This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on May 20, 2015.
As debates about ESEA reauthorization continue on the Hill, Congress is grappling with the question of how to square current accountability structures with emerging personalized learning models. A recent Bellwether Education Partners report, A Path to the Future: Creating Accountability for Personalized Learning, summarized the apparent friction facing policymakers:
Personalized learning aims to change instruction in ways that customize students’ experiences—and, ultimately, lead to systemic changes in how students are assessed and progress to more advanced content. Standards-based accountability seeks to mold the K–12 system by creating common expectations for student performance—and, ultimately, incentives for instructional changes to help students achieve them. In other words, personalization and accountability meet in the middle, creating challenges for policymakers when the two appear to be in conflict.
The report’s side-by-side comparison of personalized learning approaches and standards-based efforts raises important questions about the potential minefield of trying to reconcile these two worlds. But it also conflates inputs with outcomes. Indeed, the apparent tension between standards and personalization dissolves if we can better delineate prescriptive inputs and desired outcomes.
Personalized learning is a means, not an end. Standards are an end, not a means. Debates about both, however, tend to muddle these distinctions. (more…)