Across Virginia, innovation work is in bloom.
On March 11-12, Lead Innovation Teams from across Virginia will convene to begin a year-long professional learning journey together. They will engage in strategic work essential to local implementation of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate and engage together to show all the potential of what schools could be.
An intended purpose of the Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network is to create as many professional learning connections of innovative educators across the Commonwealth as possible. To support this active network, cohort teams will contribute to both a virtual platform as well as to face to face opportunities for team members and fellow educators to share resources, solutions, and strategies that support increased engagement of our students in deeper learning. They will build local experiences that lead to strong communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and citizenship competencies– all essential to adult success in homes, communities, the workplace, and education after high school. Lead Innovation Teams will take on the grand challenge of removing equity barriers and opening accessibility windows so that all of the Commonwealth’s learners can be advantaged by our public education system, no matter their life circumstances.
The foundation has been laid for this work already. Academies are blossoming everywhere, creating options for students to pursue career pathways from Health Sciences to Engineering to World Languages and Global Studies, Skilled Trades, Computer Science… and so much more. Nowhere is that model making any greater difference than the Academies of Hampton, small learning communities available to high school students in the form of 16 different themed academies with 44 career pathways.
Project-based learning also offers deeper learning experiences to learners of all ages in schools across the Commonwealth and it’s not unusual to see the outcomes of projects as impacting students’ local communities. For example, the iEARN Project that linked Winchester students with students from all over the world in two local school projects. In a Richmond City School, middle school students joined a national viral movement to celebrate Black History Month. And, elementary children in Charlottesville City Schools took their project on strategies for safe neighborhoods to their City Council.
The Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network will serve as both an educational incubator and an accelerator to build upon the strengths of current innovative work already occurring in school communities. The locally-controlled work generated by Lead Innovation Teams will link together divisions, higher education, community partners, the Virginia Department of Education, and educational associations into one professional learning network designed to advance our common goals for Virginia’s learners.
High quality learning that prepares young people to thrive in this century should be accessible to every student, regardless of whether a child lives in Halifax, Fairfax, Virginia Beach, or Galax City. Such learning is also a matter of equity, not just available but expected so that every learner in Virginia’s schools can both be inspired by what is possible in their century and aspire to achieving their own hopes and dreams, regardless.
No one project can solve all the educational challenges faced by today’s schools in America or Virginia. However, as our Lead Innovation Teams work to solve local challenges in concert with each other, we will be better together.
The Virginia School Consortium for Learning is privileged to partner with the Virginia Department of Education, James Madison University, Jobs for the Future, and Ted Dintersmith in support of this three-year initiative to support innovation in public schools across the Commonwealth.