Giving Compass' Take:

• A teacher and Navy vet describes her experience with a personalized learning curriculum that shows students why failure is not an option by prioritizing student growth. 

• How will these learnings be helpful for students when they join the workforce? 

• Read about how personalized learning is at a crossroads. 

When most of us think of middle school, we likely think about chaos in the classroom. We certainly don’t picture sixth-grade students in the driver’s seat, setting their own goals, mentoring peers, and prioritizing how they’re going to work that day. But that’s what happens every day in my classroom at Aspen Valley Prep.

When I was in the Navy, I traveled to countries all around the world, where I witnessed many methods and approaches toward teaching. Later, as a Navy wife, I was privileged to be stationed with my family in Naples, Italy.

After leaving the Navy, our family settled down in Fresno, California, and I became a long-term English substitute teacher at Selma High School. I quickly realized that the root cause of student failure in high school English was directly correlated with the failure to master middle school standards. How was it possible that 11th-graders didn’t know the basic parts of speech and couldn’t identify the parts of a sentence?

Imagine my excitement, then, when I switched to Aspen Valley Prep and learned that the school was going to implement the Summit Learning Program, a curriculum that could prevent this very problem!

At Aspen Valley, our classrooms center on three core components: 1:1 mentoring for all students, a focus on learning through real-world projects, and a certain level of self-direction, where we give students more choice in how they learn.

My students aren’t allowed to move on if they don’t show mastery of the standards for their grade level. Instead, they have to pass each topic — even if it means doing more hard work, reviewing the content, and retaking the test. This teaches an important real-world lesson about not accepting failure, which is a common concept in the adult world.

Read the full article about personalized learning by Melani Harley at The 74