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Individualized learning bill advances

Published (3/23/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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Anath Pai is a teacher who uses individualized learning plans for his students. He told a House committee that because not all children learn the same way, teachers should instruct them differently.

“I believe that all children can learn provided the environment allows them the flexibility to stretch the elasticity of their brains,” Pai said.

A House committee approved a measure sponsored by Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono), which would authorize districts to work with students to develop unique curriculums based on their individual interests and strengths. The House Education Reform Committee sent HF2658 to the House floor March 20. Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) sponsors SF2201, the companion that awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

Supporters hope to remove what they call “one size fits all” learning from the classroom. They believe academic motivation stems from engaging students on an individual basis.

Ted Kolderie, senior associate at the Center for Policy Studies’ project Education Evolving, testified in favor of work like Pai’s, but claimed that transforming schools with individualized learning plans would create more sweeping change.

“We can’t get where we need to go at the rate we need simply by making itty bitty changes on all the schools simultaneously,” he said.

While Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) expressed support for the bill’s concept, she questioned its permissive language, which directs schools who have successfully implemented individualized learning plans to expand that program to other sites in the district. Doepke insisted the bill offered strong encouragement, but not a mandate, for program expansion.

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