Individualized learning bill advances

/ 20 March 2012 / jennifer

Erin Schmidtke, Session Daily, March 20, 2012 –

A House committee approved a measure that would allow schools to use individualized learning plans as replacements for class-wide goals and lesson plans.

Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono) sponsors HF2658, which would authorize districts to work with students to develop unique curriculums based on their individual interests and strengths. The House Education Reform Committee sent the bill to the House floor. Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) sponsors SF2201, the companion that awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

Supporters hope to remove what they call “one size fits all” learning from the classroom. They believe academic motivation stems from engaging students on an individual basis.

Anath Pai is a teacher who uses individualized learning plans for his students. He explained that because not all children learn the same way, teachers should instruct them differently.

“I believe that all children can learn provided the environment allows them the flexibility to stretch the elasticity of their brains,” Pai said.

Rep. Carol McFarlane (R-White Bear Lake) said that she has observed the impact of individualized learning plans, as Pai has instructed her grandchildren.

Ted Kolderie, senior associate at the Center for Policy Studies’ project Education Evolving, urged members to send the bill to the House floor. He testified in favor of work like Pai’s, but claimed that transforming schools with individualized learning plans would create more sweeping change.

“We can’t get where we need to go at the rate we need simply by making itty bitty changes on all the schools simultaneously,” he said.

Concern came from Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville). While she expressed support for the bill’s concept, she questioned its permissive language, which directs schools who have successfully implemented individualized learning plans to expand that program to other sites in the district. Doepke insisted the bill offered strong encouragement, but not a mandate, for program expansion.

– Erin Schmidtke