Navigator Blog

Igniting Innovation: How Louisa County Public Schools Fueled Its 5 C’s Movement

April 30, 2024

School districts and their communities spend a great deal of time and energy developing and designing their collective vision for the students they serve—their Portrait of a Graduate. But the real work begins once the district officially adopts and launches its Portrait. 

To transform the Portrait of a Graduate from an aspirational concept on paper into real-world results for students, educators must commit to intentional strategies and steps to implement it in the classroom.

For Louisa County Public Schools (LCPS) in Virginia, this was a multi-year process that started as a vision led by Superintendent Doug Straley and has grown into the driving force behind the district’s teaching and learning.

Straley’s LCPS team recently presented at an EdLeader21 Network Portrait to Practice virtual event, sharing the professional development strategies and actionable resources they have used over the past several years to spread and scale their Profile of a Graduate and implement the five 5 C’s into classroom instruction.

Here are five key insights on how LCPS has ignited innovation in the district and fueled the implementation of the 5 C’s in their Profile of a Graduate.

Insight #1 – Start with a core team, continue to grow and invest in it each year.

Louisa County’s journey began seven years ago when the district sent a small team of educators to the 2017 EdLeader21 Network Annual Event in Atlanta. The team was inspired to create its own vision for future-ready learning, which would serve as the district’s North Star in the coming years.

LCPS formed a committee of teachers and administrators to lead the work. This new “Ignite Team” created the LCPS Profile of a Graduate around the “5 C’s” of communication, collaboration, creativity, citizenship, and critical thinking.

The Ignite Team remains to this day as the core driver of the district’s 5 C’s implementation. What started as a small team going out to give presentations at each school has grown into a robust and powerful group able to plan national-conference-worthy professional development events. 

Seeing the success it has had with the Ignite Team, LCPS continues to grow and invest in it each year. As new members are tapped to join the team, LCPS invests in their professional learning, such as sending them to attend the EdLeader21 Annual Event, so they are equipped to help drive change in the district. 

“When we add new members to the Ignite Team, it’s a commitment,” said Justin Grigg, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent of Instruction. “Our expectations are high for members of the team, but the rewards are even greater.”

Insight #2 – Create a culture of celebration and idea-sharing among educators.

With the Profile of a Graduate ready to launch in the 2018-2019 school year, the team had to wrestle with the question of how best to roll out the 5 C’s – all at once or one skill at a time? 

The Ignite Team ultimately decided to start with one of the C’s so as not to overwhelm teachers. LCPS started with Collaboration, a relatively low-hanging fruit due to the collaborative nature of many classroom activities and lessons.

LCPS started by charging teachers to post examples of what collaboration looks like in their classrooms. The goal was to inspire other teachers to use and adapt these lessons as their own.

This organic act of crowdsourcing was immensely successful and led to the proliferation of one of the district’s most effective strategies to scale the 5 C’s. Over the years, LCPS has established a culture of idea-sharing among educators, and the district is quick to celebrate its innovative teachers and staff.

“We don’t want it to be one more thing on a teacher’s plate,” said Lee Downey, Director of Secondary Instruction. “That’s what we’ve focused on. They’re already doing great work, and we want to showcase that.”

LCPS publishes a weekly newsletter about the 5 C’s, showcasing teacher lesson submissions. This newsletter sparks conversations within and across buildings about innovative ways to incorporate the 5 C’s into instruction.

The district also created a website dedicated to it Profile of a Graduate, allowing all stakeholders the ability to see the work being done to implement the vision.

In 2019-2020, LCPS created monthly “Think Differently Days” to celebrate educators and focus on the 5 C’s. 

Even the School Board joined the movement, offering innovation grants for teachers to impact classroom instruction. The Board has awarded more than $85,000 in grant funds to LCPS teachers.

“Our educators are seeing that this isn’t a trend,” said Heather Spaid, Director of Elementary Education. “This is a commitment that our community has made, and that keeps the momentum going. The innovation grants, especially, spark creativity and allow teachers to think outside the box.”

Insight #3 – Build momentum through impactful and relevant professional learning.

In 2022-2023, coming out of the pandemic, LCPS knew it needed to turbocharge its efforts to spread and scale the remainder of the 5 C’s. The team decided it could not focus on just one C anymore and determined they would roll out the remainder of the skills together. 

To accomplish this, LCPS continued its investment in professional learning by creating “Launch,” an ambitious district-wide professional development conference. With the Ignite Team leading the way, LCPS pulled out all the stops to make the event feel like staff were attending a national conference.

They passed out Launch-branded name badges and lanyards, used the Whova app for conference details, and brought in dynamic speaker Eric Sheninger to deliver a keynote address. The atmosphere was fun and lively with students and some staff dressed up as astronauts.

Best of all, though, LCPS offered more than 80 different sessions focused on the 5 C’s in their Profile of a Graduate to spark inspiration in teachers.

“This was not a one-size-fits-all type of event. We prioritized voice and choice,” said Dr. Grigg. “Teachers chose what sessions they attended and then brought those insights back to their classrooms.”

The success of this staff-focused event led to even bigger ideas. LCPS went on to host another event called “Discover.” This event focused on students and showcased their learning experiences with the 5 C’s. Staff and the community were invited to attend the event.

More than 200 students attended the event, and more than 80 teachers presented lessons alongside their students.

Teachers could even attend a professional development experience at the Discover event – Integration Station – that allowed them to reflect on specific lessons and determine which of the C’s were in the lesson, which could be added, and any possible barriers to success.

Insight #4 – Develop actionable resources for educators to aid in implementation.

This school year, LCPS was determined to get started early and held a two-day 5 C’s Summer Retreat for the Ignite Team. With sub-committees dedicated to specific topics such as authentic assessments, marketing, and professional development, LCPS was able to hit the ground running in August.

As a result, the team debuted a new resource this year, the 5 C’s Playbook for Educators, which helps teachers determine how to get more C’s into their lessons. 

This flipbook, available on their Profile of a Graduate website, was designed for busy teachers. It includes rubrics, student behaviors, and helpful tips for educators for each of the 5 C’s.

Insight #5 – Continue to learn through active participation in the EdLeader21 Network.

If you’ve ever attended an EdLeader21 Network Annual Event, you’ve undoubtedly run into someone from Louisa County Public Schools. They continue to grow their team at the event each year, with more than 30 educators in attendance last fall in St. Louis—and matching T-shirts to boot.

It’s this commitment to shared learning that has helped accelerate their work in-district. The LCPS team remembers how it started for them at the 2017 Annual Event, feeling behind others and realizing the amount of work that was ahead. 

But they continued to learn from other districts, and still do, and they are eager to share their own lessons learned on their journey. 

“What’s been rewarding to me is when other school divisions reach out to come see Discover and Launch,” said Dr. Grigg. “We went to Henrico [County Public Schools] last year. They had a fantastic event. We brought ideas back and made them our own. Seeing what other school divisions are doing and implementing them here [in LCPS] has been very rewarding.”

LCPS is proud of the work it’s done to-date but knows the journey is far from over. The team expects to continue to invest in its Ignite Team, grow the movement, and help students reach their maximum potential.