Roger Cook and the 6 Spokes of Personalized Learning

A personalized school system places the individual learner at the center of the learning process. Every aspect of the system as a learning organization—from its written, assessed, supported, taught, and learned curricula to its budget design, leadership, and deliver of student services—is purposefully and intentionally focused on maximizing the achievement of every learner. 


That’s a partial explanation of what personalized learning looks like as described in Personalized 21st Century Education: A Framework for Student Success (Jossey-Bass). Published earlier this year, the book was co-authored by Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association; Mort Sherman, associated executive director, AASA; and, John Brown, executive director of curriculum, design and instruction services at Alexandria (Va.) City Public Schools. 

Dozens of superintendents and other public school administrators from Maine to Alaska who are interesting in spreading and sharing the personalized learning movement are convening in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the inaugural meeting of the AASA Superintendents Personalized Learning Cohort and Certification Program. 

“The concept is not hard. It’s not complicated,” said Domenech during his opening remarks. “You take a child and you teach that child where that child is.”

Roger Cook, superintendent of Kentucky’s Taylor County Schools, served as the evening’s keynote speaker. Cook has changed the school system dramatically, introducing a performance-based educational system. The key, as he described, focuses on his “six spokes” of personalized learning: 

  • Traditional
  • Self-Paced
  • Project-Based
  • Peer Led
  • Virtual
  • Cardinal Academy

We need to “look at every child every, single day and find out how they learn best,” said Cook. “It’s not rocket science.” 

The personalized learning system is working in Cook’s district. In seven years, there have been no dropouts and 100 percent graduation. 

“It starts with you,” Cook reminded his audience. 

The day’s session was held at the School Improvement Network, a professional learning provider for educators.

“We honored that you’re here,” said Chet Linton, CEO, School Improvement Network. “We are very dedicated to a cause and we’re excited to work with AASA. It’s exciting to be here with leaders.” 

On Tuesday, part of the meeting will be held at Weber Innovation High School in nearby Ogden, where students are offered a unique and progressive approach to personalized learning through a combination of digital curriculum in a blended teaching format, traditional courses and early college course work.

“We are totally committed to personalized learning,” said Reid Newey, the school’s principal. “It’s a lot of work but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

“This group can have a voice in the (personalized learning) movement,” said Mort Sherman, associated executive director, AASA. “I am in awe of what you do. We want you to join together and ultimately share with our colleagues across the country.” “Personalized learning is not a dream anymore,” said Domenech. “It’s a reality.” 

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