Independent Learning Program (ILP)

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A Covenant School distinctive, the Independent Learning Program (ILP) is offered by the Upper School Academic Office to enrich a student’s curricular options. ILPs enable qualified high school students to study independently a subject that lies outside the school’s regular course offerings.

“ILPs provide students with accountability and the structure within which they can pursue a particular interest or passion,” says Bill Zimmerman, Upper School Academic Dean. Students who qualify for the ILP program are encouraged to find a faculty mentor, though some ILPs may require a mentor outside the Covenant community. Carol Fishwick, Director of Student Academic Services, tells her students that a mentor can help outline the direction in which they want to go. “As you start this process, a lot of doors are open, but as things begin to shift, a mentor can help narrow the focus on your area of study.”

Upper School calculus teacher, Colin Anderson, has mentored three students in Multivariable Calculus in past years. Students utilize resources on MIT OpenCourseware to help them learn the material. “I meet with each student independently about once a week to discuss questions they have, and I prepare and grade all of their assessments,” says Colin. He also mentors an ILP student completing two ILPs this year in a UVa course on Differential Equations, and a Linear Algebra course offered by the University of Illinois.

Over the years, students have completed ILPs in many areas of interest including radiology, veterinary science, Greek, pottery, medical automations, Latin, economics, and dance. Jennifer Peart, Upper School Fine Arts Chair, oversees the ILPs within the arts. Students within the program are studying guitar, film, and piano. Molly McGraw ’16 is one such student completing another year of independent learning in piano. “It’s helpful to have a specific course of study,” says Molly. “At first, I studied core theory and charts, then I moved into classical music with a piece from each period, and now I’m dabbling in jazz and contemporary music.”

Students interested in an ILP must complete a formal proposal and will be graded for their coursework based on semester projects, performances, and exhibits which assess the students’ progress. “ILPs are experiential as well as academic,” says Jennifer. Carol agrees. “Any student who is self-motivated and interested in pursuing knowledge and excellence outside the parameters of the school can qualify.”

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is an ILP?
Independent Learning Programs (ILP) provide an alternative to classroom instruction.  ILPs enable qualified high school students to study more subjects on an individual basis that either are not available in the regular curriculum or that complement it.

What are some examples of past ILPs?

  • Radiology
  • Study Skills
  • Veterinary Science
  • Pottery
  • German
  • Physical Therapy
  • Piano
  • Bagpipe
  • Medical Automations
  • Economics
  • Dance
  • Photography

Who qualifies for an ILP?
Any student in Grades 9 through 12 who is self-motivated and interested in pursuing knowledge and excellence outside the parameters of The Covenant School qualifies for an Independent Learning Project.

Who oversees an ILP?
A student is encouraged to seek a Covenant faculty member as the immediate mentor of the ILP; however, some ILPs may require a mentor outside of the Covenant faculty.  In this scenario, a student will also need a faculty advisor.

Is there a deadline for arranging an ILP?
Yes. All students interested in pursuing an ILP should obtain an application form from the Academic Office. Completed forms should be submitted for preliminary approval by May 2. Following submission, the applicant will meet with the ILP Committee to discuss the ILP proposal.

How much time will an ILP involve?
To meet Covenant’s expectations, students in ILPs are expected to be consistent with the time requirements for any academic course within the school.

Are ILPs graded?
All students taking an ILP will receive trimester and final grades and academic credit.  Grades for ILPs under the supervision of Covenant School faculty will be factored into the GPA; grades for ILPs not under direct Covenant School faculty supervision will not be factored into the GPA. However, grades will be recorded on the transcript and credit will be conferred.

Whom should I see if I have further questions about an ILP?
Visit the Academic Office and speak with the Dean of Academics.