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Scaling Using a Cohort Model

“We learn something with each cohort to make the process as relevant and useful for schools as possible.” (Heather Van Looy)


Challenge: How to ensure consistency of implementation across the system at a pace that works for all schools

Context: Fulton County Schools, GA, is a highly diverse district of 95 public schools serving just under 100,000 students. In 2012, the district began to incorporate personalized learning into its strategic planning process as a way to better meet the needs of all its students, and to close achievement gaps between groups of learners. As part of this process, district leaders wanted all schools involved in the move towards greater personalization.

Action Steps: Fulton County leaders announced that all schools in the district would be part of one of five cohorts that would roll out over the course of three years. To start the process, each school took a readiness assessment and then they chose which cohort they wanted to join. Each cohort went through an 18-month process that included:

  • Design workshops that helped the school’s personalized learning team (a group of teachers and administrators who led the process at each school) define their goals and decide how to develop an instructional model that would enable personalized learning principles.
  • The development of communication plans and a professional development plan.
  • An upgrade of the school’s wireless infrastructure.
  • Choosing the right device(s) to support their instructional goals.
  • Acquire digital citizenship certification from Common Sense Media by teaching their curriculum to all students.

All members of the community could follow the progress of the the five cohorts using the school’s rollout dashboard.

For another example of how to structure a cohort model, read about Henry County Schools, GA, where schools apply to be part of phased cohorts that drive the district transformation process. This includes, among other things, going through a competitive application process, developing a school plan for redesign, building staff capacity, and engaging with their communities around school transformation in exchange for district support (of both time and resources).

Additional Example:

Strategy Resources

Henry County Personalized Learning Cohort Application

Schools within Henry County Schools can apply to be a part of a small, 7-... Learn More

Henry County PL Cohort Technical Assistance Information

Schools within Henry County Schools can apply to be a part of a small, 7-... Learn More

Problem of Practice: “Prix Fixe” vs. “A-la-Carte”

This guide unpacks the relative benefits of creating a central “prix fixe” implementation model vs... Learn More

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