With funding from a Camelback Ventures fellowship grant, Ms. Austin-Harris piloted a portion of the LbD unique personalized learning model during the 2016-17 school year, in partnership with Baldwin Hills Elementary Pilot & Gifted High Ability Magnet in South Los Angeles. The pilot provided LbD’s founding team with the opportunity to test, refine, modify and gather data on targeted aspects of our proposed Personalized Learning educational model. The pilot began in the fall of 2016 with three teachers and 30 students, then grew to include project-based learning in the spring of 2017 with eight teachers and 140 students.

During the pilot, we experimented with different formats of personalized learning to see what would work best, and learned several critical lessons in the process. For example, we found that having computers in the classroom rather than a separate computer lab was much more effective and enabled teachers to have more flexibility. We learned that the rotational model we plan to implement for LbD (where students rotate during a class block through: (a) working in small groups with a teacher, (b) completing assignments individually or in pairs, and (c) working on computers doing interactive curriculum) is more effective with young students when there is more than one adult in the room to provide support and keep rotations flowing smoothly. Teachers are better able to provide real-time feedback and support to students with additional adult support. We also learned more about the efficacy of various types of teacher training and support, including an emphasis on collaboration between teachers to help differentiate learning and provide targeted support and interventions.

Teachers who participated in the pilot program provided qualitative feedback, including:

  • Students demonstrated more agency and took more responsibility for their personal outcomes during conferencing check-ins.  These critical check-ins are brief 5-10 minute one-on-ones with students to discuss data generated from online curricula/assessments and teacher assessments/observations to review their progress, discuss next steps and any necessary supports/interventions.
  • Teachers felt they were able to build stronger connections with students through these conferencing check-ins, creating stronger and more impactful relationships.
  • Students exhibited more confidence in the classroom and spoke up and spoke out more often in discussions thanks to stronger connections with both the teacher and their peers.
  • Students demonstrated stronger peer relationships and closer connections through having to work together more collaboratively in the LbD pilot design

With the success and lessons learned from the pilot, LbD went on to secure a start-up grant from New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF), the acclaimed non-profit working to supporting education entrepreneurs who are transforming public education to create great results for all students. In addition to start-up funding, NSVF is providing intensive training, resources, and support to LbD’s founding team.

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