Portrait of a graduate: 6 keys to successful plans

"The future of the portrait of a graduate lies in its ability to keep pace with the changing world," a nonprofit says in an analysis of its work supporting district leaders.

Several common theme appear each time a district and its community create a portrait of a graduate:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Problem-solving
  • Empathy
  • Adaptability
  • Responsibility
  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Integrity

That’s according to Battelle for Kids, a nonprofit that for the past decade has been helping districts lay out their visions for the “durable” skills their students will have when they move on to higher education or the workforce. And, as most superintendents and their teams know, a portrait of a graduate has now become the backbone of many districts’ instructional programs.

“The future of the portrait of a graduate lies in its ability to keep pace with the changing world, and to prepare students not only for the challenges of today but for the opportunities of tomorrow,” the nonprofit says in a recent analysis of its work.

The report also lays out six key concepts the organization says it has learned while guiding districts in developing each portrait of a graduate:

  1. The portrait is the catalyst, not the transformation. A portrait of a graduate establishes a united vision with the community. Outcomes will look different for every district, and the vision requires ongoing hard work and commitment by all stakeholders.
  2. Students want a voice. Leaders must engage with students, who want to feel valued and craft the durable skills that will anchor the portrait.
  3. Durable skills create common ground. Communities will rally around skills that are relevant today and in the future and make the portrait a “North Star for the everyday work in preparing future-ready students.”
  4. Community engagement and communication are critical. Regular, clear communication maintains momentum and buy-in from all stakeholders. Storytelling motivates the community, builds confidence in the changes taking place and can help “shift skeptics into advocates.”
  5. Education and workforce align. Durable skills should mesh with rigorous academic content to produce future-ready students who are prepared for higher education, employment, enlistment and entrepreneurship.
  6. Momentum and sustainability accelerate through practice. Strong leadership is essential to success as the portrait of a graduate’s goals are embedded into district policies, strategic plans and daily classroom instruction.

For further reading, visit this portrait of a graduate gallery.


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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of District Administration and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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