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Opinion: Educators must personalize learning for students during pandemic


Eve Kaltz  |  The Detroit News

After seeing that pupil enrollment in Michigan Public Schools is down over 50,000 students, it occurred to me that it is time to expand educational options and choices that are designed to match students’ wants and needs. To accomplish this, we need to move to personalizing learning for all students in Michigan.

Forcing students into the virtual environment or in and out of online learning has had a catastrophic impact on students, especially in high poverty areas where they depend on so much more from the school than just learning. Enrollment in public schools has plummeted and many parents are unhappy about the amount of time and energy they are expected to put into teaching their own children. Parents have also seen how difficult or easy the work is for their children and expressed frustration in both instances.

Personalized learning for all students is imperative and this is the time to make that happen. Educators from all over struggle with student’s lack of motivation and engagement. Identifying, promoting and building on each students strengths and aligning their learning to these will promote students participation in their own learning.

For example, we should be harnessing the expertise of educators with the power of technology to create resources for teachers and students to access. There are master teachers who not only know their content area but understand how to present the information in a way that challenges and intrigues students. Other teachers are experts in assessment design.

Bringing them together from around the state to create video lessons and design performance assessments that cover all power standards would result in a powerful and critical library of learning continuums. Students would not only receive direct instruction from their teacher but also have additional instructional resources to use if necessary.

It is time to allow each student to move at their own pace, show mastery through performance, and take classes that follow a pathway that aligns with their strengths and talents. Making changes in public education so that all students have a chance to maximize their potential will require a mind shift in how we teach, staff, and account for students.  These changes are necessary for our high-risk students to have an equitable opportunity to understand their gifts and talents and know which careers depend on those characteristics.

Educators are not in this alone. It will take legislators, the Michigan Department of Education, community members, businesses, and more to implement educational change. As has been shown through the pandemic, access to technology is imperative for learning and working. High-risk populations need additional physical, social, and emotional support which community organizations can provide in partnership with schools. Laws and regulations need to allow schools the flexibility to provide personalized curriculums and resources for all students. 

The pandemic has had a negative effect on many things but one very positive and necessary change that can come from what has been learned is a statewide move to personalized learning.

Eve Kaltz is a retired superintendent from Center Line Public Schools. In addition to spending time being a grandmother, she advocates for personalizing education to make learning more equitable.