Key Takeaway

  • High school implementation of blended learning in a diverse rural district school with a large population of free and reduced lunch students. The model focuses on high school english and english language learner classes.

  • Core strategies include the implementation of a performance-based system, the ability for students to work across grade levels, customized playlists for learners, learner choice throughout their day/week/year, individual personalized learning time, and a focus on lifelong learning standards (non-cognitive skills).

  • Interesting or unique highlights to check out: How Lindsay triangulates data to meet students’ needs; and personalized learning approaches for English Language Development (ELD).

Experience Overview

NOTE: The following school profile is a snapshot of a moment in time, therefore some school structures, models, and strategies may have changed since publication.

Lindsay Unified Public Schools (LUSD) is a 4,200 student K-12 district in California’s Central Valley. Lindsay High School enrolls 1,036 9th-12th graders (2016). The district uses a “performance-based” learning system in which every student (who Lindsay terms "Learner") progresses through learning standards at their own pace. Teachers (called “Learning Facilitators”) guide Learners towards resources and provide direct supports as they develop evidence of mastery and move along their own pathways.

Launched in 2007 through the adoption of a visionary, district-wide strategic plan, LUSD has steadily become a model for competency-based learning nationally. The district uses blended learning as a mechanism for supporting their model, helping Learners develop foundational knowledge and supporting them through cycles of inquiry that lead to deeper learning. LUSD uses a number of tools to do this, but relies heavily on Empower, a competency-based learning management system, to support its model.

This page profiles LUSD’s High School English Language Arts approach.

Learning In Action

Learners at Lindsay High School have a great deal of voice and choice. Their days are split between self-directed learning time and Facilitator-led instruction. During self-directed learning, Learners follow playlists that are custom-created for them based on their learning needs. They are given multiple opportunities throughout the day and week to work on these, and are able to choose what to work on from the learning activities aligned to each objective. Even during Facilitator-led instruction, Learners are often able to choose from a variety of assignments as the Facilitators spend most of their time on small group and individual instruction.

The flexibility for the Learner that these choices provide, combined with a mastery-based learning system, creates a powerful learning experience for Learners. Learners who are behind are able to catch up, and those who wish to move ahead may due so. All Learners are more active participants in their learning, leading to greater ownership and engagement. Lindsay High’s Learners are not only able to attain mastery, but also gain life skills that will help them be successful beyond school.

Teaching In Action

Learning Facilitators at LUSD are focused on building lifelong learners. Within academic content areas, Facilitators are constantly seeking to provide Learners choice and voice in self-directed learning. In addition to academic content areas, LUSD provides instruction for lifelong learning skills. Lindsay Facilitators also modify Learners’ learning so it can be mastery based, allowing Learners more choice over the pace of their learning.

Learner choice in content and pacing provides a unique challenge to LUSD Facilitators as they have to cater to each individual Learner’s learning needs. Facilitators leverage an online system called Empower (formerly Educate) to analyze Learner data, determine personalized learning pathways, and provide resource choices to Learners in their academic content area. Facilitators help meet Learners’ needs by providing feedback, small groupings, one-on-one instruction, remediation, direct instruction, and other instructional practices. Blended instruction has enabled Facilitators to better meet Learner needs, leading to increased engagement and academic success.


Learners at Lindsay High School work in age-based, grade-level cohorts within a traditional classroom structure (one educator in a classroom). Facilitators usually begin class with a group launch, followed by personalized learning time where students work at their own pace. Facilitators work with small groups and conferences, and provide direct instruction as needed. Learners also have personalized learning time each week, which allows students more flexibility to focus on their biggest needs.

Lindsay's program implementation is fully blended at all times. The school has a 1:1 student-to-device ratio (Chromebooks), which enables students to work on their devices alone, with peers, and with their facilitators throughout class. The school primarily uses the individual rotation model for blended learning, where Learners manage their individual learning pathways through a system called Empower and utilize additional content platforms such as Reading Plus, WriteToLearn, Duolingo, and more.

While Lindsay High School follows the traditional grade 9-12 structure, Learners are not limited to learning within their specific grade. Learners have autonomy over what to work on, their pace, what resources to use to learn with, and what level of mastery they'd like to aim for. Learners who are behind are able to backfill earlier learning objectives, and Learners who are ahead are able to learn multiple years’ worth of content in a single year. Differentiation is created through grouping strategies, one-on-one support, and the availability of multiple content resources on playlists. Performance data from assessments and tasks are used every period, and Learners are responsible for making sure their progress is accurately reflected.

Targeted and Relevant

Actively Engaging

Socially Connected

Growth Oriented

Conditions for Success

Educators seeking to try out this model with their students should keep the following key needs in mind:

  • Staffing: Lindsay's model deploys within a traditional classroom structure. Facilitators work in a ratio to Learners that is similar to most public schools (roughly 24 students per teacher).
  • Devices: This model requires that every student have access to a learning device at all times. 
  • Content: This model relies heavily on content available through a learning management system called Empower. Some of this content is paid, but none is proprietary to Lindsay alone.
  • Broadband/Connectivity: Students must have adequate connectivity at all times (Lindsay Unified has also worked to provide community Wi-Fi to support Learner work at home).

Replication and Scale

Lindsay has replicated its performance-based learning approach across all grades and campuses. This replication is strongly supported by a district-wide vision and commitment, including competency-based grading, investments in technology infrastructure, and support and training for teachers.

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