portrait of the graduate

Operationalize Your School’s Mission: Map Your Ideal Graduate

By Sandra Boyes, Head of Lower and Middle Schools The Crescent School

What differentiates your school from others? Is it its core values? Its service learning program? Its approach to character education or its rigorous, athletic curriculum and academic teams? In other words – what qualities and skills embody your ideal graduate and how does your curriculum support this ideal?

According to ISM (Independent School Management) “successful private-independent schools take their mission statement one step further by creating a “Portrait of the Graduate”. If your school has not created this already, it is valuable to consider taking the time to identify the qualities, values and skills that comprise your ideal graduating student.

Creating Your Portrait of the Graduate

There are several paths a school can take to create its own ideal graduate profile. Once completed, your school’s Ideal Graduate Profile or Portrait of the Graduate would confirm its core values and affirm its unique identity from other schools through 3-5 five statements that show how your mission “lives” of its graduating students. For example:

  • Our graduates are respectful and moral people with the courage to uphold and act upon the highest standards of ethical behaviour
  • Our students are committed to advancing the fine arts in an increasingly complex and technological world

However you choose to define it within your community – you know your school is special. In your role as an administrator responsible for mapping the strategic direction of your school, it is imperative you devise a structure to communicate to your faculty, parents and students how you operationalize your School’s mission.

Each school will need to determine its own journey to complete that work. I recommend becoming a member of ISM, for its resources have been very helpful to us in our journey. In particular, I would draw your attention to Amy Riley’s video on this topic.

The Crescent School’s Portrait of the Graduate Journey

Here is a little bit about my school: Crescent School is a Grades 3-12, independent, non-denominational school for boys in Toronto with 750 students. Currently, our Grades 3-8 (Lower and Middle Schools) use Atlas to create and align the curriculum. The Upper School follows the regulations and standards outlined by our provincial, accrediting body, The Ministry of Education for the province of Ontario.

For this work, Crescent was inspired by the research found in Four-Dimensional Education: The Competencies Learners Need to Succeed from the CCR (Center for Curriculum Redesign).

The Crescent School took approximately 18 months to collect and analyze data from our students, staff, parents and alumni in order to answer the question “What knowledge, skills and character strengths are essential for our graduating students?”  Our final result was entitled “Crescent’s Portrait of the Graduate” and was organized into three, guiding questions, each of which has two, essential qualities.

Who Am I?

1. Be a moral person with the courage to uphold and act upon the highest standards of ethical behaviour
2. Be self-aware and self-regulating with a strong sense of purpose, agency and potential

How Do I Lead?

3. Be a positive leader who builds relationships and understands the importance of serving others in order to inspire action and accomplishment
4. Be a critical thinker who listens clearly, communicates effectively, and collaborates well

What Is My Legacy?

5. Be adaptable, resourceful and creative in meeting the challenges of an increasingly complex world
6. Be an engaged citizen who respects people’s differences, is mindful of interconnectivity

Mapping a Plan for Successful Implementation

Like best practices in curriculum design, it is helpful to begin with the end goal in mind. Now that your school has determined the core qualities and skills of a graduating student, the next step in the plan is designing a system that shows when, where and how those skills and qualities are being taught and modelled through a student’s curricular and co-curricular experiences. Atlas Curriculum Management is the perfect vehicle to map the Portrait of a Graduate.

With the Guiding Questions and Essential Questions in place, writing and mapping a scope and sequence/alignment of LOOK-FORs (or specific deliverables) was needed to ensure the successful implementation of the knowledge, skills, and character strengths identified. We knew we wanted to use Atlas to do this work, so that everyone in the school would be able to communicate and connect about this important work using one system.

But, how best to use Atlas? That is where your Atlas regional representative becomes your best friend! I contacted Alexa, and she listened carefully to the strategic work I needed Atlas to do.

Since Crescent School has a Grade 3-12 structure, with separate Lower, Middle and Upper School faculties, there were many ways this could happen: we could choose to design by division, by subject, by grade, etc. Each option would bring with it its share of strengths and challenges.

After many conversations and reflection, we have decided on the following plan for the upcoming school year:

portrait of the graduate
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Supporting the PoG Process with Curriculum Mapping

To do this, with the support of our Atlas Team, we created a system accessible for all of the teachers at the school by creating a separate course in our Atlas system called “Portrait of the Graduate” with three, separate schools: Lower, Middle and Upper.

In each of these schools, the “Develop” section will look the same.

The purpose of the maps, is to create and record a set of “look-fors” designed to represent the “graduate” at the end of Grade 6, the end of Grade 8, and by Department in the Upper School.

Portrait of a Graduate

With this structure, teachers will be able to connect and communicate with each other, even as the process is unfolding!

These “age and stage” teachers created look-fors will create authenticity and promote intentionality. They are “real” and reflective of the work our experts are already doing with their students and will provide an even more focused, measurable and sequenced vehicle for supporting the learning of our boys.

If you’re an Atlas customer and interested in making the Portrait of the Graduate, or a similar initiative, a part of your school’s mapping process, email your account manager or contact our support team. If you’re not (yet!) an Atlas customer, learn more about the curriculum mapping platform featured in this blog.

Sandra Boyes, B.Ed., M.A., Ed.D, is the Head of Lower and Middle Schools at Crescent School in Toronto, Ontario.

portrait of the graduate

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