Research is slim on personalized learning’s effectiveness

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has studied student growth at a small group of schools that have implemented personalized learning. The foundation reports that while results varied widely, most schools outperformed in math and reading scores.

But there is very little research that can show personalized learning is better or more effective than the traditional method of teaching, said Larry Cuban, a Stanford University professor who has studied the education style.

“Anyone that says what the research says about personalized learning is either a fool or a charlatan,” Cuban said. “There’s no single best way of teaching kids.”

But that is, in part, because the things personalized learning emphasizes can be harder to measure, said Justin Reich, a Harvard University education professor.

Giving students control of learning might not mean they’re much better at ciphering math problems on a standardized test, he said. But it might mean they’re better at communicating online or expressing their ideas.

“It’s also possible that they could do a whole lot of things right that wouldn’t necessarily show up in test scores,” Reich said.

“If you’re saying we’re really concerned with preparing kids for life and want to make sure they do well on a wide range of assessments, and be more engaged, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s plan makes a lot of sense.”

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