Over the course of the past two columns, I have outlined USD 290’s core beliefs and focused on Core Belief No.1: It is important for students and staff to continually grow as life-long learners.

But today, I will focus on Core Belief #2: It is critical for students and staff to be engaged in personalized, innovative and reflective learning.

The culture created by this belief is the power behind the changes in our district as we become a more student-centric system. Ensuring that we provide not only quality instruction, but the appropriate instruction for each and every one of our students gets to the heart of what we want to provide for our community and the students we serve. USD 290 believes that student learning should be personalized to meet our students’ needs both academically and social-emotionally.

Typically, schools have been built upon an adult/supervisory-centric model in which every student has the same schedule, is expected to be at a certain place during a certain time and spends a specific number of minutes being exposed to a particular subject. In this model, there is a lack of personalization, or even student input as to what their needs in a particular subject might be - or even what their level of interest in engaging in that subject might be. We believe that all students deserve a personalized education that best suits their skills and needs, and it is the responsibility of our entire staff to ensure the instruction that we provide is appropriate for them.

In order to achieve this goal, we have enlisted the help of our students to better understand their desires as learners through an Individualized Plan of Study. Through each student’s IPS, we are asking them to set goals - both short- and long-term - and work with their instructors to develop a plan to best meet those goals. The student’s self- assessment and reflection will be used by our staff to further guide instruction and improvement.

This instructional practice is extremely innovative. Although a student-centric classroom has been discussed for years, it is incredibly difficult to achieve. But by embracing innovation and a commitment from our staff to ensure the learning of each of our students, we believe that we can not only meet the demands of our students, but exceed them. Through sound planning, effective teaching and honest reflection, our staff believes that we can provide our students with instruction that is relevant to their needs, while still engaging them in the learning process and meeting state standards.

We believe that it is critical for students and staff to be engaged in personalized, innovative and reflective learning. This belief is at the core of every decision that we make from our instructional framework, to our curricular design, to the scheduling of the school day and year and ultimately, to the strategic plan we have put in place to drive our decision-making for the next five years.

Our students are the most precious of resources that we have in our community, and by providing them the best education available, we elevate their levels of success. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for an explanation of three additional core belief statements.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at cobbsr@usd290.org, or call at 785-229-8010.