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.

Video courtesy of Springfield Public Schools.

This project was led by administrators from Springfield Public Schools; it was supported by a grant from the Barr Foundation. The Great Schools Partnership provided: weekly planning meetings with the district’s project leads; facilitation or co-facilitation of meetings with community members, students, and educators; and data analysis.
DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

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. 

Design Considerations

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

  • Community Conversations
  • Summarize & Share Input
  • Draft Portrait & Gather Feedback
  • Review Feedback & Revise Portrait
  • Draft Strategic Plan Aligned to Portrait

Community Conversations


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?

Summarize & Share Input With Community


In this stage of the development process, input and feedback from all stakeholders in the school community was compiled, analyzed, and organized into themes in order to identify the highest priority skills and attributes all Springfield students need to be prepared for college, career, and life. This laid the groundwork for Springfield Public Schools, in collaboration with leaders from the community, to start drafting their Portrait of a Graduate.

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.

ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY

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.

Participating Stakeholders

Quotes From the Community

By the Numbers

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members of the community shared input and feedback
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conversations held with stakeholders from across the community
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skills and attributes identified by the community as vital to the success of Springfield students

How did we analyze the data?

We compiled the notes from the community conversations into a master database for analysis. Next, we reviewed the notes and organized peoples' suggestions into themes. Once all response data had been coded with themes, we generated frequency counts by theme and by stakeholder groups to determine which skills and attributes were most commonly mentioned. Most frequently mentioned skills and attributes included:

•Financial literacy
•Communication skills
•Acceptance and interpersonal skills
•Self-direction and time management
•Envisioning and planning for the future
•Perseverance and resilience

RESULTS

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:

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