Initiatives That Require Students to Create Long-Term Plans (i.e., 5-year plan, declaration of major, etc.)
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Initiatives That Require Students to Create Long-Term Plans (i.e., 5-year plan, declaration of major, etc.)

This database view indicates states that have adopted policies that facilitate students' post-high school planning. Such policies include:
(1) Requirements that all 8th or 9th grade students complete a graduation plan spelling out the courses they will take all four years of high school (and sometimes what they intend to do the first year after high school graduation)
(2) Requirements that students complete a default college/work-ready high school curriculum, or that students complete actions to opt out of such a curriculum
(3) Requirements that all students complete a certain number of electives in a specific area of interest. Such a series of courses are variously described in state policy as a "career pathway," "career-academic sequence," "career focus," "career major," etc.

Why does it matter?

  • Students need to complete a specific sequence of math and other courses before taking college placement exams in 10th and 11th grade. Establishing a default rigorous high school curriculum helps ensure students stay on track to complete the subject area content they need to perform well on such assessments.
  • If students aspire for high-skill, high-wage technical careers as machinists, electricians, etc., they need to be aware of the high-level math and science knowledge they will need at the high school level.
  • College and career planning can't wait till the senior year of high school.

    Highlights:
  • Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia require students to create some form of a long-term education plan, through an individual graduation plan, career major, or other activity.
  • Fifteen states and the District of Columbia require students to develop an individual learning plan, usually by the 9th grade. NOT INCLUDING RHODE ISLAND
  • Four states require students to complete a set of courses in a "career major," "career pathway," etc.
  • Eight states automatically place students in a college/work ready curriculum from which students may select out only through parental intervention.

    Methodology: This information was collected from state statutes, rules and regulations, and state education agencies, and will be updated as new policies and programs are enacted.

    Sources for all data points are available through this link.

    Last updated: July 22, 2008

    Research conducted by Michael Colasanti. Please contact Jennifer Dounay, 303.299.3689 or jdounay@ecs.org with comments or questions about this database. 


  • Initiatives that require students to create long-term plans
    Alabama Effective with the Class of 2013, the Alabama High School Diploma with Advanced Academic Endorsement is the default high school curriculum. Exit options are available to students only by parental request or IEP committee recommendation.
    Arkansas Students must currently complete six Carnegie units in a "career focus" established through guidance and counseling based on students' contemplated work aspirations.

    Effective with the Class of 2010, all students must complete the "Smart Core" requirements unless parent/guardian waives student's participation, in which case the student will complete the common core requirements. The Smart Core requirements retain the 6-unit career focus.
    Connecticut No; however, the state department's five-year education plan addresses a number of areas in need of reform. In addressing high school, the plan suggests that the board of education "require that all students have a personal education plan that includes career development, in- and out-of-school coursework and/or activities, and transition to postsecondary education and/or the workplace."
    Delaware Every 8th grade student must develop an individualized education plan (called the Student Success Plan) with the student's advisor, one other school staff member and the student's parent(s). The plan must include:

  • Actively monitoring student progress, on an ongoing basis and, at a minimum, by the end of each marking period in those courses required for graduation.
  • Support services if a student is failing or in danger of failing courses required for graduation.
  • Annual updating of the Student Success plans by the student, the student's advisor, at least one other staff member and the student's parent(s) guardian(s) or relative caregiver and others as appropriate.

    In addition, all students must complete 3 units in a career pathway, defined as three "credits of pre-planned and sequential courses required for graduation designed to develop knowledge and skills in a particular career or academic area."
  • District of Columbia Effective with students entering grade 9 in the 2007-2008 school year (Class of 2011), students must, with the assistance and signed approval of the school counselor, develop a graduation plan setting forth the courses they will take during their high school career.
    Florida State has standard 4-year diploma as well as 3-year standard college-preparatory program and 3-year career-preparatory program. Before a student may choose to participate in a 3-year program, designated school staff must meet with the student and student's parent "to give an explanation of the relative requirements, advantages, and disadvantages of each graduation option." The student must also submit a signed parental consent form to the high school principal and guidance counselor, and must have scored at least 3 on the most recent Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in reading, writing and math. "Beginning with the 2004-2005 school year, each district school board shall provide each student in grades 6 through 9 and their parents with information concerning the 3-year and 4-year high school graduation options..., including the respective curriculum requirements for those options, so that the students and their parents may select the postsecondary education or career plan that best fits their needs. The information shall include a time frame for achieving each graduation option." Students must select one of the graduation options before the end of grade 9. If a student and parent fail to choose a graduation option, the student is considered to have chosen the standard 4-year diploma option.
    Eff. Class of 2010: Student not required to have earned at least 3 on reading, math and writing FCAT exams to select 3-year graduation option.

