How One School Is Personalizing Learning—and Honoring My Mom in the Process

This year, I visited the Jones-Gordon school in Arizona. It’s named, in part, after my late mother, an early advocate for kids with .

The visit was both difficult and inspiring.

It was difficult because I miss my mother every day. She was a tremendous champion for kids with learning and thinking differences. But the visit was inspiring because of the good things happening at the school in her name.

Jones-Gordon is a private school that’s at the forefront of the personalized learning movement. These schools are moving away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to teaching kids. Instead, they’re focusing on each child’s strengths, skills and needs. Each child learns at her own pace, and follows her passions.

Personalized Learning in Action: The FLEX Hour

Across the country, schools like Jones-Gordon are experimenting with new ways to support kids. Here’s just one example of what they’re doing.

At the school, every child gets a daily FLEX hour. In this hour, the child can get whatever instruction she needs. For a child with , that might be 1:1 reading instruction using a program like Wilson Reading. For a student gifted in math, it might be a coding class. For twice-exceptional (“2E”) kids, it might be both!

The FLEX hour targets and builds on each child’s strengths, while also boosting weaker areas. The school has specialists who can deliver proven interventions. And the school’s staff don’t limit themselves to one kind of reading, writing or math program.

FLEX hour placement is flexible. It’s based on each student’s academic history, parent input and other data. It’s also adjusted throughout the year.

The Motivation Behind the School: Dana’s Story

Jones-Gordon is the brainchild of Dana Herzberg. She founded the school for kids with learning and thinking differences, including 2E kids.

Dana knows the challenges these children face. In fourth grade, she was diagnosed with in reading and math. She struggled with academics.

During school, people often compared Dana to her sister, who was a high achiever. Once in sixth grade, a teacher stood up in front of her entire class and said to Dana, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” Dana left the class crying. She was crushed.

Dana eventually got the right help for her learning differences. And she decided to dedicate her life to helping kids who learn differently. She went to college, earned a degree and became an educator.

She eventually met my late mother, who became her mentor. Together, they spent more than 10 years working with families in the Phoenix area to get them the help and resources their children needed to thrive. Jones-Gordon is the result of Dana’s life work—work that was so influenced by my mom that she named the school in part after her.

Making Personalized Learning a Reality

The Jones-Gordon school is a private school. I know what you might be thinking—only private schools can offer a FLEX hour or personalized learning. It’s true that it costs money to offer services like these. But that’s why we have to keep advocating for public schools to get the resources they need.

At the same time, what Jones-Gordon is doing is also about attitude. The staff there is constantly brainstorming ways to play to each child’s strengths.

The innovations Jones-Gordon is making can be done in public schools. In fact, there are public schools around the country right now refocusing on personalized learning. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

So kudos to the Jones-Gordon school and to Dana for making a difference for kids with learning and thinking differences. I know my mother would be so proud right now.

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About the author

About the author

Lindsay Jones, JD is chief executive officer of the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).