Located southeast of Houston, Pasadena Independent School District is the largest of the RBL pilots— with over 55,000 students enrolled, the school district is one of the 15 largest in Texas. Ninety-two percent of the district’s youth are students of color, and almost 30% are Limited English Proficient. Nearly 80% of district students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 58% are considered academically at-risk. Responding to disparate student outcomes, district leadership developed an interest in blended and personalized learning as a means of better serving the academic needs of all students.
Unlike other demonstration sites, Pasadena ISD had embarked on a robust personalized learning pilot before beginning the RBL grant. In the 2015-2016 school year, the district began implementing its Connect Personalized Learning Program, a personalized learning initiative and part of the Summit Learning Program (then called Summit Basecamp). This ongoing effort was mutually reinforcing with Raising Blended Learners, which helped expand Connect into additional schools across the district.
Pasadena’s Connect Program is targeting academic success measures, noncognitive skills, and ultimately increasing the number of district graduates who complete college within six years of high school graduation. The model includes personalized learning time, project-based learning, one-on-one mentoring, and Socratic seminars.
Although a majority of Pasadena ISD students graduate from high school, most students do not leave the district prepared for postsecondary education. Only 54% of graduating seniors enter college the fall immediately following graduation, and just shy of one-third of students obtain a postsecondary degree within six years of completing high school. This data told Pasadena that while their students have the academic competency to complete their high school studies, they may have lacked key skills such as student agency and self-management to persevere through college. Data also indicated that while pre-K through 4th graders have achieved success on state assessments, scores decline among students in grades 5 through graduation.
Pasadena Connect is part of the Summit Learning Program, and uses a version of a flex model to personalize learning. The Summit Learning Program involves three core elements: students spend part of the day learning content at their own pace through an online platform, teachers facilitate project-based learning and grade students on a cognitive skills rubric, and teachers hold one-on-one mentoring sessions with students to set goals and support progress. Each Connect student has a Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) where students set goats, track their progression, receive immediate feedback, and are able to access learning resources at any time. Pasadena believes that the Connect model will improve student’s academic skills, and also enable students to become self-directed learners to succeed in college and beyond.
Personalized Learning Time
Design pillars are used among all RBL sites to identify the essential design elements upon which each site’s student experience is based. The Pasadena design pillars reflect the key tenets of the Summit Learning Program approach to personalized learning: Self-Directed Learning, Personalized Learning Time (PLT), Project-Based Learning (PBL), Mentoring, and Content Progression.
Self-Directed Learning is intended to provide students with choices along their learning pathways and allow them to set a more individualized pace.
During Personalized Learning Time (PLT), students work through online content in the Summit Learning Platform. Students move at their own pace through content-based focus areas, taking on-demand assessments when they believe they have mastered one focus area and are ready to move to the next one. The content knowledge students learn during PLT time is also applied to student projects.
These sessions provide students with access to actionable data and rapid feedback to guide their next lessons. Project-Based Learning (PBL) entails deeper learning experiences that challenge students to develop and apply cognitive skills. Teachers design projects to be authentic representations of projects and challenges found in the workplace. Students are graded based on cognitive skill development.
Weekly Mentoring sessions support in setting goals and developing strategies to accomplish them. These 10-minute, one-on-one sessions are driven by students and designed to develop agency and self-directed learning, while making sure each student is known by a caring adult.
Content Progression is reached when students achieve 80% mastery of their focus areas.
The final pillar of Rigor/Competency Progression builds in intellectually challenging experiences that push students to maintain high academic standards for themselves. Through challenge areas, adaptive software, mastery checks, and advance standards, students are equipped to work through instructional rigor that can maximize their academic growth.
To learn more about the demonstration sites’ areas of progress and challenges, as well as how they define and track success, explore the reports from FSG.