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Alexandria’s ‘High School Project’ Enters Next Phase

Leading education experts gathered to speak on a plan geared toward a new high school experience.

The High School Project discussion was moderated by Bellwether Education Partners co-founder, Andrew Rotherham, the panel included Dr. Robert Balfanz (Director, Everyone Graduates Center, Cross State High School Redesign Collaborative), Dr. Jaime A. Castellano (National Authority on Education Hispanic and Latino Students), Dr. Pedro A. Noguera (Faculty Director for the Center for the Transformation of Schools), Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs (Founder and President of Curriculum Designers, Inc), Dr. Jonathan Plucker (President of the National Association of Gifted Children), and Larry Rosenstock (Founder and Head of High Tech High). (Photo: ACPS)

Alexandria, VA — Cold temperatures didn’t damper the spirit of Alexandria City Public School’s ‘Inspiring Futures’ symposium on Wednesday night at T.C. Williams High School Auditorium.

Leading education experts gathered to speak on a plan geared toward a new high school experience for Alexandria students, as part of The High School Project, an initiative that aims to rethink the way schools are delivering high school education and, at the same time, solve space issues that are projected to come with a growing student body.

Equity and Student Inclusion

Mr. Rotherham started the evening’s discussion with questions culled from the Education Design Team, which is made up of staff, students, and community professionals.

Asking each participant their definition of equity, all brought up the importance of student inclusion with Dr. Noguera pointing out that, “not all kids are the same, each have different needs”. While the group covered a number of topics, the focus remained on giving the student the tools necessary with Dr. Castellano stressing the need to move beyond the textbook.


Zebra spoke to Dr. Noguera after the event to follow up on his comments and he explained, “Equity is rooted in the recognition that all children are different, with different needs, interests and temperaments. Finding ways to meet their needs so that each child has the opportunity to be successful is at the essence of equity work in schools.”

He also pointed out the perils that exist in the education system, saying, “The danger is that schools lapse into complacency about how to meet student needs and accept disparities as normal or inevitable.

When this occurs the educators are more likely to blame their students or their parents when they fail to achieve rather than finding ways to eliminate the barriers to learning.”

READ MORE:Alexandria City School Board Votes for One Connected High School

Dr. Balfanz added to his comments, “Equity is making sure students get what they need to succeed. In the case of high school that means what they need to graduate having taken the courses required to apply to the state university system, have experienced post secondary/college level work in some form ( i.e. dual credit, AP, college level writing course, advanced math, etc, and received some technical training, i.e. CTE courses, computer coding, robotics, industry certification, etc) as evidence shows this is what best sets up high school students for adult success, given that there is little work which provides a family supporting wage unless you have a high school diploma and some post secondary schooling or training.”

According to the timeline, the High School Project has entered the Design Phase, where a defined plan is put together that will enhance the course of studies to give students the skills they need to compete in the 21st century.

UPCOMING EVENT: HOW WILL VA TECH CAMPUS IMPACT ALEXANDRIA? Come to the Agenda: Alexandria Panel Discussion on January 27


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