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March 04, 2020

Teach To One: The Evolution Of Innovation In Personalized Learning

In a myriad of sectors, advancement and evolution has manifested innovative solutions to ongoing problems, streamlined daily practices, created new cultures, and implemented the framework for successful daily operations. These advancements, on any scale, have been borne out of symbiotic marriages between technological innovation, and an earnest desire to overcome the status quo. For the countless startup companies that have ultimately changed the way in which millions of people exist, disrupting the unsuccessful status quo has driven fledgling ideas into being successfully manifested as the wave of the future. Within the highly traditional education sector, the notion of personalized learning began to spill out of the mouths of forward-thinking leaders many years ago, who dabbled in the seemingly radical notion of creating classroom spaces unlike previously seen within the traditional school environment.


            As globalization allowed for instant connectivity, educational leaders bore witness to the multiple shortcomings facing countless school districts. From lack of funding for essential supplies, to overcrowding that rendered it impossible for educators to provide quality one on one time with students, the status quo of the traditional school model was becoming clearly antiquated, ineffective, and even potentially detrimental for the next generation of learners. With the ability to connect to other leaders across the world in real-time, the tech advancements of the Golden Age of Technology allowed for broader thoughts to be borne, for ideas to take shape based on models from across the world, and for the concept of leveraging this newly burgeoning technology to maximize the ability to successfully educate students in a meaningful, effective, and overall successful manner.

            Through earnest desire to restructure the traditional classroom setting to maximize thoughtful education, various individuals, startups, and companies began to conceptualize new frontiers within the educational system. Independent school districts utilized funding to spearhead new programming, and startup companies worked toward building a new status quo for the evolution of classroom learning. Amongst those innovative startups, the successful personalized learning model Teach To One was born.

            The Inception Of Ideas

            Joel Rose began his professional trajectory as a fifth-grade math teacher in Houston. With a love for teaching, young Rose set out to make a difference in the lives of fifth graders, one math lesson at a time. Swiftly, however, Rose recognized the same problem that has plagued teachers across the country. Upon arrival within Rose’s fifth grade math classroom, some students showcased appropriate grade-level comprehension, while many students exhibited comprehension regarded as second grade level, or conversely, seventh grade level. With such variation in the mere starting points of these students, along with each of their individual learning styles, Rose was simply unable to effectively reach the entire scope of students with singular lessons. Without the physical ability to command a classroom that would have to essentially be divided into numerous subsections to gain relevance in lesson planning, Rose could only teach the standardized state-controlled lesson planning, hoping that all students would catch up. Recognizing the intrinsic faults with this type of system, Rose understood the unique frustrations of teachers, and the undeniable desire to restructure this seemingly archaic classroom system.

            While Rose yearned to simply overhaul the traditional classroom infrastructure to allow for maximization of learning, he knew that this venture required systemic change, and a complete rethinking of the traditional learning experience that would require a strong academic component, as well as an innovative operational component. From these initial thoughts, the groundwork for what would eventually become known as Teach To One began to formulate. As Rose continued within his professional trajectory, he remained committed to modernizing the classroom experience. In 2008, Rose served as the New York City Department of Education’s Chief Executive For Human Capital. Within this position, he was responsible for hiring talented educators, and fostering the dedication of the brightest educational leaders. However, he recognized that talented personnel would not suffice in his long-term goal for overhauling the traditional learning environment. After all, even the most talented educators could not overcome the limitations of overcrowding, students at vastly different comprehension levels, and the need to personalize educational modules to fit the bespoke needs of every student.

            In considering plausible evolutions of the educator role within a modernized learning environment, Rose and his team began to take cues from other sectors that employed the leadership of experts to determine sustainable roles to maximize a positive outcome. While visiting an adult center, Rose’s inspiration was struck by a beacon of a banner, touting; “Choose your modality. Learn live, online, or a blend.” Swiftly, he recognized the connection between students requiring differentiating modalities to maximize learning, and educators requiring the ability to teach in multiple modalities to maximize the efficacy of their lessons. Envisioning the manifestation of this concept, Rose welcomed the notion of educators facilitating multiple personalized lessons simultaneously with the help of technology, through independent coursework, collaborative group session work, and instructor-led lessons within smaller groups.

            School Of One and New Classrooms

            Rose created a comprehensive blueprint for the innovative layout of this multi-tiered classroom experience, which he aptly called School Of One. Co-Founder Chris Rush developed and designed the model for School Of One, a former Earth Sciences teacher at an Environmental Education Center who has amassed vast prior experience in developing the infrastructure for the advancement of educational services, data systems, and reporting systems. Rose and Rush presented the idea to a supportive New York City Chancellor Of Schools Joel Klein. With Klein’s support, the team was able to raise the initial funding needed to operate School Of One on a trial basis, as a summer pilot program in 2009. Within the same year, the fledgling innovative learning model was named by TIME Magazine as one of the year’s best inventions, heralded by initial supporters. While the fledgling program was a fantastic start to Rose’s grand vision, he aimed to harness the initial successes into a larger venture.

