Central Rivers AEA helps schools and communities develop a common vision for graduates

High school student graduates tossing up hats over blue sky.

Imagine your child, your graduate, walking across the stage in May. What hopes and aspirations do you have for them for life after high school? What skills and mindsets do they need to be ready for that life?

What you are picturing in your mind is the vision for a graduate who is ready for their future. Making this vision a reality doesn’t just happen. It takes a coordinated effort by a school district, your local Area Education Agency (AEA) and stakeholders to plan, design, implement and regularly measure the journey towards that unifying vision. It’s a Portrait of a Graduate that guides the educational system as the “north star” when making system-level decisions and changes.

The Portrait of a Graduate is a community’s vision for what’s important for all its PreK-12 learners beyond just passing classes or knowing content. It includes skills and mindsets employers are seeking and that schools can integrate into instruction, allowing students to practice and develop skills. While improving reading and math skills is crucial, it is equally important to learn skills such as self-management, collaboration, creative problem-solving and complex communication. Schools with this vision make sure to teach these skills and provide opportunities for students to practice what they learn in class and prepare for the future.

Central Rivers AEA supports schools to create a Portrait of a Graduate by facilitating stakeholder meetings, supporting educational leaders and creating visual representations for a district’s vision. The AEA also helps by training teachers in professional development to integrate these skills into regular classes, such as math or social studies. Consultants collaborate with teachers from preschool to high school, engaging students in practicing and applying life skills. Additionally, the AEA supports schools in assessments and inventories to measure the implementation of this future-ready vision.

Jen Sigrist, Executive Director of Educational Services

What makes a Portrait of a Graduate unique from a regular vision or mission statement is that it’s a picture of what the student looks like, not what the organization looks like. It’s meant to put the student at the core of the decision-making. Therefore, when the graduates proudly walk across the stage, the vision is celebrated in that final snapshot not just because the student(s) passed classes, but because they are ready for the future.

Jen Sigrist is the Executive Director of Educational Services with Central Rivers Area Education Agency. She can be reached at jsigrist@centralriversaea.org. Central Rivers AEA serves over 63,500 students including 53 public school districts and 18 non-public school districts. In addition, nearly 5,000 educators rely on our agency for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles. Learn more at https://www.centralriversaea.org/about/.