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Individualized learning plans gaining traction

While students with special needs have long had individualized education programs (IEP) to guide them on their path through K-12 education – ensuring that they are receiving the instruction and resources they need to be successful – individualized learning is beginning to take hold in all areas of public education in the form of individualized learning plans. ILPs are beginning to gain traction throughout the nation as states contemplate ways to improve the college- and career-readiness of their K-12 students.

What is an ILP?
An individualized learning plan is a document that includes information about a student’s career goals and education plans post-high school. ILPs are designed to help students make decisions about academics and activities throughout their K-12 education that will help them reach their college and/or career goals. As college- and career-readiness of students becomes a greater priority as states implement the Common Core State Standards, and ILPs are becoming an increasingly important tool for student success.

How are ILPs developed?
ILPs are both a document and a process developed by students in conjunction with teachers, school counselors and their parents. Information included in an ILP ranges from the student’s skills and hobbies, to current and past activities, to grades and test scores. All of this is compiled to guide the student’s decision making during middle and high school so s/he can achieve his or her goals.

Has any research been done?
Although there hasn’t been an extensive amount of research, studies that have been done indicate that ILPs are an effective strategy for increasing the college- and career-readiness of students. In general, students with individualized learning plans have displayed more motivation to attend school and better academic achievement.

Are any states currently using ILPs?
Several states have made the decision to mandate ILPs and are seeing results. Louisiana, South Carolina, Washington and New Mexico all use some form of the individualized learning plan that is introduced during middle school or the beginning of high school and revisited as students progress through their education. In Kentucky, a form of ILPs called the individual graduation plan (IGR) has been a requirement since 2002, and the state has seen a dramatic increase in completion rates since switching to a web-based platform in 2006.

Do ILPs apply to all students?
Individualized learning programs vary from state to state, and as a result the requirements also differ. Although some states may require a student to have an ILP in order to graduate from high school, others may make exceptions. For example, not all states that mandate ILPs also require students with disabilities to participate.

When are ILPs most successful?
Research indicates that students benefit most from having individualized learning plans when introduced in middle school and frequently revisited until high school graduation. The ILP will likely be refined as the student changes his or her goals, and should be constantly updated so the student is aware of the paths he or she will need to take to achieve those goals.

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