Blueprint for the Race to the Top - District Competition (RTT-D)

The top priority for the U.S. Department of Education’s new Race to the Top-District (RTT–D) competition is to create personalized-learning environments to bolster student achievement:

Absolute Priority 1: Personalized Learning Environments (PLE).
To meet this priority, an applicant must coherently and comprehensively address how it will build on the core educational assurance areas to create learning environments that are designed to significantly improve learning and teaching through the personalization of strategies, tools, and supports for students and educators that are aligned with college- and career-ready standards or college- and career-ready graduation requirements; accelerate student achievement and deepen student learning by meeting the academic needs of each student; increase the effectiveness of educators; expand student access to the most effective educators; decrease achievement gaps across student groups; and increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

We are getting requests to support RTT-D applications from around the country based on our work with personalizing learning. Our discussions with the contact persons in charge of federal programs at many districts and consortiums of districts, made us realize that the term “Personalized Learning” seems to be confusing. Some believe it is all about the technology and adaptive courseware. Others think that blending learning on-site and online is all you have to do to personalize learning. Technology does play a role but it is not the only role. A 1:1 program and BYOD (Bring your own Device) option allows learners to take more responsibility for their learning. However, just putting technology in everyone's hands doesn't mean that learning is personal or learners are learning. Personalizing learning means teacher and learner roles change. The environment looks different. It is a system-wide transformation and culture shift.

We are also talking to districts where they have already had the conversations about personalizing learning starting with the learner. Their conversations revolved around our chart on Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization and the three stages of personalized learning environments
Created by Bray & McClaskey - Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

These districts have told us that these conversations have been so important and helped them with their decisions. These RTT-D applications represent not only a lot of money your schools will receive but a huge commitment and work from all stakeholders in your schools and community.

Four Year Plan to Build a Sustainable Personalized Learning Environment

Since we have years of experience as technology integration coaches, change agents and have facilitated lesson and project design that incorporated these new teacher roles, we know how long it takes to change existing practice. We have seen schools that have purchased lots of technology, but do not provide sufficient time to implement the initiative. In some cases, if the results were not immediate, the initiative was ended and a new one started. The RTT-D competition allows for building a sustainable system over a four year period. We know it takes at least four years to make real change. Personalizing learning can incorporate many of your existing initiatives or a redesign of a combination of what you are doing. In some cases, it will be a complete redesign.

This takes a process, a common language that everyone understands, a shared vision that involves all stakeholders, and an action plan detailing the steps to transform teaching and learning. We designed a four year plan that supports teaching and leading in the application. We work closely with your leadership team to integrate our services across the four year plan.

Created by Bray & McClaskey Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 UnportedLicense.

We provide you the process, research, and materials to guide you as you, your teachers, and your learners personalize learning. We have a process that starts with Stage One pilot projects and train the coaches. Each new pilot is brought on systematically across the stages that best meet the needs of your community. We assist you in building a community of practice so teachers and leaders can develop a common understanding of what personalizing learning means. We facilitate the conversations about what is and isn't working, do action research, encourage reflection and sharing as a collaborative process to support each other.

Professional learning opportunities need to be job-embedded and available anytime, anywhere. Our job is to help you build the community that is based on trust and respect. We support your coaches and teacher leaders who can make this change happen. We know how to connect the dots not only to the research, people, and schools who are transforming learning; we also connect the dots of your initiatives and programs to personalized learning environments. 

Moving to a personal learning system is a huge task. Teachers want the best for their learners. If teachers have the support, resources, time, and flexibility to innovate, they will do what is best for their learners. They want to make a difference in children’s lives. If all stakeholders in the community create a sustainable shared vision of personalized learning that encourages creativity and engagement with learners who take responsibility for their learning, then the implementation of the vision and plan over a four year period will work for every learner so they are college- and career-ready.  


Use the contact form to request the pre-assessment survey. The information in the pre-assessment can help us determine your readiness to transform teaching and learning in a personalized learning environment. We want to make the process as easy as we can for you. You can email us ( if you have questions.

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