The Albemarle County School Board is looking toward the future.
The board is meeting Thursday night for a work session to discuss the strategic plan for county schools - and how Albemarle teachers and students can go above and beyond the norm.
The assistant superintendent, Matt Haas, is presenting the board with updates to the Teacher Performance Appraisal, or TPA. A common thread through the strategic plan and the changes to the TPA is to challenge teachers and students to strive for more than what is required.
Western Albemarle High School teacher Carrie Taylor is working on her own summer homework. She's building a hands-on experiment that will teach her students physics not through lecture or reading, but through experience.
"With hands-on learning you get to experience it, so it's not just something that someone's telling you is correct, it's the discovering it yourself or trying something, realizing its wrong because so much is learned from messing up," Taylor said.
With hands-on projects like these, Taylor spends the school year challenging her students to think critically and get creative - skills they'll need in the real world.
"What I learned in school in the '70s is not what students need today. They need to be able to work in teams and think beyond what's out there," Taylor said.
This past year, Albemarle County rolled out changes to the TPA. Some were mandated by the state, but others were in line with the county's own goals, like measuring what the standard of learning tests don't.
"Recently when we did our community conversations - that's what we heard loud and clear from the community is that they want students practicing communication skills, creativity, problem solving, and to do hands on work," Haas said.
That means teachers like Taylor are measured not just by students' test scores, but also on how their students perform in hands-on projects.
"It's making that connection between in-classroom learning and the wide world out there that everybody's going to have to live in," Taylor said.
Representatives from Albemarle County Public Schools say this focus on experience-based teaching and measuring what the SOL tests can't will carry through the work session and future planning sessions.