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Individual Learning Plans Help Students Chart Career Paths

When students understand the relevance of what they are learning — how it fits into their lives and long-term plans — experts find they are more likely to get excited about school.

That's the idea behind the emerging trend of individual student learning plans. Give students an avenue to discover their interests and then help them map out a course of study to get there. Make it online, with their own password to access it 24/7, and they may even think it's cool.

Now, about half of the states require students create plans and most others have some kind of optional program. Just how effective those programs are depend on the teachers, training, and time devoted to working with students, according to research from The Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy. The Cambridge, Mass., based non-profit, however, did discover promising results from the process: more engaged students, improved academic motivation, and personal accountability.

As with many innovative education programs, states roll them out in various fashions creating a patchwork of approaches. There is something to learn from the success stories where AP enrollment and college applications are up, as well as those that are struggling to find the time to dedicate the process or aren't seeing much impact yet.

Read more about the landscape of student learning plans on the homepage with this expanded story here.

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