Governor Northam Announces ‘Virginia is for Learners’ Education Initiative (April 29, 2019)
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today 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.
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