    Effective with the class of 2011, students must complete 4 units "in major area of interest, such as sequential courses in a career and technical program, fine and performing arts, or academic content area, selected by the student as part of the” student’s individual learning plan. "Students may revise major areas of interest each year as part of annual course registration processes and should update their education plan to reflect such revisions.” Local boards must annually “approve major areas of interest and submit the list of majors to the commissioner of education for approval. Each major area of interest shall be deemed approved unless specifically rejected by the commissioner within 60 days. Upon approval, each district's major areas of interest shall be available for use by all school districts and shall be posted on the department's Web site.”

    State also identifies a "minor area of interest" as 3 units chosen by the student as part of their individual learning plan and approved by the local board. Students may complete a minor area of interest in addition to the 4-unit major area of interest, or may complete 2 major areas of interest to fulfill the 8-unit major/minor/electives requirement.
    Hawaii Effective with the Class of 2010, the current .5 unit of "Guidance" required for graduation to be replaced with .5 unit "Personal/Transition Plan."
    Idaho Students will maintain a parent-approved student learning plan for their high school and post-high school options. The learning plan will be developed by students and parents or guardians with advice and recommendation from school personnel. It will be reviewed annually and may be revised at any time. The purpose of a parent-approved student learning plan is to outline a course of study and learning activities for students to become contributing members of society. A student learning plan describes, at a minimum, the list of courses and learning activities in which the student will engage while working toward meeting the district’s graduation standards. The school district will have met its obligation for parental involvement if it makes a good faith effort to notify the parent or guardian of the responsibility for the development and approval of the learning plan. A learning plan will not be required if the parent or guardian requests, in writing, that no learning plan be developed."
    Indiana Effective with the Class of 2011, all students must complete the Core 40 unless an individual exception is granted. "Upon the request of a student's parent, the student may be exempted from the Core 40 curriculum requirement set forth in subsection (b) and required to complete the general curriculum to be eligible to graduate. Except as provided in subsection (j), the student's parent and the student's counselor (or another staff member who assists students in course selection) shall meet to discuss the student's progress. Following the meeting, the student's parent shall determine whether the student will achieve greater educational benefits by: (1) continuing the general curriculum; or (2) completing the Core 40 curriculum."

    In addition, effective with the Class of 2010, all students must complete three units in a "career-academic sequence."
    Iowa Beginning with the 2006-2007 school year, each eighth grade student must develop “a core curriculum plan to guide the student toward the goal of successfully completing, at a minimum, the model core curriculum … by the time the student graduates from high school.” The plan must include career options and identify the coursework the student must take to support his/her postsecondary education and career options. If the student is under 18, the student's parent or guardian must sign the core curriculum plan developed with the student and the signed plan must be included in the student's records.
    Kentucky Beginning with the 2006-2007 school year, middle and high school students will have to complete an Individual Learning Plan. The learning plan is first given to students in the 6th grade, and will become a graduation requirement beginning with the Class of 2012 (currently, students in grades 8-12 must complete an Individual Graduation Plan which is a similar, paper version).