            Two years after the inception of School Of One, then-Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mayor Bloomberg (News - Alert), Rose set out to expand upon the initial offerings of School Of One, building upon the principals already set in motion by the initial successes of the project. He founded New Classrooms, a national non-profit organization that aimed to leverage the initial successes of School Of One, and bring similar ideas on a broad scale, made available to all schools throughout the country. In bringing the new version of School Of One to the masses, Rose renamed the program Teach To One, reflective of the actionary basis of the program. With the creation of Teach To One, the team worked to implement their innovative personal learning model within all schools, and to effectively create systemic change within the educational system.

            Teach To One

            By allowing educators to personalize what, when, and where each student engages in math education on a daily basis, Teach To One offers educators the flexibility to create bespoke learning modules in two-week increments that leverage each student’s unique learning style, comprehension level, and ongoing trajectory. While this personalized path harnesses each student’s potential, it simultaneously allows educators to dedicate their precious time to physically instructing smaller groups of students who are actively working on the same skills. As math is a cumulative subject, this methodology allows each student to fully comprehend the base skills needed in order to successfully move toward increasingly challenging tasks that require comprehension of the base skills.

            During a typical day within partnered schools, students enter the dedicated math zone, typically spread into four quadrants, with each section dedicated to a particular type of activity. Within this large open-concept space, students can gain valuable social interaction skills via small group activities, gain independent knowledge through computer-based individual assignments, and garner the benefits of traditional instructor-led lessons via grouped lessons. Upon entering the math area, students look at large digital monitors, which direct them where to begin their daily lesson, how long they will remain at the given station, and where to report upon the completion of the allotted time. They begin their lessons on a particular dedicated topic, and make their way through multi-disciplinary methods of learning.

            At the culmination of each day, students complete an “exit interview”, or a short quiz that aims to garner analytical data to confirm their comprehension of the day’s lesson. This smart data is crucial in determining the ongoing trajectory of lesson planning, and becomes tailored to the most effective learning styles for each student. Upon the completion of the “exit interview”, the bespoke algorithms determine whether the student has mastered the particular lesson, rendering them ready to work on a new topic throughout the following day. If the student has not showcased adequate understanding of the topic, the same topic will be highlighted during the following day, but it will be presented in a different learning module, utilizing a different learning style. This assortment not only allows for the content to remain interesting and engaging to the student, but it allows the algorithms to deduce the most effective learning strategies for each student.

            With countless lesson-planning strategies and ideas available for educators, Teach To One aims to provide a comprehensive experience for educators, and provides many “project” ideas to be utilized as part of the curriculum. Of course, teachers have the capacity to tailor these projects based on the unique needs of their own classrooms, providing autonomy for educators. The pioneering educators work alongside Teach To One to maximize successful outcomes for their students, and to propel the successes of the program in terms of overall comprehension growth.

            Ongoing Development

            Continuously seeking growth, expansion, and streamlining of processes, Teach To One’s leaders remain committed to further development of the program to best suit the needs of every student, and to maximize positive results across all participating schools. While the program has garnered impressive results within the first few years of active implementation within various schools, and has showcased greater tangible growth of comprehension versus traditional math education programs, the innovators at Teach To One understand the importance of continuously striving to improve upon the program. Through their commitment to perfecting the personalized learning model on a long-term timeline, the experts at Teach To One have added new areas of focus, expanding beyond making Teach To One accessible in many school districts.

            Since inception, Teach To One has been striving toward becoming accessible within the public schools systems, charter schools, and private independent schools. Within the span of a few short years, Teach To One has grown to include participating schools in four United States time zones, across all levels of funding, within urban and rural areas alike. While their physical growth and influence continues to rise, the innovators at Teach To One remain vigilant in their ongoing quest to evolve the program based on incoming feedback, growing population needs, and educational results captured through independent review.

With the operational aspects successfully underway, and initial information readily available to analyze, Teach To One aims to streamline, perfect, and maximize the educational aspects of the model. By asking concise questions related to the specific efficacy of targeted modules, learning styles, and educational variants, Teach To One can harness these analytics to provide even more effective lesson planning for all participant schools, and can share this breadth of knowledge to inspire further change within the traditional academic setting.

As Teach To One continues along the path to modernizing the traditional classroom experience via personalized learning, the future of the students positively impacted by the program continues to shine brightly. For many participating students, finally understanding math has turned the subject from a frustrating time, to a wildly successful learning experience. For these students, the future is filled with possibilities, resting on the full scope of comprehension garnered from the bespoke education they receive through Teach To One’s innovative learning model. From an educator’s recognition of a systemic deficit, Teach To One was born, and continues to pave the way for the future of the educational system, one student at a time.

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