Greencastle-Antrim School District Destination Design team creates Portrait of a Graduate

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

The Greencastle-Antrim School District's Destination Design team has spent months working to articulate a "Portrait of a Graduate" and what's needed to fulfill that vision.

The results are five core competencies:

  • Critical thinking and social responsibility
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Literacy and communication
  • Physical and emotional health
  • General knowledge and academic preparation

At a meeting set for Feb. 4, team members will provide information on the work and the school board will be asked to adopt the five competencies as the goals for "what we want of our graduates when they achieve a high school diploma from Greencastle," according to Dr. Lura Hanks, superintendent.

Some members of the Greencastle-Antrim School District's Destination Design team are shown during a virtual meeting where they talked about the five competencies that make up their Portrait of a Graduate.

This is one step in an on-going process, according to Hanks, who likened it to a strategic plan.

"We are not striving for a finished product in this work, as this is the beginning of our efforts to continually improve our practice as educators in supporting students," Hanks said. "With our world becoming increasing unpredictable and rapidly changing, it is vital that our educational system adapt to the needs of our students."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the board meeting will be held virtually, beginning at 6 p.m. It can be viewed on the district website, gcasd.org, at "Watch Live!" under the "School Board" tab.

Getting to this point

The Destination Design team included more than 60 parents, grandparents, alumni, faculty, staff, administration, business owners, taxpayers and board members and their springboard was based on two questions from a community survey in August:

  • What are the hopes, aspirations, and dreams that our community has for our young people?
  • What are the skills and habits of mind that our children need for success in this rapidly changing and complex world?

The opening message to those who volunteered for the Destination Design team said, "It is our hope that upon graduation, our students will have had guaranteed opportunities to develop competencies that will prepare them to navigate their own course successfully. We want our students to be marketable in the workforce and continuing education paths that are available to them. The task of this team is to clearly define what those competencies are so that we can take the next steps to overlay our curriculum with opportunities to nurture and strengthen the identified competencies."

Clarifying the district's vision and verifying that it is on track to reach its goals is important work made even more important by the pandemic, Hanks said.

Conversations included how the world and society are changing; the changing workforce needs; and how to redesign educational experiences to best prepare students to meaningfully compete and contribute in the 21st century.

"COVID made the work necessary as we grappled with determining what is most important for our students as we viewed in-person learning a luxury and tackled the issues of instructional time and priorities. The pandemic propelled the effort and forced us to move more aggressively toward a culture of teaching toward competencies," Hanks said. "Change in education is hard as schools were established during the industrial age where all students were expected to have a certain set of skills and with mastery, could confidently secure a job. That is no longer the environment our children will enter. Reimagining schools is critical – pandemic or not!"

Volunteers met a number of times throughout the fall, usually virtually due to the pandemic, and were assisted as they worked through the competencies by Dr. Jay McTighe, an educator, author and educational consultant. He will continue to work with district staff to create and implement educational strategies.

Hanks also gave team members lots of "homework," including video and written information.

Shannon Blanchard, school board president, is a member of the Destination Design team. She said she is proud that as the group worked together, members modeled the competencies they expect of graduates.

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Portrait of a Graduate: Competencies defined

COMPETENCY 1:

Critical Thinking and Social Responsibility

GASD students will demonstrate varied thinking skills to construct knowledge, identify patterns, formulate arguments, and solve problems. Our students will think critically to develop authentic, logical action plans to demonstrate their ability to be resourceful problem solvers. Our students will be able to act as decisive leaders within their personal, professional and community environments communicating with clarity, empathy, while responding with compassion. GASD students will excel in working independently and collaboratively with others to garner diverse perspectives, contribute using their strengths and rely on support in areas of challenge as they approach every new problem, situation, and opportunity. 

COMPETENCY 2:

Creativity and Innovation

GASD students will embrace the structured learning environment as a pathway for creative thought, expression, and innovation. Our students will use general knowledge and skills coupled with curiosity and imagination to find new and innovative solutions to problems and to communicate personal thoughts and ideas. Students will be reflective in their experiences in order to adapt to changing environments and consider diverse perspectives. GASD students will demonstrate resilience and resourcefulness as they practice their creative thinking. Students will acknowledge that innovation is a process often requiring multiple attempts, revisions to ideas, and a willingness to collaborate with others to achieve a desired outcome.

COMPETENCY 3:

Literacy and Communication

GASD students will demonstrate the ability to access and understand information from a variety of forms to include words, numbers, pictures, and charts. Students will be able to garner information from both print and digital media, oral or visual representations and determine reliability and purpose of the information presented. GASD students will demonstrate the ability to process information in order to react and respond appropriately. GASD students will be able to effectively organize information and adjust their communication methods to meet the demands of the purpose and targeted audience. Our students will be able to quickly adapt to changing technologies by understanding the purpose and function of available tools and applications. They will demonstrate a deep understanding and sense of numbers in order to identify patterns, relationships, and functions to maintain financial stability and find different routes to solving complex problems.

COMPETENCY 4:

Physical and Emotional Health

GASD students will demonstrate an awareness of their individual work habits, social habits, strengths, and weaknesses. GASD students will be able to express and manage emotions and develop meaningful relationships with others through physical, social and emotional experiences. They will demonstrate self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-regulation through their actions, communication, and collaboration with others. GASD students will be equipped to make healthy decisions to protect themselves, both physically and emotionally. Students will be adaptable, respectful, and empathetic as they engage with others in diverse settings. They will be equipped with healthy strategies to manage emotions and face challenges.

COMPETENCY 5:

General Knowledge and Academic Preparation

GASD students will demonstrate acquisition of general knowledge as measured by local, state, and national standards. Our students will demonstrate mastery of interdisciplinary skills and processes associated with academic preparation. GASD students will demonstrate the ability to transfer their knowledge and skills to authentic, real-world situations. GASD students will experience a rigorous curriculum with diverse offerings to ignite curiosity for the possible pathways post-graduation. GASD students will be self-directed learners, and supported as they prepare for and design their own post-graduation plans.

What's next

"GASD will excessively target curriculum, instruction and literacy as our focus for student achievement and development of our core competencies," according to Hanks, who offered this information:

Curriculum:

A comprehensive, rigorous GASD K-12 curriculum that depicts a clear path toward mastery of our core competencies and inclusive of a k-12 assessment framework with aligned units containing evidence-based instructional strategies and practices.

Instruction:

A clearly articulated instructional design reflective of a district philosophy that identifies effective practices and guaranteed experiences for all students as well as a systematic response to address differentiated needs of children.

Literacy:

A districtwide philosophy identifying our beliefs about effective literacy instruction and related actions to be taken in instruction and practice.

"Strong foundational skills and knowledge remain important, however, strategies and thought processes are becoming more valuable to the work force. Employers demand critical thinking, innovation, creativity, and the ability to collaborate in solving complex problems," Hanks said. "Those skills must be embedded in our curriculum so that our GASD students are able to transfer their learning easily to new situations and environments. With the rapid expansion of virtual environments during this pandemic, we can expect that self-directed learning, time management and flexibility with tools and resources will likely be expected of our graduates as well. In the Greencastle-Antrim School District, we are committed to taking all steps necessary to fully prepare our students for their tomorrow … not our past."