Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network: A Snapshot of Progress Earned

What happens when divisions cross county lines to engage in purposeful innovation and sustainable planning? The 2019 #VALIN cohort answers that question with concrete and assertive steps.

Seven short months ago, an intrepid band of twenty-six teams representing thirty-one Virginia school divisions embarked on a journey. Their individual quests, while disparate, were nonetheless unified by an aligned desire: to design language frameworks and organizational drivers that empower deep learning models accessible to all learners.

Sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia School Consortium for Learning (VaSCL)and James Madison University, the work of the Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network (#VALIN) continues in earnest this fall. The Department’s Profile of a Virginia Graduate represents a ‘North star’ for the Network by empowering communities to chart personalized learning pathways that converge around 5 critical competencies for today’s society, economy and democracy.

On October 7-8, the inaugural cohort convened for a third time in Waynesboro to advance and share concrete efforts that mobilize around Ted Dintersmith’s charge to create ‘small steps that lead to big change’. Since this spring, the teams have worked closely in their communities with six ALP consultants who have engaged in a blended coaching model to enhance the rigor and sustainability of their respective workstreams.

Between now and December 13, when the 2020 cohort of thirty-five additional division teams will take the baton from the 2019 class, these educators, community leaders and students are engaged in some powerful progress. The following snapshot represents a modest fraction of the tangible progress Virginia divisions are making in their efforts to operationalize the Virginia Department of Education Profile of a Virginia Graduate:

  • The Newport News #VALIN Team has a clear appreciation for the connection between the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan and their emerging Profile of a NNPS Graduate.  On October 18th, NNPS leaders invited sixty community stakeholders to share insights on the key attributes of a NNPS graduate and priorities for the 2020-2025 strategic plan.  The energy in the room was high as students, educators, and business leaders captured a rich discussion about the skills and dispositions that are essential for learners to be prepared for a challenging and unpredictable future. This powerful day was the first step in a multi-phase design process that will include several internal design cycles, multiple facilitated community sessions and a virtual town meeting during the winter to gather input on a near final draft. The team is currently working behind the scenes to synthesize the input and design a collection of drafts for the Portrait of a Graduate to share at the December stakeholder meeting.
  • Franklin County Public Schools is engaged in highly strategic and community-wide efforts to bring a competency-based learning progression into its secondary curriculum in 2020. A senior ALP consultant is actively working with a team of educators and key stakeholders involved in the division’s Health Science cluster to support the visioning, design, and development of the learning framework and its associated pathways over the course of the 2019-2020 fall semester in order to define a personalized, competency-based approach to teaching and learning. Additionally, the Division is also developing an aligned Deeper Learning Profile that will inform the development of benchmark formative assessments and support the diffusion of competency-based outcomes across core subject areas.
  • Louisa and Cumberland Counties have joined forces to create a cross-district professional learning community of trailblazing teachers willing to take a risk to transform their practice. With Scott McLeod’s 4SHIFTS Protocol as a guide, these teachers have engaged in a multi-phase process of design, implementation, and iteration to transform teaching and learning in their classrooms by focusing on deeper learning, student agency, authentic work, and technology infusion. The cross-county PLC has activated a network of educators both in designing learning experiences as well as providing iterative reflection and feedback, the latter of which has most recently involved student perspectives. The goal of this initial effort is that of laying a foundation: that the lesson redesign efforts of this wave of teachers will offer a road map of innovation for their more risk-averse colleagues at their schools.
  • Augusta, Greene and Rockingham Counties are deeply focused on the professional learning infrastructure that will enable highly effective and sustainable enhancements to their respective learning models. After developing a draft of its ACPS Learner Profile, the Division’s Innovation Team is generating the coaching capacity to attract, coach and continuously support a cohort of Model Classroom teachers at all schools beginning in January 2020. The Greene County collective are focused on the careful communication of their Innovate 2021 vision, with an emphasis on the development of a digital badging framework and learning walks for site administrators. The Rockingham County team is currently facilitating a book study for its entire staff, with the goal of building community efficacy around the urgency for a progressive learning model in service to all students. Concurrently, they are assertively pursuing experience and information that may inform deep innovation around blended and learning space design in future academic years.

On October 29, members of the #VALIN Steering Committee and some very important collaborators are presenting at the 2019 iNACOL Symposium in Palm Springs. The courage and talent of the aforementioned #VALIN teams–and so many, many others–in the first cohort are emblematic of the desire to move beyond the conventional approach to teaching, learning and leadership. We are deeply grateful for their commitment to emboldened visions and actions they are taking to realize them.

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