Personalized success plans can help students excel, like this student in a rocket ship.

‘Personalized success plans’ are the next big thing

5 recommendations to take personalized success plans from theory to practice

Personalized success plans, maps of in-school and out-of-school efforts that will help all students achieve, are emerging as a viable way to address all of a student’s needs–even if those needs are largely at home.

What’s the “why” behind personalized success plans? Traditional reform efforts have focused mostly on academics or in-school aspects. But these reforms don’t account for students facing gaps in educational achievement, attainment, and opportunity.

These gaps disproportionately impact students of color and those living in poverty. And these students, who say they feel increasingly marginalized, say they are disengaged in school and are less likely to obtain postsecondary degrees or credentials to help them succeed in the modern economy.

The Education Redesign Lab released a new report identifying personalized success plans as a promising strategy to support children both in and outside of school, along with a toolkit to guide communities to develop and implement what it refers to as Success Plans.

The one-size-fits-all approach, which has guided our current school system since its early 20th century origins, simply does not address the complex and varied needs of today’s children, particularly those living in poverty,” says Paul Reville, founding director of the Education Redesign Lab. “We believe success plans have the potential to transform a factory system of schooling into a targeted, customized system that has the capacity to realize our urgent goal of preparing all of our children for success.”

The report and a detailed executive summary explore the potential of personalized “success planning” systems through an analysis of 13 organizations and agencies implementing different types of plans.

The toolkit offers recommendations to help develop personalized success plans, which bring together schools, government agencies, and community-based providers to target students’ strengths, interests, and needs. The plans match children and youth with customized and comprehensive supports and opportunities.

Personalized success plans in Salem, MA

The City of Salem has been working closely with the Education Redesign Lab since 2016 as part of the By All Means initiative, a four-year effort to improve child outcomes. As a part of this initiative Mayor Driscoll and the Salem Children’s Cabinet have launched a city-wide campaign entitled, Our Salem, Our Kids. A part of the Our Salem, Our Kids campaign has included a partnership with Boston-based City Connects, which has a 20-year track record of developing and implementing individualized plans to meet the diverse needs of students.

Every pre-K-8 child in Salem now has a personalized plan. The personalized success plans connect families, school staff, and the community together to assess student needs, leverage services and opportunities, build connections, and improve student outcomes. Examples of new services include health care, after-school programming and behavioral health counseling.

“We have launched this citywide campaign to address the myriad needs of our children,” Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll says. “We want to ensure that every child in Salem has the supports and opportunities she or he needs to succeed in academics and in life.”

5 key recommendations for personalized success plans

1. Create a cross-sector governance/management structure
2. Establish networks of support
3. Designate community, district, and/or school coordinators to facilitate the development and implementation of plans
4. Use digital tools that adhere to strict data security practices
5. Embed equity and access in every aspect of the work

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Laura Ascione

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