Jun 11, 2021

Beating the Pandemic: The U.S. Virgin Islands’ Collaborative Design Team

John Lockwood
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No one can doubt that the pandemic has exacerbated disconnection; the barriers that stood tall prior to March 2020 loom larger today. In order to promote learning recovery, educational agencies across the nation are behooved to re-connect and restore communication within and across organizations. 

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Department of Education (VIDE) is working with the Region 3 Comprehensive Center (R3CC) to implement the Collaborative Design Team (CDT). The CDT is a multi-faceted project that includes regular meetings, workgroups to update standards, and the development of a microsite to house all things related to curriculum and instruction. These efforts bring together state and district staff to work collaboratively and share updates in a virtual environment to vanquish disconnection. 
The CDT began as a modest idea and has grown into an interwoven braid of tasks. The first of which is regular bi-monthly meetings that focus on pertinent issues, opportunities for professional development, and information sharing. The meetings have been well-attended and interdepartmental communication and collaboration to implement the VIDE's strategic plan has improved.

A second task for the CDT is updating state academic standards to create the Virgin Islands Standards of Achievement (VISA) for English language arts (ELA), mathematics, science, and social studies. One of the key pieces of this work is infusing the Virgin Islands Cultural Standards into all content areas via weekly meetings with experts from the VIDE, the districts, and R3CC. Building on the Common Core State Standards for ELA and mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards for science, the CDT designated workgroups to meld these standards with the cultural standards. Social studies standards are also getting a makeover using the C3 Framework to organize, update, and immerse the cultural standards throughout the Framework.

To supervise and support the standards work, the CDT created a subgroup: The Curriculum and Open Educational Resource (COER) Council. The COER Council meets quarterly and is made-up of a cross-section of individuals to connect various departments of the educational system, including the Assistant Commissioner, the Office of Curriculum & Instruction, Deputy Superintendents, District Curriculum Coordinators, R3CC, a Board of Education member, Technology Coordinators, and the State Assessment Director. 

The culminating outcome for all the work of the CDT is the development of a Microsite to house all its efforts and provide additional Open Education Resources to assist educators to plan instruction and improve learning. The Microsite - #GoOpenUSVI – is being developed to connect educators with each other and to various curricular materials, assessments, professional development modules, and resources. 

By creating the CDT, the VIDE and R3CC together are developing a myriad of ways to re-connect and collaborate to vaccinate educators against the pandemic disconnection fallout and revitalize student learning across the Virgin Islands.