Back/Addressing Equity with High-Quality Instructional Materials: Learnings from Virginia

Addressing Equity with High-Quality Instructional Materials: Learnings from Virginia

by Jeremy Jones on March 3 2020

Since its launch in 2015, the #GoOpen initiative has expanded discussion, networking opportunities, and resources for states and school districts across the country seeking new ways to build curricular resources. The motives for “going open” range from abandoning the traditional textbook adoption cycle to personalizing curricula for students. Regardless, it is clear that there is a growing number of enthusiastic school systems finding ways to integrate Open Educational Resources (OER) into their catalog of instructional materials. When this process is done well, students and teachers benefit.

The coalition is comprised of 20 states from coast to coast. While other states may not participate in an official capacity, there are #GoOpen districts all over the country, signaling the expanding network of educators seeking ways to curate and customize curricula. Virginia joined a few years ago, and they have renewed their commitment to “going open” and by taking some powerful recent steps to build capacity across the state. Virginia provides a good example of how school district leadership, in the adoption and implementation of OER, can spur innovation at other levels. Chesterfield County Public Schools and Hampton City Schools have served the #GoOpen campaign as Ambassador Districts (which mentor more junior Launch Districts, advance plans for OER scalability and sustainability, and openly license and share resources around the #GoOpen process), and four other districts across the state, including Loudon County Public Schools, joined as Launch Districts (which are in the earlier stages of their own #GoOpen journey within their districts).

Virginia’s entrance into the OER collaborative is a deliberate move by state-level education leaders to promote the modification of dynamic, openly-licensed materials to meet the needs of students and to support new ways of teaching and learning across the state. The Virginia Department of Education crafted this initiative to empower students and educators through equitable learning opportunities, and the systems the state is putting into place to facilitate this equity work show promise for the future.

Virginia is hard at work building the necessary capacity to sustain a statewide movement toward OER. Here are a few of the high-impact actions the state has taken:

  • High-Profile Partners: Virginia has partnered with ISKME, a national nonprofit organization and leading voice in OER circles, to provide resources that support communities of practitioners across the state. This partnership lends credibility and support to Virginia’s #GoOpen initiative and connects Virginia districts with others across the country doing the same work.
  • Resource-Sharing Platform for Collaboration: Virginia is designing and building a statewide learning management system that will allow educators to find, share and customize instructional materials. While this work is underway, the GoOpenVA website already connects educators with OER hubs to begin exploring and curating resources. Teachers can pull high-quality resources from these hubs, but they can also contribute their own content, creating a stronger community of collaborators and creators.
  • Technical Guidance and Implementation Assistance: Virginia has designated districts to serve as model districts that can mentor others seeking to adopt and implement OER. Thanks to these connections, “newcomer” districts that are beginning their OER implementation will have the ability to connect with more seasoned “veteran” districts in the work, breaking down barriers that stand in the way of change and increasing newcomer districts’ ability to adapt effectively.

For more information on Virginia’s work and other states taking part in the #GoOpen initiative, visit www.goopen.us. Check back with us tomorrow as we explore success stories from districts across the country who are implementing Open Educational Resources. Happy Open Education Week!

About the Author

Jeremy Jones is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator, where he brings insight to TLA's schools and systems strategy work. Jeremy has spent 15 years working alongside students and families in schools across the country to close the academic achievement gap.