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A Comprehensive System for Personalized, Highly Specialized Supports

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A Comprehensive System for Personalized, Highly Specialized Supports

As we seek to differentiate, individualize, and personalization teaching and learning, we would like to transparently share a few realities that we acknowledge exist (and that may result in objections):

  • There will be less time for core instruction: When we commit to providing more or individualized supports for all students (as described in Chapter 5) and highly-specialized or personalized supports for all students (as described in this chapter) we will logically have less time for core instruction (as described in Chapter 4). We do not, in any way, consider this to represent a loss of instructional time; it simply represents shifts in how we allocate instructional time. Nonetheless, we know from experience that these shifts may be met with resistance. Core + customization will necessitate that we change how we utilize the time we have for core instruction, recognizing that the more instruction described in Chapter 4 will also allow us to engage students with the academic and behavioral priorities of the grade level or course. If we seek to effect changes in student outcomes, we will need to make changes to our practices. Core + customization is good for students.
  • The role of all educators will evolve. General and special educators will increasingly need to operate interdependently. Some teachers may teach larger groups of students for a period of time (during core supports) so their colleagues can teach a smaller group (more supports and specialized supports) at the same time or so that they can do so at other times of the day. Assignments may change fluidly from week to week or unit to unit. Again, if we seek to effect changes in student outcomes, we will need to make changes to how we do our jobs, and what those jobs are. We may serve as core teachers and more teachers and highly-specific teachers, based on our expertise and availabilities.
  • We will not be able to cover as much content. As we noted and validated explicitly in Chapter 1 and throughout this book, the most illogical way to ensure that students learn deeply and develop future-ready skills is to teach more content. Given that there will be less time for core instruction, we must focus on prioritized academic and behavioral outcomes. We must focus more on skills, and less than we historically have on such a wide breadth of content. We must better integrate connected prioritized skills and content into cohesive units. Given the historically shallow nature of our teaching and learning, “teach less, learn more” will be a necessity. Given the need to structure individualized and personalized supports to complement the core, it is an imperative.
  • This sure seems like a lot of work. We are reminded of Richard Elmore’s reflection upon improving student learning: 

There are only three ways to improve student learning at scale: You can raise the level of the content that students are taught. You can increase the skills and knowledge that teachers bring to the teaching of the content. And you can increase the level of students’ active learning of the content. That’s it…Schools don’t improve through political and managerial incantation; they improve through the complex and demanding work of teaching and learning

Richard Elmore, 2008, p. 1.

This most important work in the world is complex and demanding; communities, schools, educators, and students need a collaborative system of support. We believe that a few clichés apply here: Let’s work smarter, not harder; Work hard to sow seeds now, and reap a rich harvest later; and Pay now, or pay later. We believe that all apply. The changes necessary to transform our schools will initially require more work, but we argue that, going forward, the role of the educator will require different, not more, work. Moreover, we have a motto: Adults should not do what students can do. If we want students to take more ownership over their learning journeys, we must give them the opportunities to do so. Consider the examples within this chapter. Students can and should take a much more significant role in their learning. One last point: As we have emphasized throughout this book, collaboration is key. We cannot make the significant and necessary improvements to our profession in the absence of collaboration; together, we will exceed all expectations.


We are firmly committed to transforming schools to ensure that students are future ready. The principles and practices of collaborative systems of support are research-based and evidence-based. We also acknowledge that these changes will take time and will require that staffs collectively study and patiently persist. We strongly recommend that staffs implement slowly and steadily. 

© 2016. Chris Weber Education. Design by Cleverbirds.