Deputy Secretary of Education to Personalized Learning Cohort: ‘Your Efforts Will Make a Difference’

 Permanent link

personalized fall 18-1The 2018 fall meeting of the AASA Personalized Learning Cohort is convening in Glendale, Ariz., home of the Dysart Unified School District. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Mitchell Zais served as keynote speaker during last night’s opening session, held at the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel, and it was apparent that he supports personalized learning and its impact on students.

“I’m grateful of what you’re doing to improve personalized learning opportunities for the students within your districts and to provide freedom for teachers to be creative and innovative in their classrooms,” the Secretary told the cohort. “Your efforts will make a difference.”

“That’s exactly what this group is all about,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, immediately following the Secretary’s remarks.

Gail Pletnick, immediate past president of AASA, recently retired as superintendent of Dysart Schools, host site for the fall meeting. Today, superintendents and other administrators are visiting schools in the district to get a firsthand look at personalized learning in action.

personalized fall 18-2“We really appreciate the opportunity to host this meeting,” said Pletnick who serves as co-chair of the AASA Personalized Learning Cohort. “To me, this mission is about equity. If we can create that student-centered environment, then we’re going to reach every single child.”

“Personalized learning is the essence of creativity and innovation for kids,” said Valerie Truesdale, associate superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, N.C., and co-chair of the AASA Personalized Learning Cohort. “I thank members of this cohort for pushing each other so we can transform America’s classrooms and reach the needs of every learner.”

“[Personalized Learning] is not hypothesis anymore. It’s not theory anymore. It’s real and it’s happening,” said Domenech. “Personalized learning is playing a critical role to provide each child the education that is appropriate for that child. That’s equity.”

Objectives of the three-day meeting include:

  • Define the critical elements of personalized learning;
  • Identify specific focus areas of interest for personalized learning to support the work of the AASA Personalized Learning Cohort and members’ districts;
  • Develop plans to support each other and participants’ districts in the work to personalize learning.

personalized fall 18-3“Personalized learning is not the same everywhere,” said Chris Gaines, president of AASA and superintendent of Missouri’s Mehlville School District. “When we see it in action, we can ask ourselves, ‘How can I make this work in my district or in a school in my district? How can we bring it to scale across my district so every student has [personalized learning] opportunities?’”

On Thursday, the cohort will travel to Dysart’s Shadow Ridge High School and have the ability to see key aspects of what personalized learning entails, including learning spaces, architecture and engineering.

“Students need learning environments that are flexible, relevant and exciting,” said Secretary Zais. “Each student has different interests, different abilities and different aspirations. This is not a partisan view.”

“Across the country, districts are finding ways to get parents and students the freedom to chart their own futures and pursue their own dreams, not somebody else’s dreams. No stigma should stand in the way of a student’s pursuit of fulfilling a career and meaningful life,” he added.

To learn more about the program, visit the AASA Personalized Learning Cohort web page, which includes AASA’s recently produced case studies featuring several members of the cohort. Superintendents and other school system leaders can also contact Mort Sherman, AASA associate executive director, leadership services, at or Debbie Magee, program manager, at

To join the conversation via Twitter, access the hashtags #LearnPLinAction and #AASAPersonalizedLrng