    The Individual Learning Plan includes the following components:
  • Exploring careers beginning in the 6th grade.
  • Creating education plans.
  • Establishing personal goals and revisit these as they progress through school.
  • Creating, maintaining and changing resumes.
  • Tracking and reflecting on their community services experiences, work experiences, career-planning activities, and extra-curricular and organization activities.
  • Exploring colleges and postsecondary opportunities that match their career, postsecondary and life goals.
  • Louisiana Prior to student scheduling each year, each middle, junior, or high school shall provide the parent/guardian/legal custodian with a listing of course offerings, the content of each, and high school graduation requirements where appropriate. By the end of the eighth grade, each student shall develop, with the input of his family, a Five Year Educational Plan. Such a plan shall include a sequence of courses that is consistent with the student's stated goals for one year after graduation. Each student's Five Year Educational Plan shall be reviewed annually thereafter by the student, parents, and school advisor and revised as needed. Every middle, junior, or high school shall require that the parent/guardian/legal custodian sign his/her child's schedule form and the Five Year Educational Plan for students in grades 8-12."
    Maine Under the state's Comprehensive School Reform Program, students in participating schools must created personalized learning plans. According to a report issued by the Maine Commission on Secondary Education, "Every student employs a personal learning plan to target individual as well as common learning goals and to specify learning activities that will lead to the attainment of those goals." Each student's learning plan includes the following strategies:

  • The personal learning plan begins "where the student is" and identifies learning strengths, challenges, and strategies to meet.
  • Student, teacher(s), and parent(s) collaborate in the plan’s development, execution, and review.
  • Progress is reviewed every 6-8 weeks: past activity and assessments are used to revisit and, if appropriate, revise learning plans.
  • Parents and staff use the plan as a planning device for the transition from secondary school to a future appropriate for each student; plans and assessments constitute a portfolio that exhibits, for future purposes, the student’s talents, challenges, and future potential.
  • Michigan Every student in grade 7 must be provided the opportunity to create a long-term educational development plan, and must have developed an educational development plan by the time he/she begins high school. The educational plan must be based on a career pathways program or similar career exploration program.

    In addition, all students, effective with the Class of 2011, must complete the rigorous Michigan Merit Core curriculum, unless a student's parent requests a "personal curriculum" that modifies academic course requirements.
    Mississippi Each student upon completion of grade 8 must have "developed a career plan which includes career goals, objectives, and a plan for achieving them; and selection of appropriate secondary and post-secondary curriculum. The parent/guardian is required to sign off on a student planned program of study."
    Nevada District policies must provide for the development of a 4-year academic plan for each 9th grader. The academic plan must be developed by the student, student's parent and a school counselor, and must "set forth the specific educational goals [the student] intends to achieve" before high school graduation. The academic plan may include "the designation of a career pathway and enrollment in dual credit courses, career and technical education courses, advanced placement courses and honors courses."

    The plan must be reviewed at least once each school year in consultation with a school counselor, and may be revised if necessary.
    New Mexico At the end of grades 8 through 11, each student shall prepare an interim next-step plan that sets forth the coursework for the grades remaining until high school graduation. Each year's plan shall explain any differences from the previous interim next-step plans, shall be filed with the principal ... and shall be signed by the student, the student's parent or guardian and the student's guidance counselor or other school official charged with coursework planning for the student." Each interim next-step plan must specify "post-high-school goals" and "the coursework that will allow the student to achieve those goals." "Each student must complete a final next-step plan during the senior year and prior to graduation" to be filed with the principal and signed by the same individuals listed above. The final next-step plan must show "that the student has committed or intends to commit in the near future to" a four- or two-year postsecondary institution, "a trade or vocational program, an internship or apprenticeship, military service or a job."

    Students must develop all next-step plans in consultation with their "parent or guardian and school counselor or other school official charged with coursework planning for the student." Local boards must "ensure that each high school student has the opportunity to develop a next-step plan and is reasonably informed about: (1) curricular and course options; (2) opportunities available that lead to different post-high-school options; and (3) alternative opportunities available if the student does not finish a planned curriculum."
    Oklahoma Effective with the Class of 2010, students must complete a specified "college preparatory/work ready" curriculum, unless they receive written approval from the student's parent to complete the less rigorous "core curriculum" required prior to the Class of 2010. Districts may require a parent to meet with a school designee prior to the student's enrollment in the core curriculum. The department of education must "distribute to school districts a form suitable for this purpose" that must "include information on the benefits to students of completing the college preparatory/work ready curriculum[.]"
    Oregon Effective with the Class of 2007, all students must (1) "develop an education plan and build an education profile"; (2) "build a collection of evidence, or include evidence in existing collections, to demonstrate extended application"; (3) "demonstrate career-related knowledge and skills in the following areas: personal management, problem solving, communication, teamwork, employment foundations, and career development"; and (4) "participate in career-related learning experiences outlined in the education plan..."
    Pennsylvania No; however, Project 720 (named for the number of days students spend in grades 9 through 12) includes an initiative to create personalized learning environments for participating districts. One component of the personalized learning environment is the requirement that students create a learning plan to help guide them through high school. According to the Project 720 Web site, the learning plans should be developed with a school counselor, parent(s) and a mentor.
    Rhode Island pending response from RIDE to 7-21-08 e-mail
    South Carolina The state department of education has developed state models and prototypes for individual graduation plans and the curriculum framework for career clusters of study. Before the end of eighth grade, eighth grade students and their parents or parents' designee must choose a preferred cluster of study and develop an individual graduation plan. An individual graduation plan must include core academic subjects and "experience-based, career-oriented learning experiences" and "be flexible to allow change in the course of study but be sufficiently structured to meet graduation requirements and admission to postsecondary education[.]"

