Thursday, August 25, 2011

A School of Individualized Plans

I am in the process of making sure 504 Plans are updated for the start of school. We receive plans from feeder schools that have to be reviewed and plans from current students that are reviewed in August as opposed to when the bulk of plans are evaluated in June. Additionally, it seems as if the number of families requesting 504 plans is on the rise. This week alone I am chairing five hearings in which a determination has to be made as to whether or not a student will receive a 504 Plan.

From a legal stand point I understand why a 504 Plans exists. However, shouldn't the concept of a 504 Plan or IEP be extended to the entire student body? To an extent, a 504 Plan recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of an individual learner and works towards constructing a plan that facilitates success in the classroom. Multiple stakeholders have a say in the plan, most notably the student. Additionally, a wide range of assessment data is collected and analyzed as part of the determination process. The plan is also a fluid document and can be changed to meet a learner's evolving needs.

What is the harm in transferring this approach to all students? In theory, the process of how a 504 Plan is conceived could benefit aeveryone. This is not to say that an identical process should transpire for the entire school, but how can one object to a school where each student has an individualized learning plan. What is the compelling argument against developing individualized learning plans that resulted from the collection and analysis of data and also was born from conversations between teachers and students. Also think about other critical components of individual learning plan such as personal goals/objectives statements and information about unique interests and passions. Imagine the start of school where a teacher could sit down with students to review personal learning initiatives and engage learners in a genuine discussion about how they can build a meaningful partnership so that skills are developed, goals achieved and unique interests have a place in the classroom. This would certainly beat the one size fits all fast food model of school where too often the unique talents and needs of individual learners are never fully embraced.