You could call it “MySpace” meets “Monster”: Kentucky has introduced a web-based program that will help students map out their academic careers and give them an idea of what career path they’d like to explore–all while teaching them how to write a resume and apply for financial aid.

The program, called Individual Learning Plans, is a revamped version of the Individual Graduation Plan, a system the state introduced in 2002 but that failed to catch on with students.

The new program, run by Toronto-based Career Cruising, is already earning raves.

“I’ve already had more kids in the last week say things about this than I’ve ever had in 13 years of education,” said Todd Mullins, a guidance counselor at Oldham South Middle School.

Each student will have his or her own page, complete with test scores and the results of surveys designed to help students figure out what they’re interested in.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Ray Grijalba, 13, an eighth grader at Oldham South who said he wants to be an engineer. “I’ve been looking at the money you make and stuff.”

The site also allows parents to log in and check on their child’s progress. Parents can leave students a message on the site or send a note to the school’s guidance counselor. The plan is available in both English and Spanish.

Jenny Sawyer, executive director of admissions at the University of Louisville, said the system makes students better prepared for dealing with the pressure of applying to college.

“I think it levels the playing field for students who may be first-generation college-goers, or who have parents who are not as experienced about applying to college,” she said.

The state Board of Education wants to make sure schools are using some form of the program. Linda Pittinger, director of the division of secondary and virtual learning at the Kentucky Department of Education, said the program is designed to get students involved in planning their future, regardless of their aspirations.

“Every single child needs to be stretched and challenged, even our most high-performing students,” she said.

The program will include a survey that students can fill out, which educators hope will give them a better idea of how to cater to students’ needs. To help matters, Kentucky is beginning the program in the sixth grade. The previous version waited until students were on the verge of high school, though Pittinger stressed it’s not designed to give students concrete ideas about what they should do with their lives.

“This is not about looking at every sixth-grader and saying, ‘OK. What are you going to be when you grow up?'” she said. “This is about the process with those students and their parents to begin talking about the purpose of education, what their goals are going to be, that high school is important, and that it is important to get ready for high school.”

She added: “The most important thing is to make sure no child is cut off from the opportunity to go to college. … That happens to too many kids.”

Dozens of middle and high schools began training with the new program when school began in September. Some schools have already started using it, with others should be up to speed by the end of the year.

The program’s career-matchmaker function lets students complete an interest survey that matches them to 40 professions. The site then shows students information about those careers, including video interviews with people in those professions, and it allows them to see the corresponding college majors, along with the colleges that offer them.

Schools are not required to use the web-based system, but they are required to complete plans for each student as part of the state’s new graduation requirements. And the state education board is considering holding schools accountable for the plans by including students’ completion rates in the state’s student testing system.

Links:

Kentucky Department of Education
http://www.education.ky.gov/KDE/Default.htm

Career Cruising
http://www.careercruising.com