Grants help students personalize learning with more control over schoolwork and schedules

personalized-learningNext school year, students at several Pinellas County high schools will plan their own school days.

The local school district will be among 10 throughout the nation receiving a “College-Ready” Next Generation Learning Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Pinellas school officials are establishing five school-within-a-school programs and transforming Lealman Intermediate into an “incubator school” that implements new technologies and personalized learning — all with the goal of improving students’ academic performance.

Gates Foundation representatives will review the Pinellas plan next month and decide how much funding the district will receive — up to $500,000 per school.

The grant money will be distributed in various amounts, with the Gates Foundation contributing a total of $10 million to about 50 schools throughout the nation. The plan is to have the programs and the re-imagined Lealman up and running by next school year. If the effort is successful, Pinellas officials would like all of the county’s high schools to participate by 2030.

The school district is working with New Tech Network and personalized to establish technology-driven programs at Northeast High School, Clearwater High School, Seminole High School, the Career Academies of Seminole and Pinellas Park High School, said Rita Vasquez, the district’s executive director of high school education.

(Next page: How the grants enable personalized learning)