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New collaboration seeks to transform the way teaching and learning is done in Arizona schools

October 15, 2020

Center for Future of Arizona, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, KnowledgeWorks team up with Mesa Public Schools

Editor’s note:  This story is being highlighted in ASU Now’s year in review. Read more top stories from 2020.

Three organizations have committed to collaborate with Mesa Public Schools, the largest school district in Arizona with more than 64,000 students, to support district leaders in efforts to create equitable learning outcomes and better prepare all students for the demands of college, career and civic life. The Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA), Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and KnowledgeWorks share a common conviction that one-size-fits-all approaches in our current education system prevent both learners and educators from succeeding to their fullest potential. They are collaborating with Mesa Public Schools to focus on personalized learning.

The personalized learning approach focuses on the individual success of every child. It is designed to meet individual students where they are in their educational journey, ensure mastery of academic content along with social and emotional skills, and foster student ownership in their own learning.

CFA is committed to advancing the long-term success of Arizona. The nonprofit organization leads the Arizona Personalized Learning Network, providing training and support to schools and communities to personalize learning for their students and grow a systemwide approach to sustain student-centered practices. This effort builds on CFA’s decade of work with policymakers, public schools and communities to expand student-centered learning in order to create more excellent and equitable outcomes for all Arizona students.

The state’s largest teacher preparation program and a national leader in research, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College brings people and ideas together to build an education workforce that can provide all students with deeper and personalized learning by building teams of educators with distributed expertise.

A national nonprofit, KnowledgeWorks helps schools, communities and states advance systemwide approaches to sustaining student-centered practices, supported by expertise in teaching and learning, education policy, strategic foresight and an emphasis on evidence-based practices. 

Each organization brings its own set of expertise and commitment to educational excellence and equity. Through this collaboration, they are deepening existing ties to focus on practical steps to bring about systems change that benefits both learners and educators in Arizona. At the heart of the work is a shared commitment to learner-centered innovation. 

Personalized, competency-based learning creates engaging educational experiences that are personal for every learner and systems that are customized to each student’s strengths, needs and interests. It uses flexible pacing to ensure that all students have opportunities to master the future-ready skills, knowledge and dispositions to realize their fullest potential. It encourages student voice, agency and ownership over their learning.

“We believe real system transformation requires alignment of teaching and learning at the systems level,” said Chuck Ambrose, president and CEO of KnowledgeWorks. “More importantly, we believe that each learner, no matter their race or ZIP code, must have access to the tools, supports and experiences needed to graduate ready for what’s next. When that happens, we’ll know the system has really changed. By working in partnership with ASU and CFA, these changes for students and learning communities can be accelerated.”

Sybil Francis, president and CEO at CFA, said, “We’ve championed new ways of thinking about education for more than a decade, and how to support districts and educators to redesign school systems in Arizona to build the capacity to sustain student-centered learning. We’ve done this because the one-size-fits-all system of education is not creating equitable outcomes for kids. Nor is it preparing them for success in our rapidly changing world.”

CFA and KnowledgeWorks are entering their second year of a partnership on the Arizona Personalized Learning Network. The network invites school partners (both public districts and charter networks) to make a five-year commitment to participating in the network and engage in the work of deep systems change. Mesa Public Schools is an initial partner in the network. The other current members of the Arizona Personalized Learning Network are Amphitheater Public Schools, Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District and Yuma Union High School District.

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has a long and enduring partnership with Mesa Public Schools. Its students work as interns and residents in schools throughout the district, and the district has worked closely with the college to free teachers from the constraints of a one-teacher-one-classroom model by building teams of educators that can surround learners with diverse areas of expertise. 

“Collaborating in the work with MPS and the Arizona Personalized Learning Network is a great opportunity,” said Carole Basile, dean of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “It’s a natural fit with our work on the Next Education Workforce. We can’t solve our education challenges if we focus only on curriculum or only on pedagogy or only on ed-tech or only on teacher shortage. We can’t magic-bullet ourselves out of a systems problem. We can only design our way through it by taking a learner-centered approach that focuses on the individual success of every child, a professionalization approach that empowers educators to bring about that success, and a systems approach that seeks to design learning environments and organizations that have the capacity to support those educators and learners.”

