Survey says: Parents are willing partners on personalized learning, but we must engage them


 By Phyllis Lockett, CEO, LEAP Innovations

We’ve all heard it. Anyone who has been working in education for any length of time knows by now:  We can’t fix education if parents aren’t involved.

Unfortunately, too often we see well-meaning education reform efforts fail because their supporters didn’t cultivate buy-in, not only from educators, but from the families of the children they are designed to benefit. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen with personalized learning.

Personalized learning—and the growth of education technology tools to support it—has the potential to help level the playing field for many students, to take us out of an industrial model of teaching and into one that is truly customized to meet the needs of individual students.

It would be regrettable to miss this window of opportunity because we failed to do our part to engage parents and the communities we serve.

A new poll released by the Learning Assemblya national network of organizations piloting and evaluating ed tech innovations with schools across the country—gives us some valuable insights on what parents today are thinking about personalized learning and technology.


Notably, 93 percent said they support tailoring learning to meet their child’s individual needs and the same percentage said they believe technology is a valuable tool to do just that.

This is promising. It means that 9 out of 10 parents are already supportive of our work.  They understand its value and 87 percent of them believe technology can have a positive impact on student learning.

However, there’s a big gap when it comes creating common understanding. Using the phrase “tailored learning”—a proxy for “personalized learning”—yielded high support, but when parents were asked if they understand the exact phrase “personalized learning,” only 44 percent said yes. There is an opportunity here to expose parents to the innovations happening in our classrooms with the goals of informing, engaging and building demand for the work.

Parents also say that only 33 percent of schools are doing an excellent job using technology to personalize learning. Given that so many (93 percent) believe technology is a valuable tool to tailor learning, we’ve got a clear parental mandate to do better.

And when we do better, students will learn more. The survey found that parents who say their child’s school does an excellent job implementing technology were two and a half times more likely to say their child learned more.

Learning Assembly members in regions across the country are working directly with schools to help them implement technology well with the goal that more schools will fall into the “excellent” category and learning outcomes will rise.

In places like Boston, LearnLaunch’s MASSNET (Massachusetts School Support Edtech Testbed) works with Boston Public Schools to craft implementation plans, provide ongoing instructional coaching and support, and collect and synthesize data about implementation and student outcomes.

At LEAP Innovations, our Pilot Network program works with schools for 18 months to implement personalized learning practices, and the edtech tools to support them.  Early results indicate a +1.07 RIT score gain on NWEA among the students in our Pilot Network, as compared to the control group.

As stakeholders and educators, we see the promise of personalized learning to transform education. Now, we must create parent champions for the work who will demand that it be brought to scale and provide every child with a tailored education designed to unlock their potential.


Phyllis Lockett is the CEO of LEAP Innovations, an education innovation hub that discovers, pilots and scales innovative technologies and practices to transform education in our country.

Before starting LEAP, Phyllis was a driving force behind Chicago’s charter movement.  As founding president and CEO of New Schools for Chicago, she helped raise more than $70 million to support opening 80 new public schools, primarily charters. Her work more than tripled the number of charter schools and drove Chicago’s first magnet school replication. For nearly a decade, she focused on bringing quality public schools to communities of high need and advocating for school choice.

Born and raised on Chicago’s south side, Phyllis is a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools system, and both of her parents were Chicago Public Schools teachers.  She earned a Master of Management degree from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University.

The Learning Assembly is a national network of organizations piloting and evaluating ed tech innovations with schools across the country. The Learning Assembly members include Citizen Schools, Digital Promise, Highlander Institute, iZone, LearnLaunch, LEAP Innovations and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Learning Assembly members collaborate with educators, ed tech companies and research partners to:

  • Put teachers and school leaders at the center of the decision making process in the move towards personalized learning
  • Rigorously assess and evaluate the best ed tech products in the market
  • Raise the bar for quality in ed tech by analyzing and sharing evidence of learning outcomes
  • Provide ed tech companies with critical feedback from teachers and students so they can improve their products
  • Foster a community that shares knowledge, develops common tools and methods for our work and creates disciplined measurement and reporting practices