The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) public policy think tank took a deep dive into the concept of personalized learning driven by individualized instruction in a recently published report. Resident scholars from AEI visited high schools in the Learn4Life network, which focus on helping at-risk students and re-engaging dropouts.

The report points out that “relationships are key” in pursuit of true personalized learning. “A central and distinct element of Learn4Life’s model is that each student is paired with a single ‘supervisor teacher’ to serve as an instructor, counselor and mentor from enrollment to graduation.”

“Learn4Life’s model hinges on teachers who approach their job differently from traditional classroom teachers. They must be able to undertake one-on-one academic instruction, manage student schedules, track course completion and know when to direct a student to other resources, from advanced courses to counseling.”

Learn4Life’s national superintendent, Caprice Young, agrees that the student-centric role of the supervisor teacher is critical. “It’s why our model works, because students are forming this one-on-one bond. The teacher is both their education and their case worker on a personal and an academic basis,” she explains.

The AEI report discusses the advantages of flexible schedules and personalized curriculum, especially for the struggling students Learn4Life serves. Those who fell behind or dropped out of the public school system typically need the ability to build their own timeline to complete high school. Most of these students have adult responsibilities, like working, caring for younger siblings; or – in the case of 22 percent of Learn4Life students – raising their own children.

AEI visitors immediately noticed the wide-open instruction spaces and small-group classrooms, which are a marked contrast to traditionally structured schools. Some students work on assignments in the central area, while others meet individually with teachers at one of the many faculty desks that circle the room. Still others work in small groups with a teacher. Each teacher manages about 35 individual student plans, which significantly contrasts a typical public high school teacher, who might interact with 140 or 150 students every day. “Learn4Life’s philosophy is that the smaller ratio will allow teachers to give each student sufficient attention and assistance.”

Learn4Life is a network of 85 charter schools, serving 49,000 students each year, primarily in California. Eighty-nine percent of those students are successful – either catching up on credits to graduate with their class or continuing with Learn4Life in pursuit of a diploma. Forty-six percent of Learn4Life graduates go on to post-secondary education. Read the full report here.


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About Learn4Life: Learn4Life is a network of non-profit public schools that provides students personalized learning, career training and life skills. Each school is locally controlled, tuition free and gives students the flexibility and one-on-one attention they need to succeed. Serving more than 49,000 students across California, we help students prepare for a future beyond high school. We are proud to be a GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency recipient for our ethical, transparent and effective organizational practices.

Written By:
Ann Abajian
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