NNPS earns six VDOE Exemplar Performance School Awards

Posted: June 30, 2020

Newport News Public Schools earned six 2020 Virginia Board of Education Exemplar Performance School Awards for high student achievement, continuous improvement and innovative practices. The awards program recognizes schools for exceeding state accreditation standards, narrowing achievement gaps, and making progress toward equity in access and opportunity for all students.

NNPS was recognized for division-wide innovative practices in its STEM instruction delivered through the Engineering Design Challenges. As one of only six divisions recognized statewide, Newport News Public Schools was commended for its partnership with local science and engineering businesses and agencies to create opportunities for students in grades PK-12 to participate in team-based collaborations to solve real-world problems using STEM skills. Students work on year-long challenges in classroom and team activities throughout the academic year.

This work culminates with Engineering Design Challenges, daylong events hosted in collaboration with a local business partner and crafted to support Standards of Learning. These events demonstrate the interrelatedness of subject areas, and expose students to a range of diverse career opportunities. The challenges, which aren't known to students until the day of the event, are presented in the form of tasks that require student teams to work together to devise a solution. Student teams have been challenged to design and build lightweight boats that can transport heavy cargo with the Virginia Port Authority, design and build animal traps as early settlers with the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, use coding skills to help a vessel navigate a maze with the U.S. Navy, and design and build tabletop roller coasters with Busch Gardens.

Deer Park and General Stanford elementary schools received the Highest Achievement Award for the second year in a row. Only 71 schools across the Commonwealth were so honored in 2020 for their achievement on reading, mathematics and science assessments and their progress in closing achievement gaps.

Denbigh High, Discovery STEM Academy and John Marshall Early Childhood Center earned the 2020 Continuous Improvement Award for increases in their assessment scores and graduation or completion rates and decreases in chronic absenteeism and dropout rates. These schools were among 375 schools in Virginia earning such accolades.

The criteria for the Virginia Board of Education's exemplar performance school recognition program are based on schools' performance during 2018-19 and are intended to encourage schools to adjust their instruction and other practices to ensure equity in opportunities and outcomes for students.

Photos: In a February Engineering Design Challenge event, students worked together using STEM skills to discover an encrypted password and write code to navigate a vessel through a maze. The day's challenge events were created in partnership with the U.S. Navy and gave students hands-on experience in solving real world problems by collaborating with their teammates and a chance to explore career opportunities using what they learned.