Personalized Learning in Rhode Island

The following are elements of successful personalized learning that tend to be present across implementations. These are informed by frameworks developed by many local and national partners and based on successful implementations of personalized learning across the US. Click each for more detail and examples of those elements in action in Rhode Island schools.


Differentiated Learning Activities

Learning activities and other interventions are selected based on student needs. For example, students might be provided with options for a variety of ways to learn a new concept based on their interests or their reading level.


At 360 High School

Sarah Erickson sets up her 11th grade math class in collaborative groups so students complete all their assignments while working as a team. Students each have different leadership roles, including: task manager, resource manager, communication manager, and participating manager. Erickson wants her students to serve as intellectual resources for each other.

At Barrington Middle School

Jack Culton, Barrington Middle School 8th grader, noticed a shift in how his teachers interact with students to meet their learning styles since the school has become more committed to project based learning. He says that students have choices in how to display their understanding of content and content standards.

In science class we were studying compounds and students could tackle the assignments and its learning targets in different ways. I made a comedic video.
— Jack Culton, BMS Student

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At Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School

Almost every professional learning community and opportunity is differentiated based on interest or need. This allows teachers to see that they can do the same with their kids.

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Learner Profiles

Optimizing the learning experience for mastery and success for each student requires starting with an understanding of the needs, strengths, and interests of each student. These needs, goals and interests are not static, so learner profiles or Individual Learning Plans (ILPs), need to be regularly revisited and updated. Learner profiles can target closing learning gaps, support students to explore learning objectives at a deeper level or at an accelerated path, and help students plan for post-secondary school or career.

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at Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School

“We really felt that with the learner profiles our goals were two-prong.

1. To get to better know kids as individuals -- what are they interested in, what do they identify with, what do they see as their own personal strengths both in and out of school and how can we capitalize on that so that we can make learning more meaningful and engaging for them and put them more in the driver’s seat.

(2) To create digital portfolios so that as kids moved up each grade, we had a way to create this positive digital footprint for them so that we could really see how they’ve progressed as a learner. This year we really used them in our 4th and 5th grade for SLCs [student-led conferences].

-Principal Kristen Danusis

At 360 High School

Students at 360 work on their Personalized Education Plans (PEPs) during their advisory period, called Hub. They have a PEP template and work on them individually with the guidance of their advisory teacher.

By filling out the PEPs, students are pushed to take the time to reflect on their learning in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.
— Sarah Erickson, 11th Grade Math Learning Facilitator

Mastery-Based Progression

In a personalized-learning model, students move onto the next objective or delve more deeply into the current objective when they can demonstrate mastery, not based on the amount of time they have spent on a particular learning activity. If they haven’t demonstrated mastery, they are provided with other supports and activities to develop competency before moving on.

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at 360 High School

Student Sanniya Blake appreciates that if she doesn’t do well on an assignment she can keep working on it until her rubric score improves. She often works on improving her assignments with her teacher who stays after-school.

at captain isaac paine elementary school

Faculty at Paine are developing a system to house mastery-based tasks so that each year, teachers aren’t reinventing them within their classroom. Instead, they will have a continuum of learning targets, ways that the standards progress, and tasks that go along with them so that teachers have good quality tasks when students are ready to show mastery with that certain skill.

We’re thinking about ways to let kids move through content both when they’re ready to do that, and if they haven’t quite mastered a skill, being able to stay there with some additional support until they’re ready to move forward.
— Kristen Danusis, Principal
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Ongoing Formative Assessment

Personalized learning depends on having near real time data on student performance. This requires ongoing formative assessment of students’ progress to inform students and teachers when making choices about next steps, and to give frequent, immediate feedback to students. Formative assessments may be short written assessments, reviews of student work in progress, based on conferences or even peer-student observations.

Photo Credit: Tom Vander Ark

Photo Credit: Tom Vander Ark

At WEst Broadway Middle School

5th Grade teacher Hillary Lundgren uses a station-rotation model in her classroom. During the station rotation, one group receives direct instruction, another works collaboratively on practice drills to reinforce the concepts they just learned, and the final group uses devices to work on targeted goals at their individual level. Students regularly complete online formative assessments, providing Hilary real-time data on how her students are progressing toward mastery, which she uses in combination with teacher observation to regroup students on a daily basis. Throughout class, Lundgren monitors student progress and data on a laptop sitting next to her to inform her instruction as students rotate.

At Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School

Paine has explored creating quick assessments so that teachers are constantly taking the pulse of where kids are. In the classroom what that might look like is a teacher giving a mini lesson, and then following that, giving a quick exit ticket. Based on how students do, if they’ve understood that skill, they may move on. If they haven’t mastered the skill, they may join the teacher’s small group immediately.


Flexible Learning Environment

In personalized learning models there is flexibility of groupings, time, and locations that also include learning outside the school walls. Students may have the opportunity to work independently, in small groups, in one-on-one tutoring, and larger groups throughout a single day.

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At Barrington Middle School

Barrington Middle School has a modified block schedule. Most periods are 90 minutes each, but two days a week classes are shorter so that teachers can see all of their students. A scheduling committee explored the schedule options and came up with this structure in order to provide more time for project-based learning opportunities. Prior to switching, teachers engaged in ongoing professional development and had time to troubleshoot around obstacles that might emerge with a new schedule.

At Village Green Virtual Charter School

Village Green Virtual Charter School in Providence challenges any observer’s concept of a “traditional” learning environment. Teachers don’t have permanent classrooms and there are vast banks of computers setup in personalized learning stations. There is no set schedule, instead time use is determined by student choice and student needs. Even the start and end time of school has less significance as students have access to classes on the internet after school hours. While the school curriculum is accessible to students at any time virtually, students at VGV also have active, in-person interactions with teachers and other students, including extra-curricular activities and typical high school social events.

