Senate leaders target Personal Education Plans

A bill filed by Senate leaders this week would eliminate the state's requirement for Personal Education Plans for students. Education groups are divided on the idea.

Posted Updated
Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph
Laura Leslie
RALEIGH, N.C. — A bill filed by Senate leaders this week would eliminate the state requirement for Personal Education Plans for students.

Senate Bill 272, filed by Sens. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, and Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, would still require teachers to identify students at risk of academic failure. But they would no longer be required to write a detailed report on the student's needs and the teacher's plans to meet them.

The bill would not affect Individualized Education Plans, which are federally required for all special-needs students.

Personal Education Plans are defined by the Department of Public Instruction as “individualized educational plan[s] designed to improve a student’s performance to grade-level proficiency.” They were originally enacted by a special provision in the 2001 budget bill, which mandated their development in the first few weeks of the school year for “any student not performing at least at grade level, as identified by the State end-of-grade test.”

Some school districts have interpreted that as requiring PEPs for all students, leaving teachers to write lengthy, detailed plans for each student in their classrooms.

Tillman says teachers have asked him to eliminate the requirement.

“Do you know how much time it takes to do four, six, eight pages on every kid if you’ve got 25 or 30 kids?” Tillman said. ““Every student doesn’t need a PEP. That’s needless paperwork, overburdening teachers who need their time to teach those kids in the classroom."

Since 2001, Tillman and other bill supporters say, teachers have adopted better diagnostic and planning tools that allow them to tailor their instruction daily or weekly to meet students’ changing needs.

“Every good teacher, I’m telling you, now does much better than a PEP you do one time a year, and it lays over there and gathers dust,” said Tillman. “If you used it every day, it would be one thing, but they’re not.”

Education groups are divided on the idea.

The bill was requested by teachers' group Professional Educators of North Carolina. Spokeswoman Evelyn Hawthorne said it was based on requests the group has received and responses to its surveys over the past several years. "This issue keeps coming up," she said.

But the state's largest teachers' group, the North Carolina Association of Educators, says the measure goes too far.

“Just a month ago, a state report showed that schools receiving a grade of F had more than 50 percent of students facing poverty," NCAE President Rodney Ellis wrote in an email to WRAL News. "Right now, there is no plan to help these students and schools, and completely eliminating personal education plans will further exacerbate this issue because it would affect predominately poor and minority students."

Instead of eliminating PEPs entirely, Ellis said, legislators should make changes to the law to make them more effective tools.

"These are resources that give students who need it most an opportunity to be successful," Ellis wrote.

Tillman said parents who want a PEP for their children would still be able to request and receive one. But he doubts many will ask.

"We had a report called the SAR – student activity report. Two years ago, we took that one off. Nobody has said a thing about that,” he said. “I want to take everything off we can so good teachers will be able to teach.”

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