by Emma Kapp
Every school system is unique, but superintendents across the country are connecting through a shared vision— that each student experiences 21st century, deeper learning that prepares and empowers them to thrive in our rapidly changing, complex world.
Last fall, we were honored to join inspiring superintendents from our Ohio SOAR Network at the Ohio School Boards Association’s Capital Conference. Dr. Karen Garza, President and CEO of Battelle for Kids, facilitated a panel discussion with three visionary leaders focusing on moving their system forward by engaging their communities in reimagining 21st century school systems.
Here are three themes that emerged as the superintendents discussed why they prioritize their vision for 21st century learning.
1. The Portrait of a Graduate serves as a North Star for reimagining education.
Despite needing to respond to rapidly changing and demanding circumstances the past year, all three superintendents agreed their Portrait of a Graduate kept their district focused and acted as their North Star. Making 21st century, deeper learning a priority guided the implementation of plans to benefit all students’ futures.
“Our Portrait of a Graduate is foundational to everything happening in our school system,” said Dr. Cameron Ryba, superintendent of Strongsville City Schools. “It drives our decision-making and ensures we are always looking for ways to teach, support, and grow the skills necessary for our students to be successful.”
2. Preparing all kids to thrive in a rapidly changing, complex world gets universal buy-in from students, staff, and the community.
All three districts engaged their education system and the broader community—educators, students, elected officials, community members, families—to design their local Portrait of a Graduate. Bringing together diverse perspectives demonstrates how everyone is a partner in building a unifying, shared vision for what you want for all students.
Support and enthusiasm from educators and the Board of Education will also help build positive momentum toward bringing the community’s collective vision for students to life with 21st century, deeper learning experiences.
“After we designed our Portrait, we were lucky to have a strong group of educators commit early on to this work and go through a professional learning experience provided by Battelle for Kids called Assessment21,” said Scott Dutey, superintendent of Portsmouth City Schools. “The support for this work has only grown, and now we have over 100 educators in the district trained to assess deeper learning outcomes and our Portrait competencies.”
3. The pandemic exposed inequities, but a Portrait of a Graduate can help address them.
Sometimes, significant inequities in learning occur at the class level. A Portrait of a Graduate can help level the playing field within the district, and superintendents agree that now is the time to address inequity directly.
“With our Portrait of a Graduate in place, we want to make sure every student has access to opportunities for deeper learning,” said Dr. Talisa Dixon, superintendent of Columbus City Schools. “Inequity is an issue that needs to be faced head-on, and having those hard conversations gets us closer to ensuring we are serving all students.”
Columbus City Schools, Strongsville City Schools, and Portsmouth City Schools are all proud member districts of the EdLeader21 Network, a vibrant community of school systems across the nation committed to the transformation of education, anchored in a renewed vision for student success in the 21st century—Portrait of a Graduate.
Do you have a 21st century, deeper learning vision for every student? Learn more about Portrait of a Graduate.
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