Six Personalized Learning MVP Moments From Fulton County Schools

Blog Series, Learning, Smart Schools

Stephanee Stephens

One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something. –Nolan Ryan

As any good coach will tell you, “being the best” isn’t the only factor in determining a win. Strategy, preparedness, ability… and luck all play a part. As Fulton County Schools wraps up another school year, and embarks on a deeper dive into personalized learning, there are several MVP moments that are setting us up for success.

Here are the top six personalized learning MVP moments from the 2014-15 school year:

1. Keeping Our Eye on the Prize

At the beginning of the baseball season each spring, teams share a common goal of being World Series Champions. They work hard everyday to contribute to the team in order to see that goal become a reality. If the coach said, Hey guys, let’s just see what happens and go out there and have fun,” the drive and determination of the players would wane. Commitment to a shared vision through a District Strategic Plan is possibly one of the most important factors in the success of systemic change.


Shifting to personalized learning is a huge lift for every member of a school system, but when we can point to a goal, then end justifies the means and all stakeholders take ownership and pride in the process. Creation of our Personalized Learning Roadmap (in partnership with Gartner), as well as our consultation with experts from the Clayton Christensen Institute, Digital Promise, The Learning Accelerator and others helps us stay focused on the plan, the process, and the end goal of a personalized learning experience for our students.

Personalized Learning Framework

2. Roll Film… Make Changes

Just as good players review game footage and make adjustments, so too should we plan, implement, and evaluate as many times as necessary to “get it right.” Much of our success as a large district is completely dependent on our ability to be agile in our continuous improvement cycle. Allowing schools to self-assess prior to determining the timeline for implementation was one of the biggest wins we have had so far. Reflection and self-analysis was the jumping off point for schools. Here is the link to our School Readiness Rubric. Once readiness was assessed, schools were grouped. Group 1 is in the first phase of implementation and Group 2 will come online this summer.


3. Recruit the Best

When the outfield is weak, the coach doesn’t call in a catcher. Targeted support and staffing is vital to our success. Specifically because of our status as a charter district, there is a large variance school-by-school in regard to support needs. A “one size fits most” model simply wouldn’t do. We decided to use the Request for Qualification process to enlist the support of vendors and institutions which could support our efforts to personalize learning. Each of the groups below addresses a specific category: District-level Visioning, School-based Visioning, Professional Development/Training, or Embedded Coaching.

The 10 vendors qualified are:

  1. Amplify Education, Inc.RFQ Vendors Icon
  2. Dell
  3. Discovery Education, Inc.
  4. Education Elements, Inc.
  5. Georgia Tech Research Corporation
  6. ISI Team
  7. Kennesaw State University iTeach Center
  8. Marzano Research, LLC
  9. Mastery Design Collaborative, Inc.
  10. Promethean, Inc.

4. Take Me Out to the (Un) Classroom

Why do we attend live sporting events? We could watch any sport at any time from home. Being inside an idyllic stadium with the sights, sounds, and smells of the game are what activate our personal investment in the outcome. The same is true for learning. We can innovate learning only to a certain extent without placing consideration and value on changing the physical spaces where learning happens. Currently, construction is underway on a new McNair Middle School building. The architectural plans and design elements are drastically different than any traditional classroom. (Click here for renderings)


In addition to the ground-up build of McNair, six more middle schools are undergoing additions which will create updated spaces that are much more open and flexible; almost becoming “classroom-less” learning spaces. This is a huge shift in not just a physical definition of school, but also a pedagogical one. Never underestimate the power of the physical learning environment to make learning feel personal.

5. Gear Up

In order to protect themselves and perform at their best, athletes select high quality tools and gear before they hit the field.  This is much how we feel about selecting hardware and software to support learning in Fulton County.  Some pieces are already in place; AirWatch, our mobile device management server; Safari Montage, our digital repository; Edgenuity, our learning management system are live and being used with increasing numbers across the district, and we are now ready to start allowing schools to select devices.

Currently a team is reviewing submissions to a Request for Proposals for Mobile Device Solutions. Our focus is to allow schools to choose a device that best supports their instructional model, while keeping the selection manageable from a IT support perspective. Here is a copy of the RFP. More to come on this in an upcoming post!

6. Train Hard Off-Season

As the school year winds down, it’s easy to get a false sense that now would be the time to take a breather, relax. But now is the time to dig deep and train hard. Just like off-season athletes hit the gym and work on physical conditioning, so too do teachers need continuous opportunities to develop their craft. This summer, we will have many training and PD opportunities for teachers.


VanBatSummer Summit, an in-house micro conference for FCS educators happens at the very beginning of June. The Fulton County Vanguard Team (See article here about their role and work) will be hitting the road for a 55 person charter bus road trip to ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia for another opportunity to plug in to thought leaders and partners. In July we will host another event for school leadership teams, called Building Our Future, which this year will focus solely on personalized learning with Michael Horn as the keynote speaker.  There is no rest for the dedicated…and that, we truly are!

For more on Fulton County Schools, check out:


Stephanee Stephens is an Instructional Technology Program Specialist at Fulton County Schools. Follow Stephanee on Twitter with @StephSteph83.


Tom Vander Ark /

Here are a couple updates from team Fulton:
-Ed Elements is working with our group 1 and 2 schools. Mastery Design collaborative will work with our ‘pilot’ schools and we will reevaluate for group 3
-For a “grade book” teachers record student progress ina Sunguard product called eSchool Plus. This environment supports the traditional reporting environment as well as our standards based reporting environment.
-Data collection is done through a PCG custom product called FultonConnect. It holds formative, diagnostic, and summative data that are created locally. They have purchased thousands of assessment items that teachers can access as they develop common assessments within the classroom environment.

We use the Data Wise process from Harvard University as our data framework. It guides how we think about and utilize data within the district. Our Research and Evaluation Team use this framework as well when thinking about systemic uses of data. This team has also designed the research component of our personalized learning work.