Navigator Blog

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools: Implementing the statewide durable skills

August 9, 2023

This spotlight was originally published in the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s “Durable Skills Rubrics: Suggestions for Use” document in August 2023.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS) Superintendent Tricia McManus’s approach to leading her district through the changes associated with integrating the North Carolina Portrait of a Graduate Durable Skills rests on her recognition that this is deep work that “doesn’t happen overnight.”

Throughout the district’s initial Portrait of a Graduate implementation phase, system leaders carefully messaged how and why the North Carolina Portrait of a Graduate is an inspiring vision – rather than “just an initiative.”

To get started with their implementation of the Portrait of a Graduate, WS/FCS senior staff engaged in a series of steps to build background about the durable skills and how to make the shift to deeper learning. This included reading and discussing articles, shadowing students, and discussing the current types of learning experiences happening across the system. They surveyed students about what it means to be engaged in learning and asked them to describe the characteristics of their most engaging learning experiences.

They also launched powerful conversations with principals and other school-based leaders in which they discussed the questions of “Where do we see pockets of excellence,” “How do we scale Deeper Learning,” and “How do we make the durable skills a reality for all students?”

Superintendent McManus elicited direct feedback from a newly formed Parent Advisory, the Superintendent Student Advisory, and the Teachers of the Year throughout the district. The leadership team planned intentional action steps that included the design and delivery of professional learning experiences during the Summer Leadership Institute and the Connected Learning Academy to support educators as they think about how to bring the Durable Skills to life in all classrooms during the 2023-2024 school year.

On June 28, 2023, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education approved a measure to adopt the Portrait of Graduate Durable Skills. The district leadership team specifically asked for support to bring the Portrait to Practice and “make this how we do business in the district.”

Their next steps included:

  • Site-based professional learning to foster understanding about the “why” of deeper learning and the Portrait of a Graduate.
  • Back to School Kickoff to support the “why” of deeper learning and the Portrait of a Graduate.
  • Collaboration between advisories to center the “why” of deeper learning and the Portrait of a Graduate.
  • School visits with business leaders, students, and community leaders to witness exemplary learning at school.
  • Launching the design of a Deeper Learning Framework and comprehensive professional development plan.

About the District
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools formed in 1963 with the merger of the Winston-Salem and Forsyth County districts. It is the fourth-largest system in North Carolina and the 81st largest in the nation. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools serves more than 53,000 students in PreK-12 across 81 schools. 

The mission of WS/FCS is to engage all students in high-quality, relevant learning experiences so they will graduate with interpersonal, academic, and workforce skills to compete globally and contribute to society.