    During the 2007-2008 school year, each high school implemented a career guidance program model or prototype. Certified school guidance counselors are to advise 9th and 10th graders "to further define their career cluster goals and individual graduation plans," and by the end of 10th grade, all students must declare "an area of academic focus within a cluster of study. Throughout high school, students must be provided guidance activities and career awareness programs that combine counseling on career options and experiential learning with academic planning to assist students in fulfilling their individual graduation plans.

    By the 2009-2010 school year, all high schools must "implement the principles of the 'High Schools That Work' organizational model or have obtained approval from the Department of Education for another cluster or major organizational model."
    South Dakota Effective with the Class of 2010, students must enroll in courses required to complete the Advanced or Distinguished high school program. A student may be excused from this requirement "if the student's parent or guardian and a school counselor or school administrator agree that the student should instead take courses of instruction necessary to complete the basic high school program also established by the board ...."
    Tennessee In 8th grade, all students are required to develop a four-year plan of study with their parents and a faculty advisor or guidance counselor, to be reviewed annually. The plan must "connect the student's academic and career goals to school." By the end of 10th grade, the student and parent will focus the plan "to ensure a smooth transition to postsecondary study and work." The plan will be based on the assumption that all students will participate in some form of post-high school education and/or training. "The plan should contain information about career options and long-term goals supported by the plan through the courses to be taken in the eleventh and twelfth grades as well as courses to be taken at the postsecondary level."
    Texas All students must complete the "recommended" or "advanced" diploma requirements unless the student, student's parent and a school counselor or administrator "agree that the student should be permitted to take courses under the minimum high school program."
    Washington Effective with the Class of 2008, all students must adopt a "high school and beyond plan," "an education plan for their high school experience, including what they expect to do the year following graduation."
    West Virginia An Individualized Student Transition Plan (hereinafter ISTP) covering grades 9-12 and the first year beyond graduation from high school is developed for every student in consultation with her/his parents/guardian and school counselor or advisor. During the 8th grade year, each student's ISTP plan is developed for grades 9 and 10. The ISTP is based upon previous career awareness, exploration activities, and a review of the student's ACT EXPLORE results. The 8th grade guidance/advisement program will focus on teaching students and their parents to read the ACT EXPLORE student reports so that they may understand how to use the information provided within the Educational Planning and Assessment System (hereinafter EPAS) reports to transition to the level of performance required to meet the student’s educational goals. Each student, in consultation with his or her parents/guardian and school counselor or advisor, selects a broad career cluster for exploration in grades nine and ten and develops the ISTP based upon the choice of a career cluster. The student shall designate an educational pathway (professional or skilled) at this time. The student may amend his/her ISTP at the end of any semester. For an eligible gifted student, a four-year education plan is developed during the 8th grade year by an IEP Team. The four-year education plan replaces the ISTP and includes the honors and Advanced Placement (hereinafter AP) and/or (International Baccalaureate (hereinafter IB) classes that must be provided for the student in grades 9-12. For eligible students with disabilities the ISTP is developed during the 8th grade by an IEP Team. The parent(s)/guardian and student each sign and receive a copy of the ISTP. Students will designate a concentration by the end of their 10th grade year."

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