UPDATED: Sen. Tillman files bill to eliminate Personal Education Plans (PEPs) in public schools

Senator Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) filed a bill Wednesday that would eliminate the requirement for public schools to offer Personal Education Plans (PEPs), which provide academically struggling, at-risk students with strategic interventions to bring them up to grade-level proficiency.

“Personal education plans are just a lot of paperwork for a lot of students who really just don’t need them,” Sen. Tillman told N.C. Policy Watch on Thursday.

Tillman said he filed the bill to eliminate PEPs because teachers are already saddled with a lot of work, and the good ones already know which students need help.

“The good teachers are doing informal assessments all the time, and they already know what they’re doing. PEPs are just needless paperwork,” said Tillman.

Personal education plans were first introduced in 2001 as a way to help at-risk students who struggle academically yet don’t qualify for an Individual Education Plan (IEP), which are federally mandated for students with disabilities.

The PEPs offer a mechanism for students and parents to work alongside teachers in developing customizable plans that would improve students’ academic achievement. Focused interventions that could be included in the plans include additional tutoring, mentoring, smaller classes and afterschool instruction, among others.

Jane Wettach, Duke University law professor and director of the Children’s Law Clinic, doesn’t dispute that teachers likely already know which students need more help than others.

But the point of the PEPs, says Wettach, is to provide students with additional academic supports outside of the standard academic day, because teachers don’t have the time or means to help all at-risk students during regular hours.

“The thing that PEPs do differently is that they require additional instructional services to be done outside of the normal school day,” said Wettach.

“Even really excellent teachers cannot necessarily in a regular school day provide everything that an at-risk student needs to get to grade level,” Wettach added.

Current state law requires local school districts to offer PEPs to all eligible at-risk students, who can be identified as those who do not perform at grade level on End of Grade and End of Course tests, or in other ways as determined by the district. The district must provide the additional academic interventions for free, in addition to providing free transportation to and from these services.

Wettach sympathizes with teachers or districts that feel frustrated with the increased demands PEPs place on their time and resources.

“You can’t ask teachers to do [PEPs] with no compensation and no resources. These are only as effective as they are resourced,” said Wettach, who says instead of abandoning PEPs because they are too much work, adequately fund them in order to make them realistic strategies for improving student success.

Wettach also pointed out that with today’s increased pressure on school districts to have their students meet grade level standards thanks to the new A-F school grading system, there has to be something in place to address the needs of students who are unable to make that kind of progress in the regular school day.

Representative Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg) says eliminating PEPs is a bad idea.

“Eliminating PEPs is a step in the wrong direction,” said Cotham. “It’s a disservice for academically struggling children and limits accountability and measurability.”


  1. Donald Ball

    March 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    It’s almost as if Senator Tillman is trying to increase the appeal of charter and private schools over public schools.

  2. Vicki Boyer

    March 12, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Interesting how he trusts teachers to know which students need help, yet insists upon ‘grading’ them by test scores….
    “The good teachers are doing informal assessments all the time, and they already know what they’re doing.”
    At least until the next Ed Committee meeting.

  3. Gary Gallimore

    March 12, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    What’s sad about this is, this man was my assistant principal in high school. Now, he is showing that he really does not care about education. He of all people should know that public education needs more money, not less.

  4. Rebekah Musgrave

    March 12, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    And the DPE want to know why there are 64,000 home schools in NC. It’s not that children don’t need the PEP , it’s that the teacher and administration don’t go by them. I am speaking from experience with public schools.

  5. Ecstatic

    March 13, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    This is actually wonderful news.

    There is no desire here to make charter and private schools appear more desirable. If anything, this is a reasonable and sensible avenue to pursue.

    Teachers spend HOURS and HOURS writing PEPs, then documenting them, talking to the students, calling parents, updating PEPs, submitting proof, updating grades, documenting again as parents are called again and this repeats.

    Instead of doing meaningless paperwork that is only for a CYA situation, a teacher could spend that time evaluating graded assignments, re-teaching the material and investing that time to make a positive difference, instead of spending it on paperwork that ultimately never gets home to most parents and does more to scare students than provide them realistic help.

  6. Erica Ballard

    March 13, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    As a teacher, I applaud this bill. There are many interventions in place that struggling students participate in already. Any teacher knows who his or her at-risk students are and has regular meetings with the children’s parents to keep them informed. Having to sit and type a long PEP that asks for you to enter in ALL student contact info and then list interventions is simply redundant. It takes hours to update the PEP’s. Hours that would be better spent planning instruction for my struggling students.

  7. Jim Deni

    March 14, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Very bad idea provides no guaranteed supports for struggling students who do not qualify for IEP’s under IDEA for children with disabilities.

  8. Ronald Walington

    March 16, 2015 at 9:49 am

    *** I question the sponsors reason because it IS deeper than the WEAK excuse of eliminating paperwork for staff. I would encourage EVERYONE to view the number of thousands of Level 1 and Level 2 at-risk students in North Carolina ***

    (BY ACCESSING LINK >> 2013-14 School Performance Grade, School Performance Score and Growth Status (xlsx, 319kb)


  9. Chris

    March 23, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Where does this stand?

    It’s bad on so many levels… This will be the straw the breaks me in regards to the NC Republican party. If this actually goes through, I will become VERY vocal about this issue and work extremely hard to replacing ANY elected official who votes for this measure. I will even change my affiliation from republican to democrat. It’s one thing to take on teachers and curb a bloated system, but take away funding for at risk children is mind-boggling stupid. I have been a lower to middle class republican for my whole life and what this class of elitist are doing makes reasonable minded conservatives look really bad. Is this what conservatism really is? I’m embarrassed.

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