Fairfax County Public Schools is among five school districts across the commonwealth recognized as “School Divisions of Innovation” by the State Board of Education for designing and implementing alternatives to traditional instructional practices and school structures to improve student learning and promote college- and career-readiness and good citizenship.
Bristol, Dinwiddie County, Fairfax County Fauquier County, Frederick County and Fairfax will retain the innovation designation for five years. The divisions are required to report annually to the Virginia Department of Education on progress toward meeting the goals and performance targets of their plans.
“The School Divisions of Innovation program provides a laboratory for innovative approaches to improve outcomes for students and determine whether these innovations have the potential to impact statewide policy decisions,” Board of Education president Daniel Gecker said. “The board looks forward to seeing how these divisions move forward with their innovations and how they impact student performance and outcomes.”
What were the districts selected for? According to state education officials:
• Bristol is implementing an initiative to support students as they prepare for life after high school by providing graduating seniors with post-secondary designations as college, military or workforce ready. The innovation includes monthly advisory meetings for high school students and work-based learning opportunities, including internships and job shadowing.
• Dinwiddie County is creating a Workforce Ready Diploma Seal to provide a model and pathway to ensure that students are competitive and can access high-quality employment beyond high school. The seal will signify to partnering businesses and industries that graduates possess the skills needed to enter and succeed in the workforce.
•Fairfax County is implementing the Fairfax County Portrait of a Graduate to provide equity in access, opportunity, and outcomes for all students. Performance will be measured through end-of-year presentations requiring students to curate evidence of learning and academic growth over time in a portfolio, and share their learning experiences and goals with authentic audiences, including teachers, families, peers and community members.
• Fauquier County’s high schools are implementing an initiative comprising interdisciplinary and project-based learning, with the goal of fostering acquisition of the skills and attributes known as the Five C’s: creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and citizenship. The integration of required coursework will provide opportunities for students to meet state graduation requirements earlier in their high school careers and engage in authentic learning and career exploration during their junior and senior years.
• Frederick County is implementing self-determined-learning pilot programs in one elementary, one middle and one high school to increase student motivation, autonomy and engagement in learning. The innovation is also designed to promote the acquisition of Fauquier County’s “Portrait of a Graduate Competencies,” which include communication; collaboration; critical thinking and problem-solving; creativity and innovation; flexibility, adaptability and resilience; “learning how to learn”; and social and cultural empathy.
To earn the School Division of Innovation designation, a local school board must submit a plan meeting criteria set forth in the Board of Education regulations governing the recognition program.
The School Divisions of Innovation program was authorized by the 2017 General Assembly. The divisions recognized at the Board of Education’s September business meeting are the second group of divisions to earn the designation.
Last year, the Board of Education recognized the following 15 divisions as the first crop of School Divisions of Innovation: Buchanan County, Goochland County, Hampton, Henrico County, Hopewell, Loudoun County, Middlesex County, Montgomery County, Poquoson, Roanoke County, Salem, Staunton, Virginia Beach, West Point and York County.