Clear Creek Amana Middle School

"Home of the Clippers"

The mission of the Clear Creek Amana Community School District is to prepare students to be productive, responsible, community members by providing an environment that inspires quality life-long learning.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Just what are Personal Learning Plans?

For quite some time I have wanted to write and reflect on the Personal Learning Plan process at Clear Creek Amana. Although we do PLP's district wide it is probably only appropriate if I comment on the process as it pertains to the middle school.

Five or six years ago our district participated in a process with a neighboring district, Mount Vernon, in which both districts took steps to redesign what school looks like in our communities. We went out into the community and asked students, staff, parents, graduates, the community, business leaders, etc a question similar to this one. "If we could have the school system that we wanted, what would it look like?"

After completing this process, and collecting a few thousand comments, we were able to summarize the results down to three overarching goals:
1. To offer a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all of our students.
2. To distribute leadership throughout our system.
3. To personalize the learning system for each of our students.

Having addressed goals 1 and 2 over the last several years, during the 2008-2009 school year we started to work on personalizing the learning process for our students. So what does that mean at our middle school?

Each of our 350 + 6th, 7th, and 8th graders are assigned to an adviser. Every full-time teacher and administrator is responsible for between 15-19 middle school students. For the most part, each student remains with the same adult adviser throughout middle school. Additionally the adviser is responsible for connecting with the student and their family and developing a positive relationship. The adviser meets with the student, at minimum, weekly. In many cases, the adviser has become the "go to" person for the student and their family.

Probably the most significant responsibility of the adviser (other than fostering the relationship) is managing each of their students Personal Learning Plans. Having each student on a PLP has been a challenging yet extremely valuable process.

The Personal Learning Plan consists of three parts:
1. Learning to Learn- This is really the academic part of the PLP. This includes the students Iowa Tests of Basic Skills results, Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) scores and fall to spring improvement goals, and grades. This area also touches on how the student learns best and the students preferred learning style.

2. Learning to Do- This area is focusing on the career and vocational aspects of school. Within this area at the middle school our students are asked to reflect on careers of interest. To support this process our students have learned to use the Career Cruising website. Career Cruising allows our students to manage their own career portfolio. More information about Career Cruising can be found here Career Cruising.

In this area our students are also asked to reflect on what community services projects and volunteering efforts they have been a part of. Additionally our students also have school experiences through Junior Achievement and the Workplace Learning Connection that provide other career learning opportunities. More information on Junior Achievement can be found at this site: Junior Achievement and additional information about the Workplace Learning Connection can be found here: Workplace Learning Connection.

3. Learning to Be- This area is intended to focus on the social and emotional well being of our students. In this area we ask our students to reflect on what activities they are involved in both within and outside of our school. We really encourage our students to get involved in activities outside of the school day. This is a time that we can inform our students and families of the opportunities that are available for our students. We also ask our students about their peer and adult relationships and attempt to address and peer or adult concerns, including bullying. We discuss the child's school attendance and ask the family and student to share any concerns or support they need for the student or as a family. This process has helped us identify resources for students and/or families that are in need.

To summarize the PLP process our staff has formal contacts with their students at minimum weekly. Each Wednesday during the school day we have dedicated time for our staff to meet with their group of students. Our staff has student and family formal contacts at least three times during the school year. During the fall our staff, student, and family meet face to face to review the PLP process and complete paperwork. During the winter our staff has either a face to face, email, note, or phone conversation with their students and families to touch base and monitor the progress of the student. In the spring our staff again meets face to face with the student and family to close out the school year and plan for the summer and upcoming school year.

One error that I made during the 2008-2009 school was that all of our family contacts were through the PLP process. We did not have parent/teacher conferences at all which was not smart on my part. This year we adjusted our calendar to allow time for our middle school to have parent/teacher conferences in addition to the PLP process. This allowed our families the opportunity to "get to know" all of the their child's teachers.

Overall I am really excited about the Personal Learning Plan process that we have implemented. I also realize that we have really just begun this process and can continue to learn from others to further benefit our students and families.

I would welcome any questions, comments, and/or suggestions. If you would like me to send you a copy of our Personal Learning Plan, please contact me.

Take care,

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