Education Alignment and Accountability in an Era of Convergence: Policy Insights from States with Individual Learning Plans and Policies


  • L. Allen Phelps University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Julie Durham Michigan Association of Public School Academies
  • Joan Wills Ms. Wills established the Center for Workforce Development (CWD) at the Institute for Educational Leadership and now serves as a part-time Senior Policy Fellow with CWD. CWD concentrates its work on the development and improvement of employment-related learning systems in the United States. It focuses on development of new tools (such as skill and literacy standards); systems improvements (such as transition from school to work, adult literacy programs); and capacity of institutions (such as employer-led organizations to work with education institutions and youth serving agencies).



Educational policy, individual transition plans, personal empowerment, state education agencies, state programs


In response to the rising demand for market-responsive education reform across the U.S., since 1998 more than twenty states have created individual learning or graduation plan (ILP/IGP) state policies. Using extensive policy document analyses and stakeholder interview data from four early-adopting ILP/IGP states, the goal of this four-state case study was twofold. First, to determine the extent to which states are leveraging federal and state resources to align their ILP initiatives with other policies aimed at fostering education innovation and assisting economic recovery. The second goal was to develop policy recommendations for making intergovernmental investments to strengthen performance outcomes in education and workforce development in ILP/IGP states. The federal interest in equal protection and improving equity for special populations including youth with disabilities stimulated and animated the investigation. Several key findings emerged across the four states. First, to date limited fiscal investments in professional development and systematic data collection have constrained ILP-IGP implementation and evaluation efforts. Second, the opportunity to align and leverage the state investment with federal programs and other state employment and education initiatives was largely unexplored in these states.  Recommendations for state policy improvements include aligning ILP policies with state plans for improving outcomes in federal programs for students confronting economic, language and disability challenges. 


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Author Biographies

L. Allen Phelps, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Phelps is an emeritus professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and former director of the Center on Education and Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over three decades, his research, teaching, and public service agenda has examined the dynamic impact of economic change and workplace innovations on educational practices and policies in the secondary and postsecondary education sectors. He has given particular attention to state and federal policy initiatives, equity issues, business and industry partnership innovations, and professional development practices.

Julie Durham, Michigan Association of Public School Academies

Ms. Durham holds a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 2008-11 she served as Project Manager and Research Associate for the ILP Research Project. She is the  Director of Research and Grants at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.




How to Cite

Phelps, L. A., Durham, J., & Wills, J. (2011). Education Alignment and Accountability in an Era of Convergence: Policy Insights from States with Individual Learning Plans and Policies. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 19, 31.