There is growing interest in an old educational idea. Personalized learning is gaining momentum as education leaders plan to modernize schools and tailor their work to the unique, individual needs of each student. Last year Citizen Education visited Summit Public Schools in Seattle, Washington. Our conversations with students there was a high point in our year. Hearing the stories of how they found Summit after feeling like square pegs in the round hole world of district schools where academic tracking assigned them to dead end classrooms both saddened us and inspired us. It was depressing to think of how many more students need to find a place like Summit where they can learn and grow at their own pace, but seeing the system Summit uses to put every student on their own personal pathway toward life goals they set for themselves made us hopeful about the future. Below is an announcement from Summit that highlights their new teacher residency program designed specifically for educators with a personalized learning focus.


REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Building on Summit Public Schools’ success as a national leader in student-centered education, its Summit Learning Residency Program will prepare a diverse cohort of teachers for the multiple roles they’ll assume in a 21st century classroom: mentor, leader and teacher.

“Personalized learning asks teachers to take a different approach in the classroom. From how to use data to make in-the-moment decisions to tailoring lessons for each student to creating lesson plans that are flexible enough to lead whole class, small group and individual instruction, this is an adjustment for even the most veteran of teachers,” said Pamela Lamcke, Director of Summit Teacher Learning Residency. “Summit residents will get to experience personalized learning first-hand as students while acquiring the skills to lead a personalized learning classroom before becoming a teacher of record.”

The yearlong residency program is designed to mirror the Summit student experience, which is personalized, self-directed, skills-focused and project-based. As such, all residents will work toward the same program requirements but, at any point in the year, they might be working on completely different projects because of the self-directed nature of the work.

Residents will engage in learning in a variety of ways: whole cohort experiences, Socratic seminars, peer collaboration and small group workshops, as well as through individual coaching and feedback. Residents will spend the year co-teaching with an experienced teacher who models personalized learning instruction while residents also experience personalized learning through their own coursework.

“We must give teachers the training, tools and professional development needed to set them up for success in our current and future classrooms,” said Diane Tavenner, founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools. “If we want to prepare our students with the knowledge, skills and habits of success that will allow them to pursue the lives they want, we must change the approach of how we prepare teachers for our public schools.”

Starting this fall, residents will be placed in each of Summit’s California schools. Summit’s first cohort will include 24 residents – 58 percent of the residents identify as a person of color. Residents come from a wide variety of backgrounds; two are Summit Preparatory Charter High School alumni.

Residents will earn credentials in English, history, math, biology, physics and Spanish. Most members of the inaugural cohort previously participated in the Summit Tutor Corps, a one-year fellowship at a Summit campus.

Aspiring teachers will spend four days a week immersed in a Summit school site working alongside a cooperating teacher and one day a week on their own coursework. After completing the yearlong program, each resident will earn a California Preliminary Teacher Credential from Summit Public Schools. At that time, Summit may extend a formal offer of a full-time position for  the following school year.

In the first year, residents will participate at no cost and will be eligible for a fellowship to support living costs. Looking beyond the pilot year, Summit is working on a model that will allow the program to be sustainable and available to teachers in other school systems that are embracing the personalized learning model. The program will serve as a new approach for equipping more teachers across the nation, no matter the type of school, to be able to customize education to meet the unique needs of every student.



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