VPI+ Leadership Academy Attendees Learn How to Craft a Powerful Story

By Rachel Chapdelaine

VPI+ Districts

On April 26-27, school leaders and coordinators from 13 divisions participating in Virginia Readiness Initiative Plus (VPI+) will attend the 2018 Spring Leadership Academy in Charlottesville, Virginia.

VPI+ is a collaborative project led by the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) and the Virginia Department of Education that aims to improve classroom quality for more than 13,000 at-risk 4-year-olds across Virginia. The goal of the annual Leadership Academy is to help participating schools strengthen their continuous improvement programs and share what they have learned from the project.

This year, the two-day meeting builds on a single theme: the power of storytelling. Attendees will learn how to craft a compelling, effective story in a series of workshops and sessions focused on topics like sharing experiences, evaluating data, problem-solving and planning within and across divisions.

“They will practice telling a concise, focused story about their work to improve and explore the key messages their stories should include and how to select from among their key messages to communicate most effectively with different audiences (families, teachers, school boards, local government, etc.),” said Megan Stuhlman, a research scientist at CASTL.

Bridget Hamre, associate director of CASTL, will deliver a presentation that uses 2.5 years of data to tell a story about the impact of VPI+ on children and families throughout the state. Hamre will also work with participants around sustainability by ensuring lessons learned in these 13 divisions are shared more broadly across VA.

To help them develop a cohesive story that will attract and gain the support of communities, participants will hear example stories and practice using their own experiences and data to more effectively communicate what they did in their continuous improvement projects.

“We know how important it is for the teams to be able to use both quantitative and qualitative data to understand and communicate what they do to help young children and their families be successful in school and beyond,” said Stuhlman.

In addition to storytelling, participants will learn about how to enhance the impact and sustainability of school improvement projects by identifying advocates and building grassroots collations.

Funded by a four-year federal Preschool Development Grant, VPI+ works with school divisions to assess the best implementation of VPI+ curriculum, professional development and assessments in early childhood classrooms with the goal of establishing a national model.

“Divisions have worked hard to transform the early childhood education systems in their division over the past three years, as they have had federal PDG funding to add seats in classrooms and critical quality enhancements,” said Stuhlman. “This funding ends after next year, and divisions are hard at work making sure that the positive changes that have the biggest impacts can be retained after the funding ends.”

By focusing on effective storytelling and community support, this year’s Leadership Academy aims to help participants prepare for this transition and, overall, increase the longevity and effectiveness of their continuous improvement programs.