Charting a Path to the Future through Individualized Learning Plans

December 2016

Many students are well into secondary school before they start to think seriously about what comes after high school. They may only begin to consider college and career options as graduation approaches, or they may have long-held postsecondary aspirations, but limited information about how to prepare for entry and success in their desired fields. The earlier students start to explore their interests and how those interests might align with various postsecondary options, the more time they have to build the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve their goals. Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs) are a long-term and comprehensive approach to education and career planning; they span multiple grade levels and courses and are personalized to each student. ILPs empower all students to think early and often about their postsecondary plans; continually check the alignment of their interests and skills with their college and career aspirations; and select academic and extracurricular options that support achievement of these aspirations. More specifically, an ILP is both a document, which records students’ academic and career plans to better assess their readiness for college and careers, and a process, which helps youth self-define their career and life goals.

In this report, Charting a Path to the Future through Individualized Learning Plans, the Rennie Center for Education Policy & Research focuses on Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs) as a key tool that districts and schools can use to prepare students for college and career success, as well as the costs districts incur to implement ILPs. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) has prioritized creating new and enhancing existing tools and resources to support districts’ efforts to implement college and career readiness strategies. While ILPs promote and enhance college and career readiness in their own right, they also can serve as a thread to tie together all of a school’s or district’s activities to encourage purposeful, effective planning and preparation for college and career. ILPs can be used to complement the Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) by including steps to address areas identified as in need of extra attention. They can also enhance efforts to improve graduation rates by helping address some of the factors that lead students to disengage from and ultimately drop out of school, such as academic struggles, lack of supportive relationships with adults, and the sense that school is not relevant to “the real world.”

This report is part of the Roadmap to Expanding Opportunity project which looks at promising, evidence-based strategies to better support all kids in our Commonwealth.