Why a Connected High School?
On January 24, 2019, the School Board gave the superintendent the green light to move forward with plans to develop T.C. Williams into a Connected High School Network. The new high school program will build upon TC Williams current course of studies. This innovative approach - also known as a campus model - will expand programs to several more locations to address high school capacity while integrating students into the fabric of Alexandria City.
All students will graduate from T.C. Williams, but, much like college students, they could take classes in buildings located across the city. In a Connected High School Network, different buildings can house one or multiple programs. Some students will stay on the main campus for all their courses, some will take courses there and elsewhere, and others may only go to their program building. Still, all will be TC Williams students and can be part of the social and extracurricular activities offered by the high school.
The concept is already being practiced at T.C. Williams in the following foundation programs:
- T.C. Williams Satellite Campus, where students learn in a self-directed environment, primarily online and with a flexible schedule
- Chance for Change Academy, provides education in a smaller setting that helps many students learn better
- Academies at T.C.’s main campus include: the International Academy, the Governor’s Health Sciences Academy and the STEM Academy
Our plan to launch an Early College program on the Northern Virginia Community College campus in 2021, as well as a future state-of-the-art technology course of studies with Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus at the new Amazon HQ, will dovetail into the CHSN model. Each of these options deals with our growing need for space while putting the student’s academic success and future first. Delivering a 21st Century student-centered course of study means providing multiple, rigorous pathways to a degree.
A Connected High School Network provides students with:
- More Choice: Research shows us that high school students need choices. They learn better when they have choices about what to learn and about how to learn it. Not all students learn in the same way and hands-on programs, community based internships, and project based offerings will help develop all student skills and knowledge.
- Options to Explore Different Paths: A campus model with different programs or academies often allows students the chance to study an area they are interested in and want to go on to study at college or after graduation. The benefit of taking specialty courses at this early age is that students are exploring options within a safe environment where they can make mistakes without it having an impact on their career or ability to graduate from college.
- Smaller Learning Environments: Students often do better in smaller settings where they are known and feel like part of a community. Students at T.C. Williams reported that they often felt lost and insignificant at the school due to the size of the facility.
During the Obama Administration, school districts, education experts, states and the federal government came together to rethink how we teach high school students. The White House summits said our next generation of high schools should:
- promote active, hands-on learning aligned with career readiness, personalized learning,
- tailor academic content to student interest and needs;
- offer “high-quality career and college exploration and counseling on options” after graduation;
- provide: multiple opportunities to take college courses in high school;
- consider: project based learning and learning based on acquiring knowledge and skills instead of progressing through grades year-after-year.
Evidence shows providing these opportunities increases student achievement, especially for disadvantaged kids, because they get more rigor, smaller learning environments that they choose, career academies, some college level courses and college and career counseling.
The Connected High School Network will be a true next-generation high school and it will connect Alexandrians, cherish the diversity of our city and schools while delivering a world class education to our students.