What is a Portrait of a Graduate? Why a Portrait of a Graduate?

A Portrait of a Graduate is a shared vision for all students in our community. The Portrait of a Graduate articulates the skills and mindsets our community prioritizes for our students. Now more than ever, learning experiences must not only provide rigorous academic content but foster other 21st century skills — such as critical thinking, communication, and creativity — our young people need to thrive in a complex, rapidly changing world. The Portrait of a Graduate will be a North Star that ensures our District prepares students for success, now and in the future.

What does a Portrait of a Graduate look like when complete?

Our final Portrait of a Graduate will capture a set of competencies that our community and District prioritize for our students. Each of these competencies will reflect both the local and global contexts and be informed by relevant research.

Visit PortraitofaGraduate.org/Resource-Hub for examples from other school districts across the country.

How does the Portrait of a Graduate get used once complete? How does it all come together?

Our Portrait of a Graduate will be the educational vision to guide the overall transformation of Columbus City Schools. This vision will anchor our strategic planning process, which is currently planned for the 2020-21 school year. Our strategic plan will serve as a roadmap that guides the district as we implement our educational vision. We will continue to collaborate with our broader community to identify the priorities and strategies that make our Portrait come to life for every student. The work of designing and implementing learning experiences to cultivate our Portrait of a Graduate competencies for every student will be a priority for CCS.

How does our Portrait of a Graduate connect to other programs, policies, and initiatives?

The Portrait of a Graduate will serve as our district’s North Star and guide our efforts to ensure all our programs, policies, and initiatives advance our shared aspirations for every student in our district. When complete, the Portrait of a Graduate will anchor our strategic plan, a road map to activate our Portrait of a Graduate and align our programs, policies, and initiatives.

What is the Columbus Portrait Design Team? Why a community effort?

Our Portrait of a Graduate was locally developed, but globally positioned. We used a collaborative design process with the Portrait Design Team to welcome many voices and elicit ongoing input. The Portrait Design Team is comprised of more than 150 internal and external stakeholders, who represent the various groups of our community including families, students, teachers, administrators, staff, partners, policymakers, and business leaders. This Design Team enabled our District to engage diverse perspectives to build a shared vision for our students. Partnering with our community builds a shared understanding of the ‘why’ as our district begins to transform our educational system.

Who is this for? Is this just for high school students?

The Portrait of a Graduate will be a shared vision for every student, from our youngest learners to our high school graduates. This vision will shape the educational experiences of our students, from the first time they walk through our doors until they graduate.

How did the District develop a Portrait of a Graduate?

Many school systems across the country have engaged their communities in developing a Portrait of a Graduate. Every school system’s Portrait is unique, reflecting the shared vision of their community. Our District used a process that has been tested across the nation and is designed to engage a wide array of community voices. The Portrait Design Team, a group of more than 150 community stakeholders, was charged with developing the Portrait of a Graduate. The work of the Portrait Design Team was bolstered by a series of community conversations throughout the process.

How is this specific to our community?

The competencies outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate will reflect the priorities expressed by our community. The strategic planning process, a roadmap to activate the Portrait of a Graduate in our schools and classrooms, will continue the participatory process. It will identify the priorities and strategies we must pursue to prepare each student to thrive after they graduate. The strategic planning process is planned for the 2020-21 school year.

How does the Portrait of a Graduate incorporate into the District’s curriculum?

A rigorous academic curriculum is critical for every student. Our Portrait of a Graduate will be a vision that purposefully integrates academic content with 21st-century learning experiences that cultivate the skills, mindsets, and literacies that prepare students to become lifelong learners and contributors. Simultaneous to the Portrait of a Graduate visioning process, Columbus City Schools partnered with Phi Delta Kappa to conduct a comprehensive curriculum audit during the 2019-20 school year.

This audit looked at a number of aspects of the district, including:

  • Written, taught, and assessed curriculum,
  • Curriculum programming and development,
  • Equity in program development and implementation,
  • An assessment program to ensure that the district has used results from district-designed or adopted assessments to adjust, improve, or terminate ineffective practices and programs, and
  • Facilities, human resources, budgets, and technology

The auditors provided a report with a series of detailed recommendations for the Board of Education and Superintendent. Each recommendation is written as a customized “action plan” that can be followed over the next several years and incorporates research-based approaches and strategies.

Why did the District create a documentary about its Portrait of a Graduate process?

Columbus City Schools has been committed to engaging as many stakeholders as possible as it shapes the educational vision for a school district of 50,000 students and a city of nearly 900,000 citizens. This documentary began as a way to show how the process began, unfolded, and ultimately ended up. Clearly, life happened, and the pandemic, along with social unrest disrupted our process of transformation. Instead of ending the filming process, we leaned into it to capture this unique moment in time and showcase how our work for students continues even in the face of challenges. Our educational vision will be the backbone of District priorities, and we wanted to be transparent and informative in telling the story of our Portrait of a Graduate, but it became even bigger than that. This was a unique moment in our history both as a nation and as Columbus City Schools. The documentary captures the moment and how our community met the moment.