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Member Practices

Profiles of Innovative EdLeader21 Members

Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Grades Served: K-12
Total # Students: 68,210
Total # of Schools: 11 HS, 15 MS, 55 ES, 5 Specialty Centers
Superintendent: Dr. Aaron C. Spence

District Website
Strategic Plan: Compass to 2020: Charting the Course
Mission and Vision
Graduate Profile


Adopting a Vision

Virginia Beach City Public Schools' journey to becoming a 21st Century School District began in 2008 under then Superintendent James Merrill when the district engaged both its internal and external stakeholders in the development of Compass to 2015: A Strategic Plan for Student Success. The district made significant progress in the next several years integrating its 21st Century Skills for VBCPS into the curriculum, aligning its operations, and establishing support systems for teachers and administrators.

When new Superintendent Aaron Spence took over in the Summer of 2014 he honored the prior work by hundreds of teachers and administrators and accelerated it by leading the community to a new 5-year plan. His July 2014 Entry Plan committed to extend the work of Compass to 2015: "Since 2008, this work has been successfully guided by the division’s strategic plan, Compass to 2015, and the ongoing efforts of the division’s talented educators. As the school system transitions to new leadership, a top priority will be to continue to strengthen and extend this work, even while the next Strategic Plan is being developed."

Creating Community Consensus 

Superintendent Spence engaged students, parents, community members, teachers, and administrators in a months long Compass to 2020 Strategic Planning Process to develop and adopt the new strategic framework: Compass to 2020: Charting the Course. In January he issued his Post entry Report and Plan reflecting on the process and the issues that the new plan addresses. 

Focusing Curriculum and Assessment

Our Grads
Click image for Interactive Graduate Profile

The new strategic plan focuses on and deepens the district's work to enhance student learning. It is based on a new set of district Core Values (September, 2015) , starting with Student-Centered Decision Making and features a Graduate Profile. The plan includes a new Teaching and Learning Framework that builds upon the district’s years of experience implementing the prior Compass to 2015 Teaching and Learning Framework. The new framework was developed in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders including teachers from all levels and content areas. 

Plan, Teach, Assess
Click image to view interactive image


Compass to 2020 aims to empower the learner through Personalized Learning that engages the learner and increases "learner ownership over content, process, and product". The plan's K-12 Learning Model: Gradual Release of Responsibility transfers ownership of learning from teachers to students. The district's new Digital Learning Anchor Schools Initiative supports 11 schools " to serve as model digital learning schools within the division."  The district is launching in 2016-2017 the new Entrepreneurship and Business Academy at Kempsville High School to engage students in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Business Information Technology and Corporate Finance.

Supporting Teachers

VBCPS pays special attention to developing the professional capacity of its teachers and staff through its Office of Professional Growth and Innovation (PGI). PGI works to support the division’s strategic initiatives outlined in Compass to 2020 through the use of design thinking and strategic planning, professional learning design and implementation, and the cultivation of a culture of respect. For 2015-2016 PGI selected 57 Design Fellows, teachers and specialists who are empowered with helping the division to exemplify what personalized learning looks like in the classroom.

Through the Compass Keepers Club, the district recognizes students, staff and community partners "who daily help VBCPS make our strategic framework, Compass to 2020, a reality for our students, schools, and community". The district regularly communicates district news, activities, progress, and recognition with staff through the online publication and newsletter Kaleidoscope and with parents through The Core.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools has been recognized in 2015 as a “District of Distinction” by District Administration magazine for its work in sustainability and creating 21st century learning environments for students and rated as the fifth best large school division in the entire nation. (2010) by GreatSchools.

The district's journey from 2008 to the present is recounted in Our Journey and in the video above of an Ignite Session at the 5th annual EdLeader21 Conference in Dallas, TX, September 30, 2015. The district is sharing its progress annually. The new division (district) poster puts all the pieces together. 

Dr. Spence is a member of the EdLeader21 PLC Advisory Committee. Former superintendent James Merrill is now superintendent of Wake County Public School System (NC).

Key Links


@vbschools @BeachSupe



Superintendent's Page

 Compass to 2015 Showcase



Compass to 2020

Navigating the Future

Progress Report, July 2013

21st Century Skills in Action:

Critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving


21st Century Skills in Action:

Communication, collaboration, listening, and information literacy

21st Century Skills in Action:

Social responsibility, sustainability, interdependence and health literacy