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Pre-Conference Workshop Defines Skillsets Required of Future High School Graduates

Superintendents learned about preparing students for a new economy at a pre-conference workshop at the AASA National Conference on Education on Wednesday.

The workshop, Using a Portrait of a Graduate to Transform Your District, was led by Battelle for Kids, a non-profit focused on 21st century learning, along with two organizations in its network, EdLeader21 and Partnership for 21st Century Learning.

During the workshop, held one day prior to the start of the 2019 conference, participants learned more about tools to help implement what presenters called the “North Star for system transformation.” The session leaders were Ken Kay, CEO of EdLeader21, Shannon King, chief information officer of Battelle for Kids, and Karen Garza, Battelle’s CEO. Karen Cheser, superintendent of Fort Thomas, Ky., Independent Schools, joined them in discussing her experience implementing Portrait of a Graduate in both her current and previous districts.

Kay walked participants through two different tools he uses when helping districts start this program. In these exercises, he asked them to think about the biggest changes in the last 25-30 years and what skills students will need to address these changes.

Portrait of a Graduate is a collective vision that articulates each school community’s aspirations for all of its students. When school leaders successfully incorporate the Portrait of the Graduate, students should be able to use the 21st century skillsets learned in school and apply them in the workforce, its proponents said.

The presenters discussed the importance of teaching skills that will be required of students in 2020 and beyond, including critical thinking, problem-solving and adaptability, particularly for students in rural communities.

“Rural superintendents want to play it both ways,” Kay said. “If the students are going to stay in the community, they need these skills. If they are going to leave, they need these skills.”

Information and school district case studies shared during the session are available at

(Juli Valentine is managing editor of AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)

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