Through intentional collaboration, I found the innovative educators who have taken on the challenge of personalizing learning in schools to create a new learning paradigm.

As a child, Stacey Wang had to choose whether or not she wanted to engage in school. Because Stacey experienced some health challenges given her premature birth, her family had limited expectations for what she might aspire to. But when her mother moved her family from Los Angeles to Taiwan, Stacey’s life changed.

There, she was challenged to choose how she wanted to approach life -- and if she wanted to continue being nonchalant or instead, to engage in learning and build relationships. When she chose the latter and persevered in education, Stacey realized she could be in control of her happiness.

Now, as Advisor to the Superintendent for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in California, Stacey sees personalized learning and student agency as the answer to achieving equitable learning outcomes for all students.

At OUSD, Stacey partners with schools to design what an ideal student day at school could look like, including what the student would learn and feel. Then, with a clear student-centered vision, the schools can “backwards map” how every adult would operate to support this dream. As Stacey describes, her work is not about a top-down approach – it is about giving educators the time and space to do what is best for, and with, students and families.

In her role, Stacey is leading work to empower educators, which includes redesigning systems and mindsets to support innovation; creating a movement around innovation; and increasing educator capacity to innovate and disseminate successful ideas.

While her work is still in its early stages, Stacey has created results that include:

  • Collaborating with district departments and nonprofits across the city to co-host 30 events that reached over 300 educators representing 50 schools and provided educators with various entry points into personalized learning –  including competency-based learning workshops, equity talks, school visits, and more.

  • Leading 26 schools to apply for grant funding, which resulted in 10 schools being awarded over $3 million in grants to support their design and implementation of personalized learning.

  • Co-launching six personalized learning schools that will collectively serve over 3,000 public school students, more than 70% of whom are anticipated to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch - some of these are already seeing positive shifts in student engagement and academics .

  • Leading another 20 schools to explore blended learning to increase data-driven instruction and “techquity.”