What I learned about career planning for our kids

If you have an eighth grader, I hope you already know about the four-year learning plan. If you haven’t, you should talk to your school counselor. Idaho set aside millions (literally; $5 million in 2016 and an additional $2 million in 2017) to help our eighth-grade students plan their high school classes and beyond. The ultimate goal is to increase Idaho’s graduation rate and encourage graduates to continue their education after high school.

Today I attended a parent information meeting about my daughter’s learning plan. I had to sign up online so I could attend the meeting. I met with 88 other parents who had kids entering Eagle High or Rocky Mountain High schools. We were given high school course information and a four-year planner to fill out.

Here are some highlights of what I learned about the West Ada School District’s program:

  • The learning plan is meant to be a ‘road map’ for students entering high school.
  • The high school graduation requirements are listed, along with the necessary courses.
  • Students pick their classes early, so schools can hire the necessary teachers.
  • It can be revised annually (if the student changes their mind).
  • Eagle High expects student plans to be completed in about two weeks. (Rocky Mountain High plans are due in April).
  • The learning plan must be signed by a parent before it can be turned in.
  • Filling out the learning plan is not the same thing as registering for classes. Your child still needs to register for ninth grade classes, seperate to filling out a learning plan.
  • You may have to look online, or talk to the school counselor, to see the available elective courses and their descriptions (here is a link to West Ada course descriptions).
  • Some out-of-state colleges require more classes than Idaho high schools require for graduation. For example, two or more years of a foreign language or four years of lab science — so check with the college(s).
  • The high school counselor is supposed to go over each student’s learning plan again, before they start their junior year (I am still waiting for this to happen with my sophomore. … I may call the counselor next week).
  • If students lack credits to graduate, or they want to graduate early, or they don’t want to take P.E. during the school year, they can take online classes through IDLA ($75 per class) or take classes during the summer.
  • If an incoming senior has met the required credits (and required courses), they can take less than eight credits their senior year. This means they can skip a class…I’m not sure why Idaho does this. How does this help seniors prepare for college?

Many parents asked questions about AP classes vs. concurrent credit classes. Here is a comparison:  

Similarities — both courses are intended to be more rigorous than a regular high school class. Both courses (if passed) provide the student with college credits (depending on the college).

Differences — AP classes are graded on one test at the end of the year, vs. concurrent credit classes that are graded throughout the year (like a regular class). AP classes count one point higher for the student’s GPA (although not all colleges look at the adjusted GPA). Concurrent credit courses can be taken from a variety of Idaho colleges. My two high school kids have chosen to take concurrent credit classes instead of AP classes.

Overall, I was really glad that I attended the informational meeting. This was the first year that West Ada School District has held an information meeting for the parents (Enough parents complained about the complexities of filling out the learning plan).

I love the learning plan. I think all high school’s should be required to hold a learning-plan informational meeting for parents (I’m sure the $7 million dollar budget can cover the cost). Fortunately, I have two kids in high school that helped my eighth grader understand what classes she needed to take (and which teachers were the “best”). If you need help for your eighth grader, or who want to know more about the learning plan, contact your high school counselor, email me, comment on this blog post or start the discussion on Facebook.

Melanie Flake

Melanie Flake

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