November 5, 2014

Growing student achievement by tailoring learning for student strengths, needs and interests is the goal of the Dallas Independent School District’s (ISD) personalized learning initiative. Since no two students are exactly alike, no two student learning experiences should be exactly alike, either.

In the fall of 2013, Dallas ISD was among 20 districts across the nation selected by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to receive a $100,000 grant to develop a strategic vision for the development and implementation of personalized learning models in local schools. Following a successful central planning phase, Dallas ISD was awarded a second planning grant of $841,000 to distribute directly to eight school teams committed to transforming their learning environment. The eight teams are in the process of designing a personalized learning vision for their campus and will vie for a third round of funding for implementation from the Gates Foundation in December. In fall 2015, schools in the inaugural personalized learning cohort will launch their one-size-fits-one approach to serving students.

As part of the school teams’ current planning effort, HKS is engaging with Dallas ISD – on a pro-bono basis – through its 2014 HKS Design Fellowship program to help re-imagine space to reflect the unique needs of a personalized learning environment and inspire schools of the future. Designers are brought together from across the firm’s 28 worldwide offices to brainstorm, research, design and present their ideas to a community partner, who then transforms the ideas into reality. The Fellows – including nine HKS employees and three university students – will present space design ideas for three of the eight school teams, including a high school, middle school and an elementary school.

According to Ashley Bryan, director of planning and special projects at Dallas ISD, personalized learning is an approach that facilitates a unique learning experience for every child by giving students what they need, when they need it, and delivers it in a way that works best for them. “This approach enables student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn, providing flexibility and support to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.”

“We are excited about working with HKS because of their 75 years of architectural expertise as well as their knowledge of the K-12 marketplace, having designed many of the latest schools in the Dallas/Fort Worth area,” said Mike Koprowski, chief of transformation and innovation. 

Mark VanderVoort, principal and director of HKS’ K-12 practice, notes, “The Fellows understand that these educational spaces require a variety of areas to accommodate learning, including open-concept spaces; large, multi-purpose rooms to facilitate a variety of learning modalities; break-out rooms; and collaborative student and staff space. Their goal is to design spaces that support anytime, anywhere learning in an inspiring environment.” 

The Design Fellowship ideas will be presented to a panel of Dallas ISD executives on November 10 at the HKS office in Dallas. The design concepts will be adaptable to personalized learning schools as well as schools district-wide.

“We are honored to work with Dallas ISD,” said Dan Noble, president and CEO of HKS.  “The District is incredibly passionate about bettering education through personalized learning environments. Their excitement is inspiring the Design Fellows, promoting the exploration of new design and team-based, educational approaches.”

The HKS Design Fellowship, founded in 2006, is underwritten by the firm to advance design excellence for the firm, its clients and communities.

“Our goal with the Fellowship is to help people – through excellent and thoughtful design – and create a better community in which to live,” said Noble. “The HKS Design Fellowship encourages Fellows to be part of the solution, part of making change happen, part of the future.”

About HKS: HKS, Inc. is a leading architectural design firm ranked among the top five architectural engineering firms, according to Building Design+Construction magazine. Since its founding in 1939, HKS has completed construction projects totaling more than $77 billion in more than 1,498 cities located in 84 countries. The firm operates from 27 offices worldwide. For more information, visit or contact Trish Martineck at

Dallas Independent School District: The Dallas Independent School District is preparing more than 160,000 students for success in college and their careers. The district’s innovative Destination 2020 plan will be accomplished by investing in people, focusing on the classroom, strengthening our systems, and engaging the community.

Posted in Education
Tagged Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DISD, education design, HKS Design Fellowship, personalized learning, personalized learning models