Working Systemically Toward Innovation

Congrats to the VaLIN divisions recently announced as winners of first- and second-year funding for School Innovation Planning Grants (K12SIP) from VDOE.

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Congrats to the VaLIN divisions recently announced as winners of first- and second-year funding for School Innovation Planning Grants (K12SIP) from VDOE. Several divisions from both Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 received funding this year (see VDOE News release 8/11/20). These divisions demonstrate the capacity to work systemically toward innovation by seeking opportunities to fund and implement different components of their vision for innovation. This systemic approach leverages participation in opportunities like VaLIN to give that experience increased return on investment.

In initial conversations with members of the Montgomery County VaLIN team last February, it was readily apparent that the team had a larger vision for innovation and was considering ways to weave different components together. The team took Dr. Lane’s challenges from the initial meeting in March to heart. The team is on a trajectory to implement changes that can impact not only students and teachers, but also those who might become teachers. They’re also working on connections to businesses and higher education across their region. One of the main challenges of this type of work, which many divisions discover, has been that different grant opportunities support different types of work and don’t necessarily cover all aspects of implementing a cohesive vision. Montgomery County used the VaLIN opportunity to focus. Using high school course pathways as the driver for their VaLIN work, Montgomery County is developing a new course pathway in Information Technology that not only aligns with the 5 Cs and includes authentic assessments but also connect students with local businesses to address real problems in the IT field. Dr. Jonathan Schulz, Supervisor of Grants and Innovation for Montgomery County, noted that VaLIN has given them “an achievable short-term target that fits bigger goals.”

Schulz commented early on that trying to reach an expansive vision can make people feel like they are trying to do too many things at once, but focusing on what different opportunities can realistically provide has helped. The team determined what they could and could not accomplish through an initiative like VaLIN and then sought opportunities that leveraged that work to address some of the other parts. Building on their core work in VaLIN, the team sought and received a Go Virginia Economic Development Grant to provide funds to support internships to provide those real-world experiences for students critical to the curriculum. And because many people who have the skills and experience to teach in IT may not currently be licensed teachers, the division’s new Alternative Model for Professional Licensure will help bring in those experts necessary. The School Innovation Planning Grant (K12SIP) is critical for providing funds to make sure all of the other parts can come to fruition. It provides support for teachers and IT experts to collaborate in the curriculum development and implementation. Diligence and focus has helped this division take the steps that will help them reach their larger vision.

Congratulations to all of the Virginia Divisions who received the K12SIP funding this year and we hope the VaLIN experiences serves as a springboard for innovation for years to come.  In addition to Montgomery County, kudos go out to

Franklin County Public Schools (VaLIN Cohort 1) has received both a first- and second-year grants to support a comprehensive vision of moving towards implementing competency-based education programs. Their innovative approach provides opportunities for accelerated completion of state graduation requirements through virtual classes, integrated instruction and flexible scheduling.

Richmond Public Schools (VaLIN Cohort 2) is excited to reimagine two of their most at-promise schools with a fresh focus on career opportunities and exploration in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The proposal includes exciting partnerships with organizations like the VCU School of Engineering Code Beats program, Capital One Coders program, and Next Up program.

Buchanan County Public Schools (VaLIN Cohort 1) was awarded a second-year grant to expand upon work they completed around blended learning. As early as this fall students will leverage a curriculum that incorporates blended, multidisciplinary courses and career-exploration opportunities, including job shadowing and internships.

Middlesex County Public Schools (VaLIN Cohort 1) will apply their first year grant funds to expand personalized learning opportunities available to students, including additional externships and internships, that allow learners to broaden their post-secondary goals.

The Design Virginia High School Innovation Network includes Halifax County Public Schools (VaLIN Cohort 1), Henrico County Public Schools (VaLIN Cohort 2) and Mecklenburg County Public Schools (VaLIN Cohort 1) This network of divisions will focus on college, career and community readiness to prepare students for post-secondary experiences.

Goochland County Public Schools (VaLIN Cohort 1) will implement a project-based, interdisciplinary program through their CTE academies, with innovations that include competency-based assessment, virtualization of student learning and senior capstone projects.

Fauquier County Public Schools (VaLIN Cohort 2) will foster strong community and higher education partnerships to provide mentors for students as they focus on interdisciplinary collaboration on authentic, real-world projects.

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