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November 2018

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What are the characteristics of individualized student plans that are effective in helping them prepare for post-high-school endeavors?


Thank you for the question you submitted to our REL Reference Desk regarding differentiated instruction for visual learners. We have prepared the following memo with research references to help answer your question. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. The references are selected from the most commonly used research resources and may not be comprehensive. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Other relevant studies may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

  1. Phelps, L. A., Durham, J., & Wills, J. (2011). Education Alignment and Accountability in an Era of Convergence: Policy Insights from States with Individual Learning Plans and Policies. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 19(31).
    From the abstract: “In response to the rising demand for market-responsive education reform across the U.S., since 1998 more than twenty states have created Individual Learning or Graduation Plan (ILP/IGP) state policies. Using extensive policy document analyses and stakeholder interview data from four early-adopting ILP/IGP states, the goal of this four-state case study was twofold. First, to determine the extent to which states are leveraging federal and state resources to align their ILP initiatives with other policies aimed at fostering education innovation and assisting economic recovery. The second goal was to develop policy recommendations for making intergovernmental investments to strengthen performance outcomes in education and workforce development in ILP/IGP states. The federal interest in equal protection and improving equity for special populations including youth with disabilities stimulated and animated the investigation. Several key findings emerged across the four states. First, to date limited fiscal investments in professional development and systematic data collection have constrained ILP-IGP implementation and evaluation efforts. Second, the opportunity to align and leverage the state investment with federal programs and other state employment and education initiatives was largely unexplored in these states. Recommendations for state policy improvements include aligning ILP policies with state plans for improving outcomes in federal programs for students confronting economic, language, and disability challenges.”
  2. Solberg, V. S., Phelps, L. A., Haakenson, K. A., Durham, J. F., & Timmons, J. (2012). The Nature and Use of Individualized Learning Plans as a Promising Career Intervention Strategy. Journal Of Career Development, 39(6), 500-514.
    From the abstract: “Individualized learning plans (ILPs) are being implemented in high schools throughout the United States as strategic planning tools that help students align course plans with career aspirations and often include the development of postsecondary plans. Initial indications are that ILPs may be an important method for helping students achieve both college and career readiness. Parents, teachers, and students indicate that ILPs result in students selecting more rigorous courses, better teacher-student relationships, and positive parent-school relations. This article describes the emergence and nature of ILPs, promising practice strategies as well as challenges associated with gaining whole school buy-in, and the potential for career and vocational research.”
  3. Szidon, K., Ruppar, A. & Smith, L. (2015). Five Steps for Developing Effective Transition Plans for High School Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Teaching Exceptional Children, 47(3), 147-152.
    From the abstract: “The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; 2006) requires schools to develop transition plans for students with disabilities, beginning at age 16, if not before. For students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the transition planning process includes unique considerations. This article describes five steps for developing effective transition plans for high school students with ASD: (1) identify transition goals; (2) link postsecondary goals with individualized education plan (IEP) goals; (3) troubleshoot and adjust transition and IEP goals; (4) provide opportunities to teach skills; and (5) evaluate progress.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

  • National Association for College Admission Counseling:
    From the website: “The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), founded in 1937, is an organization of nearly 16,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. NACAC is committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process, as outlined in the Statement of Principles of Good Practice: NACAC's Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (SPGP:CEPP)”
  • National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth:
    From the website: “The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) assists state and local workforce development systems to better serve all youth, including youth with disabilities and other disconnected youth. The NCWD/Youth, created in 2001, is composed of partners with expertise in education, youth development, disability, employment, workforce development and family issues. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), NCWD/Youth is managed by the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, D.C. NCWD/Youth offers a range of technical assistance services to state and local workforce investment boards, youth councils and other workforce development system youth programs.”
  • Office of Disability Employment Policy:
    From the website: “ The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is the only non-regulatory federal agency that promotes policies and coordinates with employers and all levels of government to increase workplace success for people with disabilities.

    ODEP was authorized by Congress in the Department of Labor's FY 2001 appropriation. Recognizing the need for a national policy to ensure that people with disabilities are fully integrated into the 21st-century workforce, the Secretary of Labor delegated authority and assigned responsibility to the Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy. ODEP is a sub-cabinet level policy agency in the Department of Labor

    As part of the ILP Research Project, ODEP sought to determine the status of ILP implementation across the U.S. and compile the results into one, easy-to-use tool. The purpose of this Interactive Policy Map is to provide a snapshot of ILP implementation in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.”

  • The Rennie Center for Educational Research and Policy:
    From the website: “The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy’s mission is to improve public education through well-informed decision-making based on deep knowledge and evidence of effective policymaking and practice. As Massachusetts’ preeminent voice in public education reform, we create open spaces for educators and policymakers to consider evidence, discuss cutting-edge issues, and develop new approaches to advance student learning and achievement. Through our staunch commitment to independent, non-partisan research and constructive conversations, we work to promote an education system that provides every child with the opportunity to be successful in school and in life.

    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.”


Search Strings. Best practices OR characteristics AND individualized education programs OR individual student career plans OR individual student plans OR individual learning plans OR individual employment plans OR individual graduation plans AND college and career readiness OR post-secondary education

Searched Databases and Resources.

  • ERIC
  • Academic Databases (e.g., EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, ProQuest, Google Scholar)
  • Commercial search engines (e.g., Google)
  • Institute of Education Sciences Resources

Reference Search and Selection Criteria. The following factors are considered when selecting references:

  • Date of Publication: Priority is given to references published in the past 10 years.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: ERIC, other academic databases, Institute of Education Sciences Resources, and other resources including general internet searches
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study types, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, as well as to correlational designs, descriptive analyses, mixed methods and literature reviews. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality.