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February 26, 2019

5 Ways Personalized Learning Meets National Standards

Vicky Maisey, Head of School Management

How do AltSchool’s personalized learning environments ensure our students are keeping pace with others in their class? In this second part of a two-part series, AltSchool's Head of School Management Vicky Maisey answers frequently asked questions about how we design our curriculum.

People are often confused by what personalized learning really means. Do students spend their day in front of a screen completing assignments? Are students allowed free reign over their learning? If so, do they fall behind in subjects they don’t like? We hear these questions and understand why they might make parents uneasy.

In part one of this two-part blog series, we shared stories from AltSchool Yerba Buena that demonstrate what the intersection of personalization and national standards looks like in the classroom. This post emphasized that personalization shouldn’t come at the expense of developing the common set of knowledge and skills that all learners should acquire. In fact, in a flexible, personalized learning environment it becomes even more important to have a shared, transparent, and research-backed set of Milestones describing the knowledge, skills, and habits learners should acquire at each stage in their development.

Here, we go into more detail about curriculum and assessment at AltSchool, in response to some frequently asked questions.

Read More: How AltSchool Prepares Students for the Real World


How does AltSchool design their curriculum?

AltSchool educators design interdisciplinary units in the AltSchool platform. Behind each educator-developed unit, and each student-specific personalized learning goal there is a set of nationally relevant, research based competencies such as Common Core standards. These competencies describe the knowledge, skills, and habits that each learner should develop at each stage in their development. This taxonomy is embedded in the AltSchool platform, making it easy for educators and learners to develop content and assess progress against this roadmap. Specifically, milestones are drawn from the Next Generation Science Standards, the New Hampshire Department of Education Model Competencies for ELA and Math, and the C3 Framework for Social Studies Milestones.



The three keys to developing whole-child learning competencies.


How does AltSchool balance personalization and educational standards?

All students assess their progress against the knowledge, skills, and habits milestones described above. These milestones establish a clear and shared set of expected outcomes for all learners. Educators and learners then have considerable flexibility about how to teach and learn these milestones in a way that is tailored to their context, experience and expertise. As they go, personalized goals are created to complement the shared set of expected outcomes.

Can you be more specific? Give a few examples?

Educators are empowered to design interdisciplinary units drawing on the age-appropriate milestones in the AltSchool platform. They can easily build a project or unit that pulls in math, ELA, and science competencies, and also includes specific habits milestones related to key dispositions like grit or growth mindset. This makes for more integrated learning that is more aligned with what adults experience in the professional world.

For learners, they may be working on the same projects as their peers, but with different goals, and the opportunity to help shape their own schedules and priorities. These decisions are similar to what we’re all charged with every day in our dynamic, knowledge-based economy. Thus they’re learning the content, but also learning how to learn.

AltSchool Brooklyn Head of School Jamie Stewart shares how they develop skills through personalized goals.

How do I know my child is learning at the level he or she should be?

While personalized learning enables students to have more control over what they learn and plot their own path toward mastery, their teachers are closely monitoring their progress and providing continual support along the way. Educators have a clear picture of how students are progressing because all their learning is documented in the platform, which allows teachers to provide targeted support and give additional attention where learners need it.

AltSchool Milestones ensure that all students achieve academic mastery and acquire the social-emotional skills and critical thinking strategies they need to be successful. Goals, which are often co-created by teachers and students, based on these Milestones not only aid in the development of student agency, they measure their progress against nationally recognized standards.

Examples of the research-based Milestones educators use to create their units.


Our Milestones help set clear expectations around learning and serve as a tool for appropriate goal-setting. They also create a clear way to track student progress and provide a framework for learners, educators, and parents to discuss progress.

Learn More: Exploring the Power of Rubrics

How does AltSchool evaluate my child’s progress?

In addition to Milestones, throughout the school year, AltSchool educators use a number of measures to continuously assess student progress. These include the types of assessments you expect to see in all classrooms like standardized testing, quizzes, and surveys. However, we also emphasize ongoing assessment as part of the learning process. Education Reimagined, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming educations, calls for assessment of, for, and as learning. This includes summative assessments like tests, continuous assessments in the form of real-time feedback, and using self-assessment as a way for students to learn more about themselves and gauge their own progress. Self-assessment, student-led conferences, learning exhibitions, and ongoing evidence collection and goal-setting are part of our assessment process.

Our Chief Impact Officer shares how continuous assessment is a more powerful tool than testing.
Learn more about our lab schools and our partner school program.

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