Navigator Blog

The Portrait of a Graduate: A Unifying First Step Toward a Future-Driven Education System

January 10, 2023

Chandler Unified School District
PreK-12 (45 schools and 6 specialty programs serving 44,000 students)

Now more than ever, student learning must provide for the acquisition of rigorous academic content and be intentional about fostering the 21st century, deeper learning experiences students need to thrive in today’s rapidly changing world.
When Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) in Arizona, an AASA Learning 2025 Demonstration System, developed its Portrait of a Learner, the process created a unifying community experience, an important first step in redesigning the education system to meet the unique needs of today’s students. 
CUSD administrators, with the support of Battelle for Kids, organized four community engagement meetings and a Portrait Design Team. Battelle for Kids partners with AASA to support the implementation of the Learning 2025 Commission’s Core Redesign Components, including a renewed vision (Portrait of a Graduate), strategic alignment of the education system to take action on the vision, and relevant professional learning for educators and system leaders to make the essential shifts in practice necessary to fulfill the vision for every learner.

The Portrait Design Process Captures Diverse Perspectives

Throughout the Portrait design process for CUSD, more than 100 members of the community, including students, parents, staff members, business leaders, and public safety officials, were invited to the Portrait design meetings in which they provided input toward their locally developed Portrait of a Learner. The group’s goal was to develop a collective vision that articulates the community’s shared aspirations for all students throughout the system.  

CUSD’s Portrait design team conversations brought more than just adults together. Students throughout every level of the system -elementary, middle, and high school- were also engaged in the process. Recent CUSD graduates also contributed to the experience, providing insight and input toward building a collective vision of student success.

“Typically, districts might bring together teachers, or they might bring together parents. But to have all those different voices in one place helped us adjust our expectations and reconsider other perspectives so that we could move forward in a united way.”

—Jane Anderson | Parent and Community Member who informed the Portrait of a Learner

The Portrait design team members shared their hopes, dreams, and aspirations they have for all students.  After engaging in shared learning about how the world is changing, design team members also shared their reflections and input on the skills and mindsets students should acquire through their educational experiences in CUSD. It’s a powerful experience when community members get to listen to students talk about their learning experiences within the district.

“The most fun part was working with the design team and having such a diverse group. We had representatives from state colleges for enrollment, representatives from armed forces, local businesses for employment, and self-starters for entrepreneurship.” 

—Dr. Wendy Nance | Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and Community Services

Focused on the Shared Vision

CUSD’s Portrait of a Learner now serves as the North Star that supports the district’s strategic plan focus area of prepared students, designed to support whole-child and post-graduation success for all students. They are also committed to constant connections with community stakeholders for feedback as they work to implement their vision.
From the youngest learners to graduates, all students need an educational experience that prepares them to be lifelong learners and contributors today and tomorrow. 
CUSD believes all students can succeed in whichever post-graduation path they choose: enrollment, employment, enlistment, or entrepreneurship. However, no matter which direction students decide to go, CUSD hopes they are continuously guided by six core attributes in their lives: adaptability, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, empathy, and global citizenship.

“Student success is enhanced by the six core attributes included in our Portrait of a Learner, and these attributes are strengthened by authentic experiences starting in preschool through graduation.” 

—Frank Narducci | Superintendent

See how Chandler Unified defines each attribute that makes up the Portrait of a Learner.

Battelle for Kids is partnering with AASA and Successful Practices Network to support education leaders across the country as they create student-centered, equity-focused, future driven education systems.

Interested in learning more about engaging the broader community—educators, students, elected officials, community members, and families— to help build a unifying, collective vision for every student?  We can help.