Having a solid Individual Plan of Study (IPS) in place for each student at Piper Unified School District 203 has helped students choose courses that align to their interests and has increased participation in the district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway.
“From the first year of implementation of Individual Plans of Study to our current year, the growth in student, staff and family participation has increased immensely,” said Polly Vader, a counselor at Piper High School. “This participation and investment in the work-based continuum and IPS have helped to cultivate a passion in the district and community to grow student opportunities in real-world learning.”
The Kansas State Board of Education has mandated that all students from middle grades through graduation are required to have an IPS in place that contains essential IPS minimum components, such as:
Piper USD 203 was recognized with a gold award in the 2020 Kansans Can Star Recognition Program in the area of IPS.
“An Individual Plan of Study is a living, breathing document that students create to guide them in their decision-making and their plans for the future,” said Dr. Jessica Dain, superintendent of Piper USD 203. “Individual Plans of Study are an opportunity for us to guide students to be strategic, focused and thoughtful from a young age to explore an inventory of interests when stakes are not as high as they will be after high school graduation. The Individual Plans of Study allow students to discover their interests and strengths, and then leverage those strengths to identify possible career paths. We want to prepare students to go into careers in which they love and will be highly successful. Individual Plans of Study help make that happen.”
Students in sixth through 12th grades at Piper attend an advisory course each day. On specific days of the month, students solely focus on IPS work. A district implementation guide provides specific career exploration activities for students to complete in each quarter of each grade level.
Throughout these lessons, there also are career preparedness activities that are completed and uploaded to a final electronic portfolio. The final portfolio is a district graduation requirement. As a final step, seniors defend their career preparedness work to district staff members and community members in a senior project presentation.
Piper began working on IPS in the 2016-2017 school year with full implementation beginning in the fall of 2017. Since then, the district has made adjustments to its implementation guide, its systems and vehicles to achieve personalized, real-world learning experience for its students, Vader said.
The district serves about 2,300 students and has one kindergarten through second-grade building, one third- through fifth-grade building, one middle school that serves sixth- through eighth-grade students and one high school.
While the IPS work and plan start at the seventh-grade level, career awareness in the district begins at the pre-K level, Vader said. Students move into career exploration in their elementary and middle school years and begin participating in career preparedness in middle school.
“We are committed to personalized learning for all students to achieve future-ready success,” she said. “The work-based learning guidance, Individual Plans of Study and real-world learning initiatives are essential pieces to student preparation for future-ready success. Family and community engagement is an integral part of this process, and Individual Plans of Study have helped to anchor families, staff and students in our future-ready goals.”
The district has partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to set new goals of increasing market value asset attainment for all students. These opportunities are student internships, entrepreneurial experiences, client-connected projects, industry recognized credentials and college credit opportunities.
“The increased awareness and involvement from adoption to current-day practices has increased immensely and been positive for all stakeholders,” Vader said.
While an IPS is a blueprint for a student’s future, it isn’t set in stone, Superintendent Dain said.
“The documents evolve, and in some cases change, as students grow,” she said. “The conversations around the Individual Plans of Study also give students an opportunity to hear about their options and cruise careers and educational areas of study. Individual Plans of Study help identify critical life decisions and make them more manageable. Our goal is for students to be happy and successful once they leave our schools. We cannot prepare kids for their future, if they do not have a plan.”
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