Vermont helps students with personalized learning plans


HINESBURG -- Abby Trombley wasn’t feeling challenged in school.

So with the help of her parents the high school sophomore enrolled in classes at the University of Vermont and developed a job shadow with an orthopedic surgeon.

"This made such a monumental difference in me because I was able to create an environment where I was challenged, engaged and really interested in what I was learning," said Trombley, a student at Champlain Valley Union High School on Wednesday.

"And I think that much more students would take advantage of these opportunities if they knew they were available."

State education officials agree -- the Vermont Agency of Education launched a website on Wednesday to help schools, students and parents prepare for such plans.

Based on legislation passed last year, each student eventually will develop a personalized learning plan that matches their career interests and aspirations with their learning, which could include internships and college courses.

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Starting next year, Vermont schools will develop plans with seventh and ninth graders and other grades will follow, officials said. Schools and parents will help the students to develop them and have the chance to review and revise them each year.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is dyslexic, told the assembled CVU students and staff he wished he had access to such a planning and learning program.

"The idea here is -- whether you are dyslexic like me and don’t learn traditionally or whether you excel traditionally or whether you’re somewhere in the middle -- our job is to have an educational system where everybody succeeds and everybody learns to their potential," he said.

Besides Trombley, the state has seen other students who were struggling in school and weren’t thinking about college but succeeded after taking advantage of more flexible ways of learning, state Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe said.

"The key to personalized learning plans is to taking the time to sit down with the students and ask where you want to go and figure out the best way to get there," she said. "We have the same high ambitions for all of you but we know you have to walk different paths to get there."

About half of Vermont schools offer some type of personalized learning now, state education officials said, and almost 1,300 students take or have taken college courses as part of dual enrollment in the 2013-2014 academic year. That’s up about 30 percent from 789 in 2012-2013.


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