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Student Choice & Agency

Students in personalized learning models exercise control over their learning experience. For example, they may be given an opportunity to select how they want to demonstrate mastery or choose to explore a topic at a deeper level. Teachers construct environments where students are given agency over some aspects of their learning depending on their readiness to self-guide their learning, and support students to practice habits of success so they can increasingly monitor their own progress.


At 360 High School

Students at 360 High School have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their leadership skills. Students get to facilitate their parent-teacher conferences, exhibit their work to their family members and present on their learning and growth, and also participate in the interview process for new teachers. In addition, students lead town hall meetings every Friday where they discuss upcoming events or new school rules. For example, they developed the technology policy for cell phone use in the classroom.

At Barrington Middle School

Barrington Middle School is experimenting with ways to use personalized learning during advisory time. Some advisories are piloting “genius hour,” in which students can identify a passion, learn a new skill, and showcase their newfound knowledge. Students are learning how to ride unicycles and even studying heart surgery. Rebecca Henderson believes that if you let students lead the learning experience and take time to understand where the students are coming from, you can create a trust-filled learning environment that then morphs into self-directed learners who are motivated and curious students.

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Authentic, Applied Learning

Personalized learning allows for students to deeply engage with the content they are learning, both to achieve mastery and also to understand how the content connects to different areas of their existing knowledge and how to apply it in different contexts. This allows for critical thinking, problem-solving, and application of knowledge in various contexts.

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At Barrington Middle School

Every teacher receives training on project-based learning (PBL) using the Buck Institute for Education Implementation Guide. In the 8th grade science class, students studied speed and velocity through a “Baseball Challenge” and their task was to make baseball parks safer. Each student selected a different ballpark, researched baseball stats, and created safety plans. The students then wrote to authentic audiences - baseball teams - about safety proposals and received letters back from team managers. The school has found that reframing instruction around deeper learning principles through PBL gives students a lot of opportunity to choose their passion, be engaged in the learning process, apply their knowledge, and make new meaning based on knowledge they already have.

At Chariho Regional High School

Chariho High School’s entrepreneurship program, INCubator, bridges the school’s career-based program and academic program. With support from industry mentors, students have the opportunity to think big, plan strategically, develop and build, and then pitch and promote their product or business idea during a Pitch Week. Chariho is the first high school in New England to adopt the INCubatoredu for High Schools Program from Uncharted Learning.

Photo Credit: The Westerly Sun

Photo Credit: The Westerly Sun

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Teachers work hard to differentiate teaching for each of their individual students, but the limitations of a teacher’s time mean they cannot simultaneously be all-knowing of every student’s evolving competencies and interests. New technologies provide teachers with the ability to quickly see the progress of each student, curate digital resources, and formative assessments that let them recognize student progress and differentiate follow up, and provide a framework to move students through curriculum.

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At Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School

Erin Thompson has her fourth grade math students rotate through four learning centers over the course of one week. Students utilize online learning platforms such as Google Classroom, i-Ready, and Agilix Buzz to work at their own pace and complete work that is matched to their specific learning needs. Ms. Thompson meets with students one-on-one while they work at their centers. By completing entrance tickets on Buzz, she is able to collect formative assessment data from students on a daily basis. Through i-Ready she can immediately see what at math level students are and can tailor their one-on-one meetings to focus on their exact learning needs.

At Orlo Avenue Elementary School

After one year of implementing blended learning, Principal Yanaiza Gallant knew there was a greater opportunity to ignite student agency and personalization of learning. Principal Gallant wanted to do more than replace paper worksheets with online versions, and saw the potential of technology to foster more active, student-led learning. With that coherent vision set at a whole school level, students began creating projects the following year, using computer code to work with robots and doing hands on experiments using technology. Personalized learning has also greatly helped English Learners (ELLs). The technology has allowed ELLs to go at their own pace, building the foundations for their bilingualism at a pace appropriate to their unique needs.

We knew that more affluent schools a few miles away used technology to let their students create and innovate. My students deserve that too.
— Principal Yanaiza Gallant, Orlo Avenue Elementary School


While technology enables personalization to be iterative and on-demand, it cannot be a substitute for great teaching and the deep relationships teachers build with their students. With personalized learning, the role of the teacher is indispensable to select high quality content; design students’ pathways through the material; adapt and remediate based on students’ progress; and support students to develop habits of success and a joyful, rigorous, and safe classroom environment. It allows for educators to have a role as mentor and facilitator of students’ learning journeys.

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At 360 High School

Sarah Erickson, an 11th grade math teacher received training in Complex Instruction which gave her the tools to serve as a teacher-facilitator rather than a teacher-leader. She says that the philosophy of “smarter together” was already in her but the structures and routines were taught. Rather than “rescuing” students when they feel stuck, she asks them questions that will help them to see a new way forward.

At Woonsocket Schools

To support a one-on-one mentoring model as part of the Summit Basecamp program used by the 8th grade team in Woonsocket, school and district administrators join in as mentors, both ensuring students have an adult to help them reflect on their individual learning plan, and also to give administrators firsthand insight into personalized learning implementation. School and district administrators also meet every other week with teachers from the 8th grade team to identify concerns and celebrate successes.

Photo Credit: New England Basecamp

Photo Credit: New England Basecamp

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At Captain Isaac Paine Elementary School

Professional development at Paine emphasizes modeling what practices they want teachers to use with students. Teachers set individual goals or goals with their colleagues around PL, and then receive support and tools to be able to explore them and plan for their instruction. Teacher PD looks very personalized based on what a teacher’s skills and needs are. Paine has also created professional learning communities around their PL work as way to empower teachers to step outside of their comfort zone and be more facilitators and co-leaders with professional development.

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