The Individual Education Plan (IEP) was developed for students with disabilities in the mid-1970s and brings together a team of education specialists who evaluate the child, their challenges and learning style, and create a plan to provide the student with the extra help they need to succeed. We know that children don’t learn and absorb material in the same manner, so why couldn’t every student get individualized attention? Kids who are bored could instead be challenged more – while those falling behind could get help to catch up.

Learn4Life, a network of public high schools, has been providing personalized instruction for more than 20 years to students who struggled in a traditional learning environment. Students can enroll anytime during the year, and the teachers and counselors start with an evaluation. Together with the student’s parents, they agree on an education plan with a goal of graduating while gaining life skills and job training.

One in eight California public school students receive special education. These students are disproportionately African American and from low-income households. About 20 percent of students with disabilities are in specialized classes, while the majority are in mainstream classrooms where they may be embarrassed and/or ostracized by students who know they have an IEP.

“At our schools, since everyone is working at their own pace, students don’t compare themselves with others. They are empowered by their own new-found success and eager to keep learning,” said Area Superintendent Lindsay Reese. “We have a higher percentage of students with disabilities than traditional schools and have been able to provide all our students with the same level of attention – even throughout the pandemic.”

Like Destiny L., who struggled with childhood cancer for many years and was left with physical challenges from the chemotherapy. At traditional school, she was bullied when she began wearing hearing aids and glasses. She kept falling further behind, despite having an IEP. “Then I found an amazing support system at Learn4Life. Everyone genuinely wants to see me succeed and makes sure I have everything I need to do that,” she said. “In a year and a half I caught up on my credits and have grown a lot.”

The upcoming National Inclusive Schools Week, December 7-11, promotes a supportive and quality education to an increasingly diverse student population, including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, language preference and other factors. “We believe that personalized learning can provide a quality education to all types of students,” Reese added. “The one-size-fits-all, traditional teaching model doesn’t serve all students equally.”

Written By:
Ann Abajian
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