Chesterfield County Public Schools awarded $50,000 Virginia high school innovation grant

Chesterfield County Public Schools recently was awarded a $50,000 high school innovation grant to develop a program at Monacan and Thomas Dale high schools that will result in students who are better prepared for post-secondary and college success through an innovative program of personalized learning, project-based learning and service learning.

“We are thrilled to be one of the few, select school divisions in the commonwealth to receive this planning grant,” said School Board member Dianne Smith, whose Clover Hill District includes Monacan High. “We recognize the need to update and transform the high school experience so that we can enhance student engagement through innovative, relevant classroom lessons. Through this creative program, our students will be presented with real-world experiences that help prepare them for their future and encourage civic engagement.”

The school division’s proposal calls for Monacan and Thomas Dale to collaborate with the Chesterfield County government on an effort that will result in opportunities for students to work with county agencies to address local issues while developing citizenship skills.

“This grant is another resource for our school division to provide an engaging and relevant education for our students,” said School Board member Carrie Coyner, whose Bermuda District includes Thomas Dale High. “This real-life application of our in-classroom work expands upon the concepts of project-based learning to create a unique collaborative partnership with Chesterfield County’s government agencies that will benefit our citizens and perhaps identify potential solutions that would make life in our county even better.”

An initial cohort of approximately 50 10th-grade students at each school will participate in a unique pilot in which they will work with county agencies to address opportunities and challenges that confront their local community. During the planning year, school and county leaders will design at least four PBL activities that reinforce the 10th-grade core curriculum. Thirty teachers will be trained in strategies that promote service learning, project-based learning and social emotional instructional strategies. During the following year, it is expected that 65 percent of the initial cohort identified as disengaged or underperforming will successfully complete a minimum of two cross-curricular, community-based PBL projects in collaboration with county partners.

Five school divisions in Virginia received initial planning grants, while five school divisions that received planning grants in 2016 have been awarded a second-year funding to support implementation this fall. The high school innovation grant program was proposed by the advisory Standards of Learning Innovation Committee and approved by the 2015 General Assembly.