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Once your child enters sixth grade in Kentucky, parents start hearing about Individual Learning Plans (ILP); however, they may not know the value they hold. ILPs are part of an extensive career and college process for students.

On a sunny day, the library at Lawrence County High School is abuzz with conversation. Pairs of peoplehalf teenagers, half adultsare scattered throughout the room, a computer nudged between them as they talk.

Aaron Bowen and Debra Justice are among them. Both live in Louisa, but they had never met. That was part of the magic. A generation of experience separated them, and that, too, was significant. The computer held important pieces of information, another meaningful aspect.

Bowen, a student at the high school, and Justice, an associate professor at Ashland Community and Technical College, were part of the first-ever Operation Preparation, a statewide program designed to get community members and students together to give the upcoming generation a time to ask questions, explore options, and mold dreams into actionable stepsall one-on-one with an objective adult.

What are you interested in? Justice asks 15-year-old Bowen.

Construction, the military, perhaps being a police officer, Bowen tells her.

Both turn to the computer and log on to Bowens Individual Learning Plan, the document that would help them direct the conversation.

Operation Preparation is the latest addition to the ILP, a highly customizable career and planning tool. Each school studentincluding private and homeschooled studentsin grades 6-12 in Kentucky can have an ILP.

Password protected, the ILP contains a wealth of information and tools. It holds the students state-administered test scores, information about colleges, careers, learning styles, and self-assessments that allow the students to match their interests and skills with careers that might be a good match for them.

Justice and Bowen explore the courses Bowen would need to achieve his goals. They look at his assessments and search for low scores that he might need to bring up before graduation. They look for any skill or knowledge gaps and talk about how he could fill those gaps.

Mostly, they peer into Bowens future and set about forging him a path to it.

I was impressed that he was interested in giving back to his community, Justice says of Bowen. That was very significant to me. I think having a fresh voice and a new face was important to the process, too.

Bowen says the time helped him narrow his focus and set his mind to what he wanted.

I liked it better than talking with a whole bunch of people, Bowen says of the one-on-one process. I felt like I was more free to talk. Next year, Im going to take more classes that will help me in my career. I realize that class choices can make a difference.


Sharon Johnston, College and Career Advising consultant for the Kentucky Department of Education, is the contact for the Individual Learning Plan program. She offers these suggestions for parents:

1. Contact your childs school to get your user name and password, which will give you access to your childs ILP. You might be asked to come to the school or told the information will be mailed to you. This precaution is to protect you and your child.

2. Use the ILP as a way to discuss your childs plans for life after high school and how you might help him or her reach those goals.

3. Within the ILP, parents will find their childs EXPLORE, PLAN, ACT, and KPREP test results. Take the time to look at those with your child. Particularly look for any gaps between their test scores and their desired career, and then determine how you can work with the school to address those gaps. Also look at the classes your child plans to take in high school to make sure they align with his or her chosen career and are challenging enough.

4. The ILP also houses a database of more than 1,500 national scholarships to assist in your planning to pay for college. The Financial Aid Selector questionnaire will provide a list of scholarships for which your child meets qualifying criteria.

5. It is never too early to have these conversations. Remember that your childs goals will probably change as he or she moves from middle school to high school. Listen carefully and revisit the ILP to further explore possible careers and the education your child will need.


Read about the Unbridled Learning: College/Career Readiness for All initiative that ensures every student is prepared for college and/or a career by the time he or she graduates high school. Go to Unbridled Learning to read the seven key strategies for this plan.

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