“Mesa Public Schools promises our graduates will be ready for college, career and community,” said Superintendent Andi Fourlis. “We cannot fulfill that promise alone. By coming together as partners, we can take a holistic approach in supporting Mesa's students and staff. Together, we can make deep, lasting change so that our district can be a catalyst to transform teaching and learning, all in support of student success.”  

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and KnowledgeWorks will work together to facilitate professional learning activities and related materials for teams of educators. Brent Maddin, executive director of the college's Next Education Workforce, and Virgel Hammonds, chief learning officer at KnowledgeWorks, are convening teams from all three organizations to talk about how to advance the work in Mesa. 

“This is an extension of work we are doing to support teams of professional educators,” said Maddin. “Our superpower is educating educators — whether that’s preparing novice teachers, deepening the knowledge and practice of veterans or helping school and district leadership drive transformational change. KnowledgeWorks brings a deep well of practical wisdom in delivering personalized learning, and we are thrilled to welcome that expertise into our work.”

“There are so many areas where our respective strengths can complement one another,” said Hammonds. “Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College’s focus on teams of educators brings a new and interesting dimension to the work we have been doing to champion learner-centered education.” 

All partners share a conviction that, for the sake of learners, education needs to be redesigned. All have structured their work around developing best and next practices in learner-centered education.

Said Francis, “In Arizona, we’re working with partners and education leaders to deliver successful personalized learning. We see personalized learning as a promising educational approach to meet the needs of every child, and, from a systems perspective, it will help to close achievement and opportunity gaps, increase educational attainment and prepare a highly skilled workforce ready to innovate for our future.”

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Top photo: Personalized learning focuses on the individual success of every child. It is designed to meet individual students where they are in their educational journey, ensure mastery of academic content along with social and emotional skills, and foster student ownership in their own learning.

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School of Social Transformation welcomes new faculty members

October 15, 2020

Get to know the newest additions to the School of Social Transformation faculty.

Mellissa Linton, assistant professor, women and gender studies 

Dr. Mellissa Linton

Prior to coming to the School of Social Transformation, Linton completed her PhD in ethnic studies at University of California, San Diego. Before teaching there, she was a double major in English literature and American studies at the University of Southern California. 

Linton is an ethnographer, and her research focuses on reproductive justice, materialist feminism and Central American studies. She is currently working on her first book that utilizes ethnography and cultural analysis of political texts to assert that the right to migrate and flee from Central American countries are reproductive justice issues.  

One of her favorite memories of her academic career was receiving her PhD, as she is the first in her family to do so. Linton is also an ambassador for the 501c3 nonprofit Latino Outdoors and is an avid hiker, backpacker and rock climber.

Tracy Perkins, assistant professor, justice studies 

Dr. Tracey Perkins

Prior to coming to ASU, Perkins was an assistant professor in the department of sociology and criminology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. 

Perkins’ research is focused on social movements and environmental inequality, with a particular focus on environmental justice activism. She has a book coming out with the University of California Press titled “Movement Matters: Protest, Policy and Three Decades of Environmental Justice Activism.”

Some of her favorite memories in her academic career are found in meeting activists and interviewing them about their lives. For example, she created a digital humanities project featuring the late California pesticide drift activist Teresa De Anda. 

She also does photography along with her written work, an example being "Voices from the Valley: Environmental Justice in California’s San Joaquin Valley."

Jennifer Bondy, associate professor, justice and social inquiry, women and gender studies, and culture, society and education

Dr. Jennifer Bondy

Bondy will be joining the School of Social Transformation in the spring 2021 semester. Prior to coming to ASU, she was an associate professor in the women’s and gender studies program in the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech. 

Her research is focused on three interrelated lines of inquiry: Latina youth citizenship formations, school socialization of the children of immigrants, and how white, female preservice teachers understand immigration and undocumented status. She is co-authoring a forthcoming book titled “Immigration and School Safety,” as well as an article titled "Critical Affect Literacy: A Call to Action in a Trump Administration.” 

Her favorite memory in her academic career thus far is joining the editorial board for academic journal Race, Ethnicity and Education. Something that you may not know about Bondy is that she loves strength training and can flip a 300-pound tire and pull a car!

Megan Barbera

Marketing and graphic design student worker , School of Social Transformation