Connecting Communities through #VAis4Learners

We are thrilled by the courage, conviction and focus of the 2019 #VAis4Learners Innovation Network cohort.

On March 10-11, over 180 leaders from 30 Virginia Districts descended upon Chesterfield County to participate in the launch of the Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network.  This innovative program is realized through the collaborative efforts of the Virginia Department of Education, Ted Dintersmith, the Virginia School Consortium for Learning, James Madison University, and Advanced Learning Partnerships.

These forward leaning district teams representing virtually every corner of the Commonwealth are unified around a collective vision: to develop and scale systems that purposefully empower learners in alignment with the Profile of a Virginia Graduate. This 2019 cohort is the first of three that will engage in a 9-month design cycle to build and plant the resources, protocols and strategies that meet the unique needs and cultures of their respective communities.

Advanced Learning Partnerships is tasked with the critical role of facilitating ongoing, personalized onsite and virtual coaching to each team throughout these design cycles. Alongside my colleagues–Tony Borash, Gaynell Lyman, Craig Bennett, John Ross, Beth Rayl and Ronique Hicks–I am engaged in service to a group of Districts that have seized the momentum stemming from the March kick-off institute. Although we are still in the first trimester of this year’s implementation, take a look at what these teams are already building.

  • Greene County Public Schools: In alignment with the District Strategic Plan, the Greene team has developed a common language framework that will be formally modeled by 20 Lead Innovators in 2019-20. Their approach is to build incubator classrooms that will directly impact 500 students and provide each campus with a space one can visit to ‘see’ the learning outcomes as they take root throughout the upcoming academic year.
  • Rockingham County Public Schools: The Rockingham team has already invested a substantial amount of planning and innovation around its vision for transformation over the next five years. They have recently invited educators to provide feedback on their implementation roadmap and are actively aligning resources and strategic planning around their needs.
  • Fluvanna / Augusta County Public Schools: This multi-District collaborative is engaged in complementary projects: Fluvanna is developing a plan to promote, facilitate and reflect on the Shadow a Student process, while Augusta is finalizing its community engagement plan to build capacity around curriculum transformation and deep engagement with local businesses and nonprofits.
  • Albemarle County Public Schools: The Albemarle team consists of a forward leaning group focused on the development of a foundation for competency-based learning structures for select middle school curriculum. Their preliminary focus is grounded in establishing dynamic project management parameters and strategic planning documents.

As a coach to these teams, I am deeply humbled by their trust and fierce determination to innovate on behalf of ALL learners, of ALL ages and of ALL backgrounds. Even though we are only two months into our collaboration, these District teams are unified around a powerful range of aligned traits:

  • Their approach to building consensus and co-authorship is transparent, clearly communicated and highly strategic. My contributions as a coach in each District have centered on supporting the development of clearly-articulated implementation and communications plans. The teams understand that their efforts will only become sustainable if their communities can unpack the WHY, the WHAT and the HOW of their vision.
  • The work involves contributions by students, educators, community members and parents. Not one team is building a theoretical plan in isolation. Their emerging implementation plans acknowledge that all pillars of their school systems–from curriculum and assessment to pedagogy, the use of technology to school scheduling, innovative courses and clubs to community-based internships–must connect to create a new framework for learning.
  • The coaching support is electrifying connections between District teams. The ALP team meets internally every two weeks to share updates on each District’s progress. Wherever possible, we are connecting teams across the Commonwealth through regional learning walks, virtual webinars and social media to help validate and fuel the innovations taking shape. Beginning in May, we will create and share a monthly newsletter that even more powerfully amplifies the pollination effect.

In partnership with our colleagues at VDOE, VaSCL, JMU as well as with Ted Dintersmith and Scott McLeod, we are thrilled by the courage, conviction and focus of the 2019 #VAis4Learners Innovation Network cohort. This diverse collective is empowering communities throughout Virginia to engage in innovations built by and for public education.

Please reach out to the talented leaders at these Districts and congratulate them on the impressive progress they have made so early in this inaugural year.

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