• Strategic
  • Planning
The GDS administration works closely with the Board of Trustees, parents, students, faculty, and alumni to guide the School's future while staying true to our history as a school committed to academic excellence, educational innovation, and social justice.
Since January 2012 the administration, Board of Trustees, and Head of School Russell Shaw have worked together with the support and input of the GDS community to create a plan for GDS's future.


The strategic plan is the culmination of a planning process that included:

  • More than 500 members of our community who participated by sharing their thoughts and input at events, meetings, and conference calls;
  • GDS faculty who formed five planning committees during the community engagement phase of our process to generate specific research, analysis, and recommendations against the approved themes; and
  • The GDS Administration and Board of Trustees who held several retreats, during which they engaged in a thorough evaluation process, reflecting on the recommendations from faculty and staff, views of our community members, and input and work done by the Board of Trustees.


The resources you will find here include the strategic plan itself, updates about progress we have made toward implementing the specific activities outlined in the strategic plan, charts and materials that illustrate the work, and more. The five goals of the strategic plan that guide our work for the next several years are:

Goal 1: Differentiated Learning: Engaging students as individuals.

GDS will implement a comprehensive strategy for differentiated learning and student engagement. As was reflected in the Student Population Faculty Planning Committee report, we must do our best to serve every student we enroll. Strategies for better serving individual students include: collecting and analyzing learning data to support individual student success; using data by faculty to improve teaching practice; strengthening the home-school partnership in support of student learning; and gaining greater clarity regarding whom GDS can best serve.


  1. Criteria: Develop clear criteria for whom we can serve.
  2. Assessment: Identify clear and consistent criteria and instruments for measuring and tracking student growth from PK-Alumni.
  3. Student support: Establish an all-school Center for Student Support & Excellence to develop and implement a PK–12 strategy for effectively supporting each student's needs.
  4. Differentiation pedagogy: Identify instructional best practices and provide training to faculty across the institution.
  5. Skills and wellness to support student learning.
  6. Partnership: Establish principles and best practices for communication and partnership among parents, teachers and students in support of student learning.

Goal 2: Thriving Teachers: Investing in support, growth, and excellence.

GDS will launch a full range of initiatives in support of student learning by investing in our faculty’s ability to teach and grow in their craft. An ambitious, collaborative, reflective, joyous, research-based faculty culture yields the best outcomes for students. GDS students already benefit from a talented, caring, and skilled faculty. We must provide the conditions that allow our faculty to continually learn, especially in light of our changing understanding of how technology, new findings in neuroscience and adolescent development, and more affect teaching and learning. The evolving educational landscape impacts what students learn, how they learn, and increasingly where they learn (within a school building, outside of it, or online). In sum, to be a teacher today requires a “growth mindset.” Our plans call for us to provide our faculty with every possible opportunity to grow—to reflect on and improve their craft, allowing them to better serve our students.


  1. Growth-oriented faculty culture, part 1: Hiring, onboarding, mentoring, and evaluating.
  2. Growth-oriented faculty culture, part 2:Professional learning and leadership opportunities.
  3. Equitable compensation: Develop an equitable compensation strategy that recognizes the range of contributions made by individuals across the school.
  4. "A GDS Teacher Will …”: Provide transparent expectations of excellent teaching to all members of the GDS community.

Goal 3: Curriculum Evolution: Providing students with skills to collaborate and innovate for tomorrow's needs.

GDS will undertake a close review of existing programs and develop new curricular initiatives commensurate with the skills necessary to succeed in today's changing world. This goal calls us to focus on existing curricular areas needing attention (including math differentiation, modern and classical languages, and athletics), and to evolve new areas of the program as well (including interdisciplinary STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) offerings and an integrated social impact curriculum). We see our students as future changemakers, individuals who will have the capacity to pursue their passions and the confidence to make a positive impact in the world. Our students must be prepared both with content knowledge to understand the world and with skills that will allow them to collaborate and solve the complex, interdisciplinary problems they will encounter.


  1. Mathematics: Review and evolve curriculum at the Lower Middle School.
  2. STEAM: Further integrate GDS Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math curriculum.
  3. Modern & Classical Languages: Create a school wide integrated strategy and program for language instruction.
  4. Athletics: Enhance program to optimize student experience, health, and well-being.
  5. PK–12 Social Impact Curriculum: Building from Strength
  6. Transition from 8th to 9th Grade: Programs that support student success

Goal 4: Diversity: Next steps in engaging difference, equity, and access to build foundations for success.

GDS will make explicit the translation of its history into contemporary teaching practice and will further its commitments to all current and prospective students and families. We know that our learning environment is profoundly enriched by the different stories, backgrounds, and experiences of each of our students and their families. We were founded with the understanding that a diverse learning environment is both more just and intrinsically superior. We must be intentional about matriculating a student body that reflects the changing demographics of the Washington, DC, region. We must ensure that each of our students is given an equitable opportunity to thrive at GDS and that all of our students develop the skills and capacities that will allow them to succeed in an increasingly diverse world.


  1. GDS Diversity Curriculum: Articulate and publish curriculum for the GDS community and general public.
  2. Access: Expand access to the GDS learning environment with the goal of achieving the broadest possible diversity at GDS.
  3. Equity: Provide resources to ensure that all students and families can be full participants in the life of the School.
  4. Success: Ensure that all GDS students are provided with an equitable opportunity to thrive, both socially and academically.

Goal 5: Infrastructure & Operations: Building frameworks for innovative learning environments.

GDS will seek to develop the resources and facilities necessary to best support the aforementioned goals and overall institutional operations. Facilities at GDS have, by design, been a secondary priority to the students we serve and how we serve them. We also know that as education needs change to best equip our students for the future, facilities—and particularly broad access to educational and technological resources—have an impact on student learning. GDS continues to operate as one community on two campuses, miles apart. As stewards of our School’s mission, we must consider what physical and staffing structures are necessary to support a thriving educational program both now and for decades to come.


  1. Data strategy: Develop and implement a learning and operations tracking system.
  2. Technology: Develop a learning and operations technology master plan and hire necessary staff.
  3. Calendar: Evaluate school calendar with the goal of optimally supporting student learning.
  4. Facilities: Develop a strategy in support of optimal student learning.
  5. Personnel: Create systems to support faculty and staff.
  6. Auxiliary: Review and determine a long-term plan for Auxiliary Programs.
  7. Finances: Develop opportunities to be more operationally “lean.”
First page of the PDF file: GDSStrategicPlanBrochure2014

Contact Us

Lauren Dickert

Lauren Dickert

Chief of Staff to the Head of School