Individualized learning is all the rage. As schools and districts adopt new technology to support students in the classroom, many are doing so in the hopes of being able to deliver on the promise of differentiated instruction, and states have jumped on the bandwagon as well. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by Hobsons and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), 29 states and the District of Columbia currently have mandated individualized learning plan (ILP) policies for students in middle and high school, and schools in many more states are using ILPs even though they aren’t required by law to do so.

ILP mandates often include requirements for schools to document a student’s courses and post-secondary plans and then report on those plans. Unfortunately, many schools stop at documenting the plan rather than leveraging the plan to deliver individualized instruction and opportunities to students.

It’s sometimes difficult to reconcile the needs of an individual student with hard-coded graduation requirements that every student must meet. As a result, ILPs that are, by definition, intended to be personal to each student wind up becoming administrative tools for managing work more efficiently and at scale. While this function is important, using ILPs only as an administrative tool falls short on the promise that individualized plans can deliver.

The survey by Hobsons and NACAC also found that nearly two-thirds of school counselors and administrators believe that ILPs contribute to successful student outcomes, while also recognizing the need to maximize the effectiveness of ILPs to better support students and families.

Here are a few tips to consider:

1. Make sure your ILP includes strategies for helping students assess and leverage their unique skills, strengths, and interests, as well as aligning those to career goals.

2. Allow students and their families to engage with counselors and teachers to determine how to meet the specific goals laid out for them in their plans, and make course corrections where needed to make sure they stay on track.

3. Build action steps within your ILP so you can identify which students are on track and which ones are not.

When used effectively, ILPs can not only document where students want to go after high school, but also serve as a powerful tool to help them get there.

How is your school or district delivering on the promise of individualized learning? Check out this free assessment to learn more.


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