McDONOUGH — Henry County Schools learned recently they would be receiving $3.9 million in grant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to continue with the district’s 2020 vision of bringing personalized learning to every school.
Six schools in the district — Luella High, Luella Middle, Locust Grove Middle, Hampton Middle, Hampton High and Henry County Middle — will open the 2015-16 school year as personalized learning schools this fall. This redesign comes after many months of staff meetings, research, community involvement and construction of a plan to meet the growing, diverse needs of a varied student population.
The additional funds awarded to the school district further supports the six launch schools from the 2015 cohort as well as other district work associated with personalized learning.
Equipped with multiple examples and resources, nine additional schools have begun their schools’ redesign process. The 2016 cohort has a targeted goal of opening the 2016-17 school year as personalized learning schools.
Much like the previous cohort, Bethlehem Elementary, Luella Elementary, Locust Grove High, Mount Carmel Elementary, New Hope Elementary, Ola Elementary, Stockbridge High, Unity Grove Elementary and Woodland Elementary will be tasked with research, visioning and strategic planning for their complete personalized learning rollout in August of 2016. Each school strongly encourages and asks for community and parent involvement in building their school redesign plans.
The district is one of six in the nation to undertake this transformational approach to how students are educated. The largest 200 school districts in the United States were eligible for the opportunity, and only 20 of those districts were chosen for original base-level of funding. It is the only district in Georgia to be chosen for the grant and is now into phase three of funding by the foundation.
The Next Generation Systems Initiative is aimed at assisting entire districts with the effort of personalized learning for all schools. The school system was first awarded phase one of the Next Generation Systems Initiative Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the fall of 2013.
Officials said that in order to gain feedback and help answer questions from teachers, parents and community members at-large, Henry County Schools has held informational sessions for the community and will continue to host such sessions regularly throughout 2015-16 school year.
Officials at individual schools have encouraged parent participation and engagement in their redesign process.
The district’s vision for personalized learning is that learners must play an active role and be given significant voice and choice related to what, when, where, and how they learn. Learners must be active, self-regulated participants in the development and design of their learning and should co-create their learning plans based on their interests, strengths, passions and aspirations.
Teachers play an even more essential role in helping students with their learning due to classroom instruction designs resulting in opportunities for more one-on-one interaction.
Superintendent Rodney Bowler expressed his gratitude for the funds and knows the work started is what will push Henry County students to even greater heights in their education.
“The work undertaken by our staff over the past several months has been no small task,” said Bowler. “The fruits of their labor is evident in the positive changes and resounding excitement coming from the classrooms in multiple schools across our district. As we continue to push forward in offering these same opportunities to all schools, this funding will assist with many of the efforts still underway in our first set of launch schools and beyond.”
Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Leadership Services Aaryn Schmuhl also notes the work still underway and the end result that awaits the district.
“The work of redesigning a school’s delivery model and focus, let alone an entire school district is a challenge we saw as necessary to ensure success for each of our students,” said Schmuhl. “The Gates Foundation’s support helps to accelerate the district strategic plan that has been in place for two years and will help us continue with our 2020 vision of all schools being personalized learning schools by the year 2020.”
With the work underway, there are 15 out of 50 schools either ready to open as or beginning the early stages of transforming to a personalized learning school.
“In the end, it is about reaching students and giving them what they need, when they need it, but more importantly, how they want it,” said Schmuhl. “Students have proven to be more engaged when they have a voice in their education.”
For more information personalized learning, visit www.henry.k12.ga.us/personalizedlearning.