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Topeka The Kansas State Board of Education agreed today not "strongly recommend" that schools develop "individual plans of study" for each student, to guide them through their high school career and prepare them for their chosen career or field of study.
But the board stopped short of mandating ISPs for all students in all districts, noting that some districts no longer have enough counselors to be able to meet such a mandate.
"I think every school district should have it, but I'm hesitant to mandate that you've got to have it," said board member Jim McNiece, a Wichita Republican. "There's more to it than that."
ISPs are mainly used for students in career and technical education programs, or what once was known as vocational education. But in 2011, when Kansas lawmakers passed a new initiative to expand career and technical education, they included language calling on the state board to study the feasibility of requiring ISPs for all students and to report their decision at the start of the 2014 session.
The plans are typically based on a career interest survey students complete in eighth grade. From then on, students work with their guidance counselors to select classes they need to take based on their career interests, and they update the plans as their career interests change.
Based on a survey conducted by the Department of Education, about 88 percent of school districts offer students the opportunity to develop an ISP, but only about half prepare them for all high school students.
Lawrence is among the districts that develops ISPs for all students in eighth grade when they take the required course Career and Life Planning.
Of those districts that don't offer ISPs, most said it was because they didn't have enough counselors on staff, they didn't offer enough elective courses to make one worthwhile, or they had other time or financial constraints.
Bill Patterson, a counselor in the Lyndon school district, who also teaches classes half time, said he tries to have all students complete an ISP, but said he does not have time in his schedule to work one-on-one with each student to update and maintain them.
And, Diann Faflick said, in the Wichita school district where she works as a counselor, there is only one counselor for every 380 students.
Board member Kathy Busch, also of Wichita, said that was only part of the district's problem.
"When you talk about one counselor to 360 to 380 kids, I know enough to know in some schools that means one to 800, and in some schools that means a little better ratio," Busch said.
Steve Roberts was the only board member to vote against the motion, and he did so because he thought it went too far.
"Respectfully, this looks more like a mandate than a suggestion," Roberts said. "I'm just thinking that some kids are not going to be anywhere near picking a career path."