New state program encourages school division innovation

Published 5:05 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

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Virginia Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane is inviting school divisions to seek designation by the state Board of Education as a School Division of Innovation. Divisions recognized by the board for innovative practices and policies will be eligible for waivers from certain state regulations and will receive additional credit in the application and awarding process later this year for $50,000 state innovation grants.

“This is an opportunity for superintendents, principals, teachers and other educators to collaborate and design innovations to maximize student potential. I encourage all divisions to embrace this opportunity to drive change and shape ‘what’s next’ in the commonwealth’s public schools,” Lane said. “And it is an opportunity for VDOE and the board to learn how regulations can be improved as school divisions seek waivers of rules that may be preventing new and innovative ways of leading and learning in our schools.”

School divisions are to apply for the new designation by submitting plans to the VDOE describing how their division-wide or school-level innovative practices, programs and policies will improve outcomes and expand opportunities for all students.

Innovation plans must include details on how schools will implement the innovations, how best practices will be shared among schools, how teachers will receive relevant professional development, how teachers will collaborate and provide leadership, how the division will engage parents and communities, and how the division will measure success.

Innovation plans may also include requests for exemptions from state regulations. However, waivers are not available from regulations mandated by state or federal law, or from regulations related to health, safety, special education, assessments, graduation requirements, academic standards or accreditation.

“By reducing the amount of standardized testing in our schools, the Board of Education has created additional space for creativity and innovation,” Board of Education President Daniel Gecker said. “The board looks forward to recognizing school divisions that take advantage of this opportunity to create innovative programs and policies that promote equity by providing all students with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in school and beyond.”

Divisions have until Feb.10 to submit a letter of intent to apply. The complete application is due to VDOE by March 10. The Board of Education will act in April on a list of divisions recommended by the state superintendent for the School Division of Innovation designation.

The 2017 General Assembly authorized the School Division of Innovation recognition, and the Board of Education gave final approval last year to regulations governing the program.