CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A national report on school innovation has cited West Virginia’s innovation zones as a model for other states seeking to improve their schools.
The “Innovation in U.S. Public School Districts” report by Hanover Research analyzed educational innovation in public schools with a focus on 21st century learning skills. States selected for inclusion in the report were chosen based on their comprehensive 21st century skills curriculum and agenda. Other states featured were Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey and North Carolina.
The report said West Virginia’s innovation zones “allow selected districts more flexibility with established state education policy in order to experiment with new educational structures and teaching techniques.” The report also noted that innovation zones allow for flexible scheduling, integration of the arts, improving drop-out rates, curriculum centered on the real world and foreign language instruction in elementary schools.
Education Innovation Zones, created by the West Virginia Legislature in 2009, allows pilot projects at schools around the state. The law encourages schools to innovate by permitting certain state laws, rules and policies to be waived. Such provisions give educators greater local control over the curriculum, schedule and site-based leadership in their schools. Schools designated as Innovation Zones essentially become learning laboratories with the flexibility to try innovative teaching strategies.
"Innovation zones are allowing our schools to adapt to changing times and embrace new ideas and new teaching strategies,” said state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. “Giving our schools greater flexibility allows them to create schools that reflect how children live and learn in the 21st century.
West Virginia has received numerous awards for its innovative 21st century policies and programs. West Virginia has received the 21st Century Skills Practice of the Year award three years in a row for its efforts in fostering a culture of 21st century learning. Among projects cited for the awards were 21st century content applications, the annual Teacher Leadership Institute, the Teach21 website, technology integration specialist training and content standards for 21st century learning.
The report noted that successful statewide initiatives are implemented according to following seven best practice strategies as identified by the collaborative work of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and its state partners. Those are high-profile leadership; broad consensus and a shared vision; ongoing professional development in 21st century skills; standards and curriculum aligned with 21st century skills; 21st century assessments; an effective communications strategy; and an aggressive implementation strategy.
Hanover Research, a membership-based research company in Washington, D.C., primarily serves about 100 higher education institutions, public school districts, health care, and non-profit organizations in the United States.
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