Students at U-32 are required to demonstrate proficiency in Engaged Citizenship. In the school’s most recent description, a few examples were given for how one might complete that task: “One student might take a summer job with VPIRG (Vermont Public Interest Research Group); another might work at Shaw’s Supermarket assisting customers.” To earn proficiency in Creative and Practical Problem Solving, the student could build a model of a bridge from popsicle sticks, or they could write a paper on how to address homelessness. Are these numerous ways all fair?
After years of trial and error, the Washington Central Unified Union School District has finally released an official plan outlining a student’s process for personalizing their learning at U-32. Outlined in this new glossy pamphlet, the Personalized Learning Plans (PLP’s) come with a folder of checklists; sheets for each grade based on the steps a student needs to take.
The goal is to help each student map out their unique path to graduation and beyond, through setting goals and following the recommendations given.
The phrase PLP is well known to many U-32 students. From middle school through ninth grade, the current seniors and juniors were required to make a PLS (Personalized Learning Site), writing about their learning goals and achievements in Google Sites. However, after ninth grade, these Google Sites were abandoned, and have not been edited since.
Students were also expected to make “smart goals” in Naviance. These goals were designed to help kids make plans to improve aspects of their academic, social, and personal lives. However, similar to the PLS, the Naviance goals were not maintained; TA’s neglected them, and students were reluctant to complete them.
Jody Emerson, the assistant principal, says the new PLP “will not look like the ‘smart goals’ students used to make in Naviance.” It will instead consist of six components students will complete for each year.
This includes a career goal, a post-high school/college goal, a personal/social goal, an academic planning goal, an assessment goal, and a student learning outcome goal. The checklists with these six goals will appear at the back of the pamphlet.
The pamphlet on the new PLP brings up a lot of questions.
When will this new PLP come into effect, and for which grade?
Because the PLP is still in the draft phase, it will not be applied to the class of 2020. Will it be applied to the class of 2021?
What is the system that will support this new PLP?
With the old PLP’s, TA’s were supposed to be responsible to make sure students completed Naviance goals and updated their Google Sites However a large percentage of students did not prioritize this, and it petered out after a year or two.
The new pamphlet says, “Through regular meetings with advisors, students will keep track of courses and non-traditional pathways.” Will TA’s and counselors be held up to a higher standard than before? Or, will the new PLP system end up the same way the old one did?
How Will Transferable Skills be Judged?
There are six transferable skills students need to demonstrate proficiency in, in order to graduate.
- Creative and Practical Problem Solving
- Effective and Expressive Communication
- Engaged Citizenship
- Working Independently and Collaboratively
- Informed, Integrated, and Critical Thinking
- Self-awareness and Self-Direction
But, as the pamphlet says, “demonstrating proficiency in these kinds of skills could appear to be a fairly subjective task,” as judging such abstract concepts can be difficult. The pamphlet suggests, “there are numerous ways for students to demonstrate proficiency in these skills.” The question is, are these “numerous ways” all fair?
The pamphlet appears to give valuable information, But for many, there are lingering questions:
How will the implementation of PLP’s at U-32 benefit students? What are the different pathways they will take? And are PLP’s necessary for graduation?