A Message from Our President and CEO

Dear Educators, Partners, and Friends of Battelle for Kids,

Every school system is unique, but they are all connected by a shared aspiration: that all students have an educational experience that prepares them for success in college, in careers, and in life. Now more than ever, that experience must not only provide for the acquisition of rigorous academic content, but it must also be more intentional about fostering critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and other 21st century skills that our young people need to navigate this complex, rapidly changing world. 

In 2014, as superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), our district adopted the Portrait of a Graduate, a comprehensive articulation of what the community believes students should know and be able to do when they leave FCPS. Developed over one year, first with leadership from a 75-member task force—including teachers, principals, parents, school board members, and local business and community leaders—followed by input from many others, the Portrait of a Graduate is an effort to look beyond the high-stakes testing environment to help students nurture skills they need to succeed in the workforce of the future and in life. Many other school systems across the country are using similar processes to engage their community in re-envisioning education for their young people. 

The shifting policy landscape provides a historic opportunity for school systems to engage educators, parents, business leaders, and communities in redesigning the educational experience to better meet the needs of today’s learners. There is a compelling intersection around the vision and aspirations of each of these groups. We know that students learn best when they are engaged in meaningful, authentic work aligned to real-world challenges and their unique interests. We know that teachers want to be able to focus on the design of learning that is interesting, inspiring, and nurtures student growth. Parents want their children to be engaged and excited about learning as part of an experience that prepares them for future success. And, the business community wants to hire employees who can communicate, collaborate, innovate, and solve problems. 

If we are to have a more equitable and effective education system, explains Andrew Rotherham and Daniel Willingham, “skills that have been the province of the few must become universal.” The portrait of a graduate will look different in each school system, but we are driven by a shared goal in this work that ALL students have access to an educational experience that fosters hope, engagement, and the knowledge and skills they need for future success. 

Like school systems across the country, Battelle for Kids is also rethinking how we engage in this important work. We want to contribute in a meaningful way to help school systems—in partnership with educators, parents, business leaders, and communities—inspire passion and purpose in learning for every student. As we shape our future, we have been actively listening to school leaders across the country. We will share more about what we have learned from the field and our future approach in the coming months. 


Karen K. Garza, Ph.D.
President and CEO