J. Alvin Wilbanks, CEO/Superintendent, Gwinnett County Public Schools
Gwinnett County Public Schools has reached the midpoint in our “Year of Promise” in which we have focused on the promise that lies within each student, and on our promise to help prepare them for the brightest possible future. That bright future is dependent on the learning and opportunities they experience in our classrooms today. For that reason we must transform teaching and learning so we can meet the needs of students whose lives after graduation will be very different from that of their parents and teachers.
To cultivate a mindset in the district conducive to making such changes, we identified “Transforming Teaching and Learning for Increased Student Achievement” as one of our current Strategic Initiatives. We know that transformation cannot be mandated from the top. It catches fire where there is a shared vision and a commitment to make that vision a reality. We also know that such initiatives bear fruit in schools and classrooms, which hold the power to improve how students learn and, consequently, change their lives.
Support for schools looking to try new approaches to teaching and learning is provided through district-level staff working in tandem with the Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Transformation (CIET) Team. To encourage schools to pursue transformative practices, we instituted the “Innovation and Transformation Award” to recognize and reward clusters or groups of schools that are transforming their classrooms.
The first clusters to receive the Innovation and Transformation Award were the Dacula and Lanier clusters in 2015, and the Brookwood Cluster in 2016. The schools in these clusters are not focusing on random acts of improvement or changing one school at a time. Rather, they are taking a “vertical” approach across school levels to ensure greater impact on their students today and into the future. In short, they are realizing the power of systemic change.
We applaud their work and the many innovations found in schools throughout the district. Transformative changes will not only benefit students, but also can contribute to economic development in Gwinnett County as students are exposed to local careers fields where jobs could be waiting for them upon graduation. This work, championed by our outstanding educators, supportive parents, and committed partners, will move us closer to realizing our vision of being a system of world-class schools, where learning comes alive and where you find The Promise of Gwinnett!