Monday, April 30, 2018

Collaboration, Communication and More: Portrait of a Fort Thomas Graduate



"21st Century Skills Word Cloud" (via Creative Commons from holtthink)

Compassion, collaboration, communication, empathy, optimism for the future are among the many skills or traits identified so far in the Fort Thomas Independent Schools "Portrait of a Graduate" process.

Announced earlier this year, school administrators are working with teachers, parents, community members and students to paint a picture of the strengths of a Fort Thomas schools graduate. The goal is to identify the most important skills and focus on strategies designed to bolster and build these strengths in students from preschool through high school graduation.

Fort Thomas Independent Schools Superintendent Karen Cheser gave an update of the process at the April school board meeting. Earlier this year teachers, counselors and administrators did preliminary research and visited high-performing school districts elsewhere in the country. School officials met with business leaders and conducted community conversations.


"We will be getting student input in the next few weeks over lunch…When we looked at what our teachers were saying and the community conversations, some additional themes came out. One was self-efficacy, students who believe they can achieve. Also a growth mind set, as well as empathy, not just compassion, but the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes," she said.

Other themes included continuous learning, perseverance or grit, and optimism. Collaboration was a skill mentioned often, she added.

Next steps


The next step is to survey teachers, community members and students about the traits that have been identified and to ask for additional ideas for skills, she said.

From there, once the list of skills is set, the schools will reach out again to all stakeholders to get input on strategies needed to develop and support those skills. Cheser anticipates creating several strategic planning teams to address individual skills.

Not only will the Portrait of a Graduate help identify and build important skills, the work can help students throughout their school careers, said Cheser. One idea teachers brought back after visiting other school districts is to create a learner profile that would stay with students. It would identify their strengths, their learning styles, what works best for them.

"It could provide a snapshot, not only for the adults around them, but for the students themselves, to know themselves better," she said.

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Cheser also discussed key skills and focus areas already in place at Fort Thomas schools that she feels are key to the portrait. "Communication, collaboration and critical thinking -- you hear over and over again these are three cornerstones for Fort Thomas Independent Schools. While we call them 21st century skills, they’ve been around a long time and we continue to build these. We already know each of these three skills are so strong here and we want to continue with them."

An opportunity to learn more




Cheser reminded those present that all are invited to a public showing on May 3 of a documentary on Singapore American School, one of the highest achieving school districts in the world. Those present will be able to participate in a Skype meeting with superintendent of the district, Chip Kimball, after the film. Despite its high achievement levels, the district recently went through a process similar to portrait of a graduate and spoke with 100 college admissions officers around the world to identify the top skills graduates need for success.

The event will be held starting at 6:30 p.m. at Woodfill Elementary, 1025 Alexandria Pike. Details and registration is available on Eventbrite as "Singapore American Schools Documentary and Skype with Singapore."
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