Governor Ralph Northam launched Virginia is for Learners, an initiative to engage students, parents, educators, and employers with the Commonwealth’s efforts to better prepare Virginia students for success in the 21st-century workforce and adapt to a changing world. The initiative includes a public information campaign and a coordinated set of future-focused strategies to accompany recent major changes the Commonwealth has made to public education.
“Over the past few years, the Commonwealth of Virginia has worked to transform the way we deliver public education, aligning our approach with the needs of a modern economy,” said Governor Northam. “The goal of this initiative is to provide Virginians with information on each of these changes, why we are making them, and what we hope those changes will achieve. Virginia is for Learners represents our commitment to do everything we can to offer every student, no matter where they live, the world-class educational experience they need to build successful lives as adults, and an opportunity to learn in ways that are relevant to their lives, their communities, and their future aspirations.”
Each of the pillars of the initiative supports the goal of modernizing curriculum, instruction, and testing to ensure that students master important content while also developing the real-world skills that are more important to employers than ever. The future of work is changing—and this initiative is designed to change the future of learning in Virginia to meet the need of students and suit the needs of modern employers.
The Virginia is for Learners initiative includes the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Board of Education, and partner organizations including Jobs for the Future, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the Virginia Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Virginia School Consortium for Learning, and several schools of education, including those at William & Mary and George Mason University. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provided initial support for policy and practice activities that made the launch of this initiative possible.
The key components of Virginia is for Learners include:
- A Stronger Focus on Deeper Learning: Students in every grade are experiencing an approach to instruction that deepens the focus on key skills for success in a modern world—critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship skills. This approach ensure students develop the content knowledge and the skills they need to succeed after graduation.
- New High School Graduation Requirements and Career Pathways: Virginia high school graduation requirements have been revised to incorporate the “Profile of a Virginia Graduate,” which ensures graduates have the knowledge, skills, and experiences identified by employers and educators as most critical for life after high school. For the first time, all Virginia graduates will leave high school with life changing work-based learning experiences that put them on the path for career and economic advancement. This Profile went into effect for this year’s freshman class.
- Modernizing the Virginia Standards of Learning: Over the past several years Virginia has reduced the number of high-stakes tests. The Commonwealth is also updating testing to better track not only what a student knows, but how ready they are to apply their knowledge and skills in the real world. Parents will begin to see these new testing approaches—such as performance assessments—in their kids’ schools as students are asked to demonstrate their true understanding of concepts through short essays, projects and other vehicles.
- An Increased Emphasis on Early Childhood Education: The Virginia Department of Education helps prepare all children to become lifelong learners, which is critical in the modern economy, and recognizes the need to build that foundation in a child’s earliest years. The Commonwealth supports birth to five programming, including the Virginia Preschool Initiative and Early Childhood Special Education. Virginia is for Learners promotes key classroom practices, such as using of high-quality curriculum and assessment, supporting positive teacher-child interactions and ongoing family engagement. A goal of this initiative is to ensure every student enters kindergarten ready to learn and prepare for a successful life after graduation.
- New Standards of Accreditation for Virginia Schools: Standards of Accreditation for school performance place new emphasis on cultivating real-world skills, eliminating achievement gaps and incentivizing continuous school quality improvement. Virginia’s new accreditation system measures what matters, gives credit for student growth, and focuses on equity outcomes. These new standards use the latest research and technology to advance Virginia’s position as a national leader in school accountability. The Virginia Department of Education remains focused on excellence and accountability while ensuring that Virginia is a place where every student is has the opportunity to succeed.
- Maximizing the Potential of All Students: Education is our most effective tool to reduce poverty, address racism, and sustain economic advancement for all Virginians. The Commonwealth is committed to ensuring that students and families in Virginia, regardless of their race, economic status, or the languages they speak at home, feel welcomed in their schools. The Virginia Department of Education will continue to focus on the changing needs of its diverse student population, recognizing that significant achievement gaps currently exist. Our commitment is to ensure that the Commonwealth’s public education system is positioned to achieve equitable academic outcomes for all students.
“Taken together, these policy changes transform the way Virginia prepares our students for successful careers and lives after graduation,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Virginia is for Learners is our vehicle for communicating and engaging with the public about the changes happening in their schools and promoting future reforms to build on our momentum. If we work together we can prepare every student for a successful career in the economy of the future.”
“Virginia has always led the way on thoughtful and modern innovations to connect students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive after graduation,” stated Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. “Virginia is for Learners is about recognizing our responsibility to adapt to a changing economy and make sure that every student has the knowledge, skills, and experience to build a successful life after graduation.”
“On behalf of the Virginia Board of Education, I am proud of the on-going work that state, local and private partners have undertaken to better ensure our education system prepares students from every corner of our state for success in the modern workforce,” said Board of Education President Daniel Gecker. “Virginia is for Learners is a strong platform to highlight the important revisions the Board made to the Standards of Accreditation that focus on continuous improvement for all students and the persistent equity work of the Board, the Department and our public schools across the Commonwealth.”
Stephanie Malia Krauss, Senior Director for Special Projects at Jobs for the Future added, “The jobs of the future require students to be lifelong learners who can pair strong content knowledge with real-world skills. Virginia is for Learners is a national model for how states can modernize their educational approach to ensure every student who earns a high school diploma is ready to thrive in a rapidly changing world. This initiative is a true collaborative effort of state and local education leaders in partnership with a number of strong national partners, all working together on behalf of Virginia students.”
Donna Colombo, President of the Virginia PTA added, “Virginia is for Learners is the culmination of years of work by public and private partners to transform how Virginia prepares students for future success. We are proud to support this important effort to inform Virginia parents and students about the changes happening in their schools and how they will lead to better outcomes for children in every corner of the Commonwealth.”
For more information on the Virginia is for Learners initiative visit this link.