Starting this year, Hillsborough County middle school students will be required to use an online planner that will help them plan coursework to match their academic goals.
The ePersonal Education Planner, known as ePEP, also will help students track their progress all the way through college in Florida. The ePEP, which is sponsored by the state Department of Education and the Florida Center for Advising & Academic Support, will help middle and high school students map out their studies based on a college prep curriculum, career prep curriculum, standard high school graduation curriculum or special diploma.
The ePEP was introduced to Hillsborough County on a trial basis in 2005 to help students streamline their career interests. Teachers, counselors and administrators say they have found the tool effective for their students.
"It's a great tool for the workload," said Shanshera Quinn, a supervisor for guidance services in middle schools. "It will be even better this year because they reorganized the Web site."
During the 2007-08 school year, Hillsborough County ranked sixth out of 75 school districts in the state having the highest usage of the ePEP.
This year, ePEP becomes mandatory and all current sixth- graders will be required to take a career and education planning course in seventh or eighth grade. Districts will offer it to seventh- and eighth-graders as a standalone course or as part of an existing course.
New high school graduation requirements for students entering ninth grade in 2007 and thereafter include an extra math credit and the addition of the major area of interest — in-depth study of topics that the student find compelling.
Students will choose a major area of interest for high school while in middle school, but they aren't locked into the decision. Unlike a college major, a high school major area doesn't need to be completed and can easily be changed from year to year as a student's interests change.
Parents will be able to learn about the ePEP during workshops at their children's schools this fall and winter.