In Vermont, the Flexible Pathways Initiative is ready to take effect over the next few years. Signed into law in June 2013, the education bill in part requires personalized learning plans (PLP's) to be conceptualized and implemented for all students in grades 7-12. Vermont Agency of Education's Tom Alderman talked to Education Dive about PLP's and what they mean for students.
Why is Vermont mandating Personalized Learning Plans?
It's (for) every student in grades 7-12, phased in over four years. I would refer you to our website and specifically to the introduction to the Education Quality Standards for some of the historical context. PLPs are the mechanism designed to engage students, parents, and educators in a partnership to design a student's unique flexible pathway to graduation. The intention is to put students at the center of the construction of their own learning experience, which evidence indicates will result in greater relevance and engagement, and therefore better outcomes. You might refer to these organizations, Great Schools Partnership and New England Secondary School Consortium.
What are the differences between Education Quality Standards (EQS) requirements / proficiency-based graduation requirements and traditional graduation requirements?
The primary difference is that between a seat-time approach (e.g. 4 years of ELA, 3 years of math) and the expectation that students will be able to demonstrate (performance) their proficiency against the standards that the high school has established as the Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements.
How do PLP's help students with Common Core-aligned proficiencies?
The PLP is a plan for engaging with, acquiring, and demonstrating proficiency against the standards, including the standards for ELA and math (i.e. Common Core).
How, if at all, will having PLP's for students affect Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) determinations in the state of Vermont?
There is not a direct correlation. However, if we see improved learning outcomes, as expected, from personalization and flexibility and a proficiency-based approach, then assessment results will improve, and graduation rates will improve, and AYP determinations will be influenced.
How will the creation, implementation, and execution of the PLP process be funded in Vermont?
The AOE (Agency of Education) has funded several initiatives designed to support schools in the transition to PLPs. Schools are not being asked to implement PLPs in addition to the traditional approach, but rather to use the personalized/flexible/proficiency-based approach in place of the traditional. This need not result in new expenses, but rather a re-tasking of investments.
What are the largest benefits of PLP's?
Engaging students and parents in designing a relevant approach to learning and demonstration of learning, and ownership of that approach. Challenging educators to understand and respond to the unique needs of each student.
What are the biggest challenges?
This is a significant shift in our way of providing educational opportunities. It will require some restructuring of our schools and re-tasking of resources, both financial and human.
How has the Agency of Education presented this plan to the general public, and what has the feedback been like?
There were opportunities for public engagement during the development of both statute and rule in relation to our current policy environment. During the implementation phase, the AOE has provided information and resources to support local districts through the Agency website and through professional learning opportunities. For example, this past year the AOE sponsored a seminar series on proficiency-based learning, personalization and flexible pathways to graduation. More than half of the state's supervisory unions sent teams to participate and wrote implementation plans.