LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY 1
FOSTER PERSONALIZED INSTRUCTION
2021 PAGE Legislative Priority 1:
Foster Personalized Instruction
PAGE is Georgia’s largest professional organization for educators, representing more than 95,000 teachers, administrators, and school personnel throughout the state. Our members drafted and approved their 2021 Legislative Priorities, which will guide PAGE’s advocacy during the legislative session. This page supplements the 2021 PAGE Legislative Priorities Overview.
Foster personalized instruction:
Create learning conditions that support the essential relationship between students and educators.
Invest in broadband and technology that facilitates learning in classrooms, at home, and other settings.
Fund locally determined, targeted interventions that address pandemic-related student learning loss.
Ensure adequate support staff are available to serve students, allowing teachers to focus on teaching.
Georgia educators’ deep commitment to their students and to implementation of state performance standards has yielded important student learning gains in recent years. As this work has progressed, it is evident that it must continue to evolve: Significant disparities in outcomes persist for many Georgia students, particularly those from historically marginalized communities (see footnote 1). Knowledge about how best to meet student needs continues to grow among educators and researchers. Continued economic changes require new knowledge and skills of young people. Personalized instructional models must meet all students where they are and provide them with pathways and supports.
Personalized instruction is built on strong relationships between students and the educators who work with them. Close relationships enable educators to know students well—their strengths and weaknesses—and design learning experiences that match individual student needs and goals.
Personalized learning provides a learning progression based on rigorous, integrated academic standards and development of social-emotional skills. It incorporates varied instructional practices informed by student input and including project-based, experiential, virtual formats, internships and other learning experiences. These approaches enable students to critically examine and connect issues within the broader context of their communities and world. Supported by strong relationships with educators, personalized learning strategies allow students to move at the pace they need to master complex subjects and demonstrate this mastery through multiple assessment formats.
Adopting a personalized approach to teaching and learning is more vital now than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted learning for all Georgia students and exacerbated long-standing disparities that too often have left many students behind and facing diminished options for a secure economic future (see footnote 2).
Broadband & Technology. The COVID-19 pandemic reveals access to reliable technology and internet is an essential link between educators and students. This technology allows learning to continue, even when in-person instruction is disrupted. Yet far too many Georgia students do not have reliable devices at home or access to affordable broadband. PAGE members from across the state report this has a negative impact on students including loss of interest in school, increased absences, or dropping out or losing contact (see footnote 3). The pandemic also expands how technology can be used to connect students to different learning experiences that best match their individual needs. All Georgia students, regardless of their location, must have access to the array of learning options technology and affordable broadband provides.
Source: Georgia Broadband Deployment initiative
Targeted Interventions. The pandemic affects students’ academic growth and social-emotional well-being in different ways. Some students are far behind where they should be academically and need significant support to recover. Others have been able to continue with limited interruption and impact, while many more fall between those groups. PAGE members report that many students also struggle with anxiety, depression and isolation, losing connections to teachers and peers even when they attend school in person.[i] School districts must have resources to design and implement the most effective model of personalized instruction to effectively serve students.
Adequate Support Staff. Teachers have the lead role in serving student academic needs, but their success doing so relies in part on having colleagues who can help meet the full array of student concerns. Mental health professionals are essential, and more are needed in Georgia’s classrooms, a component of PAGE’s 2021 Legislative Priorities. Substitute teachers are another critical piece of a strong educator workforce especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teacher absences due to contracting the virus or quarantining from exposure have sent districts scrambling to find substitutes. When they cannot, teachers cover colleagues’ classes as well as their own, creating an unsustainable workload. Difficulty finding substitutes is not a new challenge. One factor is the insufficient amount the state provides districts to defray substitute costs. The state provides $150 to cover the cost of a substitute for eight days for every teacher, which amounts to $18.75 per day and leaves districts to cover nearly the full cost of substitutes. With additional state funding, districts could recruit more substitutes and reduce teacher workload.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). The nation’s report card: 2019 reading state snapshot report, Georgia, grade 8, public schools. Washington, DC: same. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2019/pdf/2020014GA8.pdf
Suggs, C. (2020). Uncharted instruction: Georgia educators adapting to COVID-19 school closures. Atlanta, GA: Professional Association of Georgia Educators. Retrieved from https://www.pageinc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/FNL-Survey-Report-4.15.2020.pdf
Suggs, C. (2021). Voices from Georgia’s schools: Georgia educators on supporting public education during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Atlanta, GA: Professional Association of Georgia Educators. Retrieved from https://www.pageinc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2021-Legislative-Survey-Report.pdf