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Scaling Personalized Learning through Cohorts in Henry County School District

Henry County Schools created a cohort model to roll out blended learning across the entire district

Overview

As Henry County works to scale blended and personalized learning across the district, it has created a cohort system to manage change. This system focuses on supporting under ten schools per year as they transition their teaching and learning practices. The first cohort consisted of six schools that started to plan and design their instructional model in 2013 and then implemented this new model in 2015. Subsequent cohorts have followed a similar sequence, involving:

    • nine schools planning in 2014 and implementing in 2016;
    • eight schools planning in 2015 and implementing in 2017;
    • nine more schools planning in 2016 and implementing in 2018; and
    • recruiting schools in 2017 to start implementing in 2019.

The district focuses its efforts to build these cohorts of schools that are “ready, willing, and able to implement PL.” Each school has applied to be part of the cohort and is required to have its principal’s support and involvement. Each school accepted into a cohort is also allocated 50 percent of a staff member’s time to serve as a project manager throughout the planning and implementation years. School applications are evaluated on three main criteria:

  • Their vision and plan for personalized learning
  • Their enthusiasm and support for personalized learning
  • Their capacity to implement personalized learning

The cohort model has created a manageable process for change in a large district. Henry County determined how many schools they could realistically support in a given year, ensuring that the support provided is meaningful for districts implementing personalized learning. Focusing on smaller groups of schools also allowed them to start with those most willing to make a change, which led to improved supports and increased enthusiasm for future cohorts. These supports focus on building staff capacity, allowing for less resource-intensive supports in subsequent years, such as professional learning communities and communities of practice. In conjunction with the cohort approach, Henry County has also focused on building community awareness and support for the initiative. Their efforts have been so successful that, five years into the work, the number of schools applying to each cohort exceeds the number of available spots.