Northam awards high school innovation planning grants

Gov. Ralph Northam announced the award of high school innovation grants to thirteen school divisions to develop or implement programs that promote Virginia’s 5 C’s: critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship while preparing students for careers and postsecondary education. The grants are for the 2019-2020 school year. Eight school divisions received initial planning grants, while five divisions were awarded funding to support implementation this fall of previously planned innovative programs.

“Modernizing instructional approaches in our schools helps to improve educational outcomes and adapt to the needs of a 21st-century economy,” said Northam. “These grants will allow our teachers to design innovative programs that pair classroom learning with the professional skills and experiences required for success after high school, regardless of whether Virginia students are college bound or plan to enter the workforce.”

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Buchanan County, Fauquier County, Franklin County, and Goochland County will each receive $50,000 first-year innovation planning grants. Charles City County, Halifax County, Henrico County, and Mecklenburg County will share a fifth $50,000 grant. The proposed innovative high school programs are as follows:

  • Buchanan County — Buchanan County will develop a high school curriculum incorporating blended, multidisciplinary courses and career-exploration opportunities, including job shadowing and internships. Project-oriented instruction at all county high schools and the Buchanan County Career, Technology & Higher Learning Center will fuse the arts, social sciences, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), writing and research, and community service.
  • Design Virginia High School Innovation Network (Halifax, Henrico, Mecklenburg, and Charles City counties) — Network divisions will focus on college, career, and community readiness to prepare students for post-secondary experiences. Innovations include integrating instruction in multiple content areas with practical application and providing internships and apprenticeships for students in the following high schools: Halifax County High in Halifax County; Bluestone High and Park View High in Mecklenburg County; Charles City High in Charles City County; and Highland Springs High and J.R. Tucker High in Henrico County.
  • Goochland County — Goochland County will develop a project-based, interdisciplinary program at Goochland High to give students an individualized approach to learning through career and technical education academies focusing on health and public safety, communications, agricultural and natural resources, STEM, business and marketing, and manufacturing and construction. Planned innovations include competency-based assessment of student progress, virtualization of student learning, and senior capstone projects.
  • Fauquier County — Fauquier County will provide teachers at Liberty High with autonomy to present interdisciplinary instruction affording students opportunities to apply content knowledge through authentic, real-world projects. Students will take part in a school wide service-learning project and forge strong community and higher education partnerships connecting juniors and seniors with mentors to ensure engagement.
  • Franklin County — Franklin County will create personalized competency-based learning environments at Franklin County High to allow for accelerated completion of state graduation requirements through virtual classes, integrated instruction, and flexible scheduling. The planned innovations include a health science career pathway as a model for future additional career pathways.

“I congratulate these divisions for their vision in designing innovative programs to prepare students for successful transitions from high school to college or the workforce,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. “I also want to thank the businesses in these communities for their willingness to partner with schools and open their doors to students. This type of collaboration will ensure that our students will have readily accessible opportunities to align their skills and personal interests by exploring career paths and work-based learning experiences that prepare them for a successful future beyond high school.”

Fairfax County, Louisa County, Manassas Park, Radford, and Rockbridge County were each awarded $50,000 high school program implementation grants as follows:

  • Fairfax County — Justice High will implement a curriculum to meet the instructional needs of English learners with little formal education while providing these students with opportunities for mentoring, career exploration, and internships. The instructional program focuses on literacy, numeracy, and workforce readiness.
  • Louisa County — Louisa County High’s Make a Difference Project will create three pathways for students to enter the teaching profession. Participants will have opportunities to work directly with students (ages 3-5) in the Little Lions Learning Lab, which is housed on the high school campus. Participating Louisa High students will also have the opportunity to complete college credit courses and earn child development credentials.
  • Manassas Park — Manassas Park High will expand and streamline several existing programs to improve outcomes for English learners and students with little formal education. Through its Creative Opportunities at Manassas Park to Achieve Student Success program, students who otherwise might not graduate or acquire English and other foundational skills necessary for success after high school will have customized pathways for achieving their educational and employment goals.
  • Radford — Radford High will continue its three-year transformation from a traditional secondary school into an integrated program that combines core academics with STEM, career and technical education, and training in cybersecurity. The program emphasizes inquiry-based learning and real-world experiences to engage students and promote 21st-century skills, such as collaboration and creativity.
  • Rockbridge County — Rockbridge County High will implement the Solutions STEM Academy offering students career paths in 21st-century agriculture, energy and power, and environmental technology. The academy will feature flexible scheduling and emphasize problem solving, cross-curricular and project-based learning, and teamwork.

“Virginia is leading the way in transforming the high school experience,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “These grants will help students receive relevant instruction and experiences that expose them to in-demand field and equip them to succeed after graduation,”

The 2018 General Assembly authorized up to $500,000 in competitive grants in 2019 for school divisions to plan high school program innovations approved by the Virginia Department of Education, or to implement previously approved plans. The legislature defined the essential elements of high school program innovation as including the following: student centered learning, with progress based on proficiency; “real-world” connections aligned with local workforce needs and emphasizing transitions to college or career or both; and varying models for educator supports and staffing.

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