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CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

Developing Personalized Learning Pathways at Holmes Elementary

The Massachusetts Personalized Learning Network (MA PLN) is hard at work helping public schools transition to personalized learning programs that put student engagement and academic success at the heart of their curricula. Personalized learning helps students learn how to think critically and engage with the world they live in while embracing their individual interests and learning styles.

In this three-part interview series, MA PLN Senior Associate Karen P. White talks to principals and headmasters participating in MA PLN cohorts about their visions for personalized learning. Today Karen chats with Principal Yeshi Gaskin Lamour of Holmes Elementary School on how the school plans to use personalized learning to cultivate student success and emotional growth.


Holmes Elementary
is part of our second cohort of schools in the Massachusetts Personalized Learning Network (MA PLN). Holmes Elementary, a Boston Public School, is located on School Street in the heart of Dorchester. Holmes’ student body is predominantly African American and Latino with less than 6% from other ethnic groups. Holmes services students from across the city with emotional impairments and this makes up 24% of the student body, which is significantly higher than the district average at 19%. Holmes Elementary is currently in the process of becoming an Innovation School so they will have the autonomies needed to fully implement a personalized learning program.

I asked Principal Yeshi Gaskin Lamour a few questions to learn more about Holmes Elementary from her perspective.

Karen: What would you say makes Holmes Elementary a special place to teach and learn?

Mrs. Lamour: Our students are the most special part of our school. They are brilliant and capable of academic excellence. Our staff is dedicated and eager to make the necessary changes to make our school the best it can be. Our students have great potential and they want to experience academic success.

Karen: Why do you want to create a more personalized learning experience for your students?

Mrs. Lamour: Our students deserve access to the highest quality of instruction each and every day. By personalizing instruction our students and teachers will work together to design engaging and authentic learning experiences. However, for that to happen we know our staff will need professional learning and hands on coaching around best practices for student centered teaching and learning. We know that personalizing instruction is the best route to creating a school that will realize the academic potential of our students.

Karen: What are the personalized learning program focus areas for your school?

Mrs. Lamour: We want to incorporate project-based learning with an eye towards social justice and cultural relevance. We want to use blended learning and technology as an access point for our students. Most importantly, we want to build a comprehensive social and emotional learning model so we can better serve all of our students including our population of students with social emotional impairments.

Karen: Which of the Six MA PLN Principles directly align to those program areas? (top 3)

Mrs. Lamour: Social Emotional Learning, Personalized Learning Pathways, and Next Generation Curriculum and Assessment. Because of our school population we know that hands on learning, personalization, and attention to social emotional needs are crucial to student success. We are doing as much of that as we can now but the autonomy we will have as an Innovation School will help us improve these efforts.

Karen: What are some of the challenges of this transformation to a more personalized learning school?

Mrs. Lamour: One of our largest challenges was securing a staff vote for conversion to an Innovation School. I am happy to share that the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of conversion. We have a staff that knows the current system is not working for our students and we need the autonomy to design an academic program that will. Another challenge is time. From the beginning we have been dedicated to making this a collaborative planning process and we solicited feedback from all of the stakeholder groups in our school community. Incorporating that feedback prior to submitting the plan to the Boston School Committee board for approval has required lots of late nights and even weekend meetings.

Karen: What is the vision for Holmes and personalized learning?

Mrs. Lamour: The Holmes Innovation School will be a place where the courage, resilience, and curiosity of students is supported and cultivated—a place where teachers, students, and their families share responsibility for the academic success and social emotional growth of students. We will use personalized learning pathways and project based learning to prepare our scholars for success in middle school and beyond.

To learn more about Holmes please visit their website at http://owholmes.wixsite.com/holmes and follow them @OWHolmesSchool.

Read Parts 2 and 3 in this interview series:
A Technology Rich Project-Based Curriculum: TechBoston Academy's Vision for Personalized Learning
Making Plans for Student Success at Garfield Middle School


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