College and Career Readiness through Individualized Learning Plans

On May 29, the American Youth Policy Forum, the College and Career Readiness and Success Center , and the Center for Workforce Development at the Institute for Educational Leadership held a webinar titled “The Use of Individualized Learning Plans to Help Students to be College and Career Ready.” The webinar highlighted research examining the effectiveness of individualized learning plans (ILPs), as well as the experiences of two states in the implementation and scaling-up of ILPs.

According to Dr. Scott Solberg, associate dean for research at Boston University, ILPs can be an effective tool in promoting college and career readiness among students. Quality ILPs were shown to serve as more than just a document reviewed periodically, but rather a process by which students may define a career goal. This process is comprehensive in nature, and includes student-defined career goals; alignment of student coursework to match their career goals; engagement in learning opportunities outside of school; exploration of career planning and management skills; regular engagement with ILPs; and a holistic approach to implementation that engages both general educators and counselors.

Dr. Sabrina Moore, director of Student Intervention Services for the South Carolina Department of Education, and Misti Ruthven, postsecondary education and success manager for the Colorado Department of Education, discussed the promise and challenge of ILP implementation in their respective states. Both echoed the value of an ILP being viewed as a process rather than a document, with the appropriate supports for students to explore their academic and career interests inside and outside the classroom. Additionally, Moore and Ruthven highlighted the importance of engaging parents in the ILP process along with the students and counselors during ILP conferences. Challenges and next steps for implementation included the expansion of staff engagement beyond the scope of counselors, toward a school culture in which general educators take on a greater role in the ILP process.

Mindy Larson, senior program associate for the Center for Workforce Development, along with Dr. Joe Harris, director of the College and Career Readiness and Success Center, provided concluding remarks. Larson touched upon the policy implications of the ILP research, including the need for sustained leadership, standards and data collection, professional development of staff, and increased family engagement.

Harris reflected on the state of ILPs in the United States, stating “after a 100-plus year history in American education of molding students into college and vocational tracks that have traditionally resulted in varying outcomes and benefits, this new focus on individualized learning plans and career pathways shows tremendous promise in better meeting the needs and providing greater opportunities for success for all students.”

The recording of the webinar along with a complete slide deck and recommended resources, is available online.

Austin Pate is a research/policy assistant at the American Youth Policy Forum.

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