Virginia Tech is partnering with the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity to support their efforts in providing quality education to students at military-connected schools.

DoDEA operates accredited primary and secondary schools worldwide for the families of active duty military and Department of Defense civilian employees. Locations span 11 countries in Europe and Asia, as well as seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.  In an effort to improve continuity, cohesiveness, and support, DoDEA created three Centers for Instructional Leadership (CIL), one for each of their regions. The primary mission of each CIL is to ensure high academic achievement for all DoDEA students and implement the “One DoDEA” vision, ensuring that every DoDEA teacher and school receives the educational support needed to help students succeed. 

The Virginia Tech team includes professionals from the School of Education, Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies, and the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education. In addition to Virginia Tech faculty, the project has involved educational experts from Vanderbilt University, the University of Georgia, and Falls Church City Schools. All members are working in tandem to design, implement, and evaluate a continuous improvement model that enhances the work of the CILs and advances student achievement among approximately 75,000 school-age children of U.S. military personnel.  Efforts involve addressing the needs of instructional leaders at all levels, from DoDEA headquarters to local schools.

Through the use of virtual and face-to-face professional learning sessions, the Virginia Tech team is providing senior leadership with the tools they need to affect change at the district and school level. This joint endeavor is funded through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and aligns with NIFA’s strategic plan, including the goal to “catalyze exemplary and relevant research, education, and extension programs” and NIFA’s overall mission to “invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges.”

This work also supports the mission of the USDA/DoD Military Extension Partnership, particularly the goal “to enhance federal interagency coordination and build capacity for partnerships and collaboration among the agencies and across public and private sectors to sustain programs and services for military service members and their families.”

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) is responsible for schools that span the globe.

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) is responsible for schools that span the globe.
The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) is responsible for schools that span the globe. Image courtesy of DoDEA Headquarters.

Virginia Tech is addressing DoDEA’s needs through collaborative development of a system-wide, standards-based model for instructional leadership. Much of the work involves facilitation of professional learning through train-the-trainer modules and toolkit resources the CIL personnel can use with districts and schools.

Additional activities include a comprehensive evaluation of the continued advancement of instructional leadership within DoDEA. To guide the work, the project team at Virginia Tech is drawing upon models for continuous improvement, instructional shifts, principles of adult learning, professional learning communities, and best practices for data-based decision-making in educational leadership.

The first phase of this effort included train-the-trainer programming and development of a toolkit for continuous improvement. Activities involved webinars focused on professional learning communities, as well as face-to-face learning experiences focused on instructional leadership, including development of a standards-based protocol for conducting learning walkthroughs throughout DoDEA’s schools.

The project director for Phase 1 was Kami M. Patrizio, assistant professor of educational leadership at Virginia Tech. Other key contributors from Virginia Tech included James Anderson II, Jama Coartney, William J. Glenn, Timothy M. Guy, Eric K. Kaufman, Shreya Mitra, and Dana Ripley.

Members of the project team traveled to Germany, Japan, and Georgia (USA) to conduct face-to-face professional learning with CIL personnel, as well as superintendents and other senior leaders. These sessions provided beneficial opportunities for instruction and feedback, allowing the Virginia Tech team to tailor its approach to DoDEA’s unique structure. Participants in the project activities are excited about the advancement of instructional leadership within DoDEA.

During a focus group session, one participant shared: “The CIL has done a tremendous amount in the first year … they’ve helped us to put the focus on instruction. ...  But also, they’ve helped us to become teams… .  And I really think that’s because of the modeling and the partnership and the expertise the CILs have brought to us and helped us to really grow.”

For the second phase of this effort, Virginia Tech will provide toolkit resources and facilitate train-the-trainer sessions on instructional leadership coaching, as well as enhanced professional learning through ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation). The ongoing comprehensive evaluation will also highlight and guide the work of the CILs. The project director for Phase 2 is Eric K. Kaufman, associate professor and Extension specialist in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education. In addition to returning personnel, Virginia Tech’s new contributors to the project include Thomas G. Archibald, M. Aaron Bond, and Carol S. Cash.

Speaking on behalf of the Virginia Tech project team, Kaufman said, “We are excited to serve and support our U.S. military families through this project; it is another example of living Virginia Tech’s motto: Ut Prosim.


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