Taylor County School District Personalized Learning Summit

Voices from the Field   25 August 2016

Join us as Taylor County School District superintendent, Roger Cook, shares how an innovative learning environment can expand their reach via a national learning summit. Roger’s story is likely to resonate with many learner-centered pioneers—humbly underestimating the local and national interest in their innovations.

I came to Taylor County School District with a vision for a Wheel of Learning that is held together by six spokes—Self-Paced, Project-Based, Peer-Led, Virtual, Cardinal Academy, and Traditional Learning. Each spoke provides a different choice of learning style to maximize the learning potential of each unique learner. Additionally, learners are able to accelerate and move at their own pace; a system of teaching and learning that places learners in grade-level content areas based on mental capacity rather than chronological age.

Cook’s competency-based, personalized learning approach has not only delivered a lasting impact on the learners in his district, but his work has become a national example of how public school districts can transform their systems into learner-centered environments.

When we started hosting district leaders from across the state and nation, the demand grew at such an overwhelming rate, we needed to find a better way to get our system in front of more eyes. I called my team together, expressed my vision, and they helped make it happen. From there, the Personalized Learning Summit was born.

Cook had modest expectations for this pilot summit. Even if just a handful of people expressed interest, it would provide an “off-season” opportunity for leaders to learn about Taylor County’s approach, all while being far less constrained by their inflexible schedules during the typical school year.

I originally expected 20-40 people to attend, considering this would be its first year and it was taking place during the peak of summer vacation season. However, we had over 200 people in attendance, including presenters, our panel, and our student ambassadors.

The summit afforded Cook and his team the opportunity to peel back the system’s intricate layers that are less visible through simple classroom observation. Every stakeholder within the Taylor County community was able to shed light on the questions all districts have when assessing whether or not they would like to commit to education transformation in their environments back home.

We had individual hour-long sessions led by our own teachers that focused on each spoke of the wheel. This included live demonstrative teaching where our attendees could actually see how the different methods of teaching and learning work; how our teachers move around their classrooms with the ability to sit one-on-one with students and focus on each individual need. Although having the opportunity to direct a variety of questions to our front-line leaders, we needed the voices of our parents and learners represented. Our parent/student panel provided our guests with the opportunity to ask questions and get real life answers about the concerns our parents and learners had at the beginning of the transformation process. This panel showed other superintendents, principals, board members, and teachers that it is normal to have some concerns in the beginning, but, with the right leadership and plan of action, this innovative way of learning will enhance their learners’ success in the future.


What did the attendees have to say? They were excited to hear from students about their experiences, witness live teaching demonstrations, and talk one-on-one with Taylor County teachers.

Roger Cook
Superintendent, Taylor County School District

After it was all said and done, Cook couldn’t help but feel optimistic about the positive impact the Taylor County framework will have on other districts this school year. The energy in the room was euphoric and the positive reviews they received in their anonymous, post-summit survey further proved the event’s value.

I’m proud of our teachers, staff, parents, students, and board members that made this event possible. Without the collaboration of our team, this vision would not be possible. I’m excited for the school districts that attended the summit, and I look forward to hearing their success stories of Personalized Learning and Performance-Based Education for their students.

As the stories roll in and the calendar turns over to a new year, we look forward to hearing about the impact TCSD has made around the nation and what they have in store for their second annual Personalized Learning Summit. And, we can’t wait for this idea of local environments hosting national learning summits to catch on!

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