California Lags Behind

The number of states and the District of Columbia that had defined college and career readiness in 2014.

According to a 2014 report by American Institutes for Research (AIR), 36 states and the District of Columbia had defined college and career readiness. In recent years, some have gone further and created a statewide Graduate Profile – see examples from Virginia, South Carolina, Utah, and New Mexico – with several other states’ Profiles in development. California has done neither.

Districts Fill the Void

Lacking a CA state definition of student success, an increasing number of CA school districts are taking it upon themselves to engage community stakeholders to create a Graduate Profile (or Portrait of a Graduate). Often, districts feel compelled to do so because they believe that, while the Common Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the associated assessments build a necessary foundation for college and career readiness, the academic core, in and of itself, is not sufficient to holistically and equitably prepare all young people for future success.

The First Step

Creating a Graduate Profile is a critical first step that lays a foundation for achieving improved outcomes for young people. It offers a renewed vision and shared definition of the college-, career-, and civic-ready student, serves as an impetus for shifting instructional practices and engaging students in deeper learning, and requires a shift in assessment that provides young people authentic ways to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Perhaps most important, when school boards and community groups endorse their Graduate Profile, they express the intent to hold themselves collectively accountable for a more equitable and holistic set of student learning outcomes to which they have agreed. It’s a promise to their students.

Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the need to educate the whole child. It has elevated the importance of social-emotional learning (i.e., self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills, and responsible decision-making) as well as other success skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, digital literacy, and more). Finally, the pandemic has laid bare the inequities prevalent in our education system, leading to heightened desire and need to dismantle and rebuild the oppressive and racist structures and processes that have sustained inequitable opportunities and outcomes.

From Poster to Practice

In order to more equitably and holistically prepare young people for future success, districts participating in the Scaling Student Success community of practice are dedicated to operationalizing their Graduate Profiles, assuring that each and every student has an opportunity to develop and demonstrate the competencies articulated in their Graduate Profile. In short, they are committed to moving “from poster to practice.” This blueprint offers guidance on what that means and some initial thoughts about how to effectively do so. It is, and may continue to be, a working draft that evolves as we learn more as a community of practice.

Starting with the Basics

As leaders, we need to acknowledge that education is a human-centered enterprise. Improving education, particularly for students who historically have been most marginalized, begins by applying liberatory design mindsets — processes and habits for approaching equity challenges and change efforts in complex systems. Instigating, shifting, and sustaining equity-based human behavior involves acts of being, learning and doing, all of which are not only intellectual, but also social and emotional.

Organizations eager to make systemic and sustainable progress must attend not only to the vision and actions, but also must put in place the conditions that enable change. Conditions may include cultural aspects of the organization, capable leadership, trusting relationships, work environments, financial resources, policy alignment, and more. We’ll address many of these aspects in this high level guide.

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