Portrait of a Graduate:
Engaging the Community to Identify the Skills and Attributes Springfield Students Need to Succeed
In collaboration with the larger school community, Springfield Public Schools (SPS) developed a Portrait of a Graduate: a collective vision of the skills and attributes their students needed to find success in college and in their future careers.
The challenge: How can we bring together a diverse group of educators, students, and community members to design a shared vision that will guide Springfield schools?
The solution: Take the time and make the effort to reach out to all groups; raise marginalized voices, so all can be heard; work collaboratively to identify and codify the skills and attributes the community wants its students to graduate with; and engage in ongoing community conversations to re-imagine how schools can best achieve the shared vision of the community.
Developing a Portrait of a Graduate enables schools and districts to draft strategic plans, revisit school or district policies, and improve classroom practices in alignment with a collective community vision.
Springfield engaged in a five-step community-based development process that, when complete, will have produced not only a Portrait of a Graduate, but also an aligned strategic plan.
To ensure their Portrait of a Graduate truly represented a collective community vision, Springfield Public Schools developed a “working team” of educators who:
- Connected with as many populations within Springfield as possible
- Engaged with an external partner (Great Schools Partnership) to facilitate initial community conversations
- Trained to equitably facilitate community conversations without external help, thereby becoming a self-sustaining team
- Committed to having as many community conversations (more than 200!) as necessary—until all voices were heard
Community-Based Development Process
In this stage of the development process, Springfield Public Schools started by building a diverse working team comprised of community leaders, business leaders, educators, and district administrators to lead the work on the portrait. This working team reached out to as many community members in as many stakeholder groups as possible, utilizing translators when needed. The goal was to collect the ideas and insights necessary to develop a collective vision of the skills and attributes all Springfield students need to be prepared for college, career, and life. In a series of community conversations, Springfield Public Schools asked essential questions such as:
- What are the hopes that our community has for our young people?
- What skills or attributes will be most important for SPS students to be prepared for college, career, and life?
- What elements of the current system could be improved or changed to help develop these skills and attributes in all students?
Draft Portrait of a Graduate & Gather Feedback From Community
In this stage of the development process, a draft portrait was crafted by community leaders and educators over the summer. Over 1,400 community members and educators provided feedback on this draft. This laid the groundwork for a collective and equitable revision process.
Review Feedback & Revise Portrait of a Graduate
In this stage, the working team, along with the faculty working group, utilized all of the feedback to craft a final Portrait of a Graduate for Springfield Public Schools. The final draft was translated into Arabic, Spanish, Nepali, Somali, and Vietnamese so that it would be accessible to all community members.
Draft Strategic Plan Aligned to Portrait of a Graduate
As administrators and educators work to craft a new strategic plan for Springfield, the Portrait of a Graduate is being utilized continually to help guide the creation of a unified instructional vision and to set priorities around professional development.
Between November 2019 and March 2020, Springfield Public Schools, in collaboration with the Great Schools Partnership, conducted over 200 conversations with stakeholder groups from across the community. Stakeholders were asked about their hopes and dreams for Springfield’s young people and which skills and attributes will be most important for their students to be prepared for college, career, and life.
To understand the hopes and dreams of a community as diverse as Springfield, we had to seek out and uplift all voices, especially those that have been marginalized.
Quotes From the Community
“We hope for students to sustain themselves in the job market long term and to be lifelong learners, especially as the labor market changes.”
“Our students need to have empathy, understanding, the ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes. They need to know how to interact with other people.”
"Students need to have an idea of what’s possible. Especially for students stuck in the cycle of poverty. They need to know what’s possible for them to achieve. It’s about knowing what’s possible and attaining their dreams.”
“I hope that all Springfield students will have a solid support system, feel valued and accepted and know how to give back to the community.”
By the Numbers
Over the last decade, Springfield Public Schools has dramatically reduced the rate at which their students drop out and dramatically increased the rate at which they graduate. Developing a Portrait of a Graduate was a continuation of those efforts to improve outcomes for all students. By identifying and codifying the skills and attributes the Springfield community feels their students need to succeed in college and their future careers, Springfield Public Schools has laid the foundations for a district-wide strategic planning process aligned to the community’s collective vision.
Portrait of a Graduate in Six Languages
Springfield Public Schools, in collaboration with their school community, produced a collective vision of the skills and attributes the community feels their students need to succeed in college and their future careers.
This Portrait of a Graduate is available in the following languages: