The state Board of Education on Sept. 17 recognized Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) and 14 other Virginia school divisions as “School Divisions of Innovation” for designing and implementing alternatives to traditional instructional practices and school structures that improve student learning and promote college and career readiness, as well as good citizenship. RCPS is among the first districts to earn this designation, which was authorized by the 2017 General Assembly.
RCPS was recognized for implementing multiple approaches and opportunities supporting deeper learning for all students. A long-time leader in state measures of student achievement and investment in instructional technology, RCPS, like some other K-12 school districts across Virginia and the nation, is undergoing a sea change in the way curriculum, instructional design, and instructional tools are leveraged to transform the learning experience of students in all classrooms toward deeper learning. Deeper learning is learning that is engaging and purposeful and focuses more on application-based education through a variety of instructional strategies.
While there are some educational programs that may be innovative, they only benefit a small subset of students. RCPS is committed to spreading the promise of deeper learning to every student, in every school and in every classroom. In order to make that happen, the district is in the process of embedding existing curriculum with exemplar deeper learning experiences that are mapped to key skills of citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. By the time students graduate, their normal progress through the curriculum will take them through engaging curated lessons designed to push the limits of their creativity and critical thinking. At graduation, they will have a portfolio of their work which will demonstrate that they are “Opportunity Ready,” prepared to take advantage of whatever opportunity comes their way.
“Over the past few years, we have worked to develop a guiding document called the C-Change Framework, which, in conjunction with our RCPS Profile of a Graduate, represents the skills that graduates need to become Opportunity Ready,” said Dr. Ken Nicely, superintendent of Roanoke County Public Schools.
“We have conducted extensive related professional development, developed learning communities related to supporting these changes, and built a large system of supporting programs to help give teachers resources to foster and encourage deeper learning so our students will become opportunity ready,” Dr. Nicely said.
“I think it is fair to say that innovation has never been more important in public education than today as schools across the commonwealth and nation focus on improving distance learning in the face of a pandemic, while addressing inequities in opportunities and outcomes,” Board of Education President Daniel Gecker said. “I congratulate the leaders of all these school divisions for creating innovative plans to address the challenges in their schools and engage their students in deeper learning across the curriculum.”
“Virginia’s 132 school divisions have a history of sharing innovative and promising practices to improve student learning and outcomes and the School Division of Innovation recognition program is a means of institutionalizing this collaborative process,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. “I look forward to visiting all of these school divisions to see how their innovations are transforming teaching and learning.”
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. Divisions earning the designation must submit an annual report to the Virginia Department of Education on progress toward meeting the goals and performance targets in their plans. Divisions retain the School Division of Innovation designation for three years.
- Submitted by Chuck Lionberger, Director of Community Relations