Code RVA initiative discussed Monday

Code RVA is the first phase of a new initiative spurned by new legislation with the blessing of Gov. McAuliffe. Fifteen counties have signed on to participate in CodeRVA’s program, and 13 will take part in the pilot program, including Dinwiddie and Prince George Counties. A full list of partners and school districts is available at https://coderva.org.

“The Region I High School for Innovation, which for now is being referred to as CodeRVA,” Fisher said. “That is subject to change, but one thing that won’t change is it is the Region I High School for Innovation.”

Fisher detailed the rationale for its creation, where CodeRVA is at this point in time, what it will look like and how it will benefit participants. The presentation began with a YouTube video put together by Kevin Fleming, which can be seen at https://youtu.be/AcNSpKX8kVs.

The video inspired legislation in Virginia that pushes toward a more complete education system, an education system that better prepares youth for the realities of joining the workforce.

“Success in the new economy would require that we redesign schooling for the real world,” Fisher said. “What he found (Fleming) with the 1:2:7 ratio in the misalignment with schooling is the same thing that the Virginia Department of Commerce and Trade reported in the new Virginia economy report which they gave the governor, from which the governor then initiated the new Virginia economy initiatives.”

The ratio is relevant to the demands of the economy. Fleming said that although conventional wisdom suggests a college degree would result in a higher income, this is not always the case. The educated job seekers will then fall into what Fleming calls “grey collar” jobs. These are jobs that perpetuate a struggle for graduates that are still trying to repay student loans. CodeRVA is combatting a college education system that has become a benchmark for success that cannot deliver.

CodeRVA is changing the educational landscape in Virginia through a new style of curriculum that combines subjects like math and science, history and literature, allowing the students to learn everything they would in a traditional Algebra I or American Literature class deemed necessary towards passing Standards of Learning Tests.

CodeRVA’s curriculum is project based.  Students will have projects to complete under the supervision of their instructors, but they will also be working for the first time with leaders in industries existing in the real world.

The pilot program will comprise 9th graders from 13 school districts and focus on computer coding. These will be distance-learning courses taking place in computer labs all over the region. The initial class will be almost 500 students that were eager to sign up for the opportunity.

“They will have equity-based admissions,” Fisher said. “There is no GPA requirement. It is not a governor’s school. The admissions will initially be done by lottery with equity parameters built-in to the lottery system.”

CodeRVA will not become a physical structure until next year. Fisher hesitated to say the location would likely be in close proximity to the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School. This is not an official selection, but he said all indicators point in this direction. This will minimize impact on transportation for school districts on board, as they already transport students to the governor’s school.

Fisher said CodeRVA is combining curriculums to prepare students not for success in the university, but in the real world. This will combine a college-ready academic core with career-ready technical studies and skills. This is the model for new schools in Virginia, one that is aligned with the new economy.

The site studies Dinwiddie and Prince George County are taking on as they look to update their schools will reflect what happens with CodeRVA. Prince George County is in the middle of a site study and has expressed interest in tech and campus style buildings. Dinwiddie is still gearing up to begin their site study, but a focus on highly skilled advanced manufacturing and technology can be expected.

The initial push at CodeRVA is computer coding, but code does not define CodeRVA. Fisher said the next wave of students may be focused on energy, health care, but the curriculum is pathway focused.

“What will be innovative about this school?” Fisher asked. “Well, grades nine and 10, the students will complete all of their high school credits during 9th and 10th grade. All of the courses will be personalized blended learning experiences and/or fulltime virtual ones.”

Students in 11th and 12th grade will go to work for Maxx Potental.

“Maxx is formed in partnerships with local businesses throughout the Richmond area to provide paid apprenticeships and internships in computer science and coding jobs for the students attending this school,” Fisher said.

The opportunities don’t end there. Students will be making between $9-20 an hour before leaving high school. Some students will go on to study on a collegiate level, with guaranteed seats at J. Sargeant Reynolds and John Tyler Community Colleges. Others will continue working in the field. Staffing has yet to be sorted out.

The first step is to find an executive director for CodeRVA, but there is no favored applicant at this time. The board is still coming together, comprised of members of respective participating school districts. The language has not been fully realized, a master calendar and schedule are also still in the works.

There is a pilot curriculum as well as class descriptions at this point in time, but once the executive director is appointed, there will be a search for instructors that are as Fisher said content experts, but more-so data interpreters and lesson facilitators. Fisher said the estimated cost is about $9,000 per student, with an estimated 12 instructors to administer curriculum.

Lesson facilitation is a key component of CodeRVA, as teachers will intervene when students are having trouble.

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