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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brake

Is Your School Community Ready to Make Students Future-Ready?

High school graduate profiles, more popularly known as Portrait of a Graduate (or POG), have become the “hot new thing” in the world of education. These aspirational vision statements articulating the durable skills and competencies students should master before high school graduation are being advocated by states and developed by school districts nationwide to better prepare students for their futures.

PARENTS: If you’re not sure whether your school district has jumped on the POG bandwagon, check their website, or better yet, ask a teacher or school administrator to tell you more about the school’s Portrait of a Graduate vision. If you see or hear words and phrases similar these, chances are your school district has implemented–or is in the process of implementing their own Portrait of Graduate vision:


●     Communication

●     Critical Thinking

●     Problem Solving

●     Collaboration

●     Leadership

●     Resiliency

●     Empathy

The POG profiles above are just a sampling of what you will find throughout the US. There are enough similarities in these profiles to conclude there is a common origin or philosophy driving these, something that raises a red flag for some. However, there are enough differences to conclude that these POG profiles were developed within each school community, hopefully to reflect the common values and perspectives of that community.

Some POG critics are quick to suggest nefarious origins and controversial intentions hidden behind the POG vision. They see evidence of globalist social change advocates working to promote Social Emotional Learning and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the expense of academics and traditional learning models. Some people question whether schools today really need POG visions, assuming our current system, while not perfect, somehow worked for Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials–and should work for Gen Z.


POG advocates can make a strong argument that US schools are not adequately preparing a generation of students with different needs and challenges for uncertain futures where technological and cultural changes in business and society require more than academic fundamentals. Advocates of POG often call the current system the “Old Factory Model” or a “one size fits all” approach to education. They point out that the mission of every school system from antiquity through today has been to prepare students for the future, and today’s students really are different. POG advocates point to the American business community as one key justification for implementing a POG strategy. In the aggregate, our PK12 schools are not meeting the needs of employers, be they Fortune 500 companies or small businesses in your community.


Employers and business leaders from every corner of the business community have no shortage of tales to tell about current employees and new hires lacking the durable skills and competencies at the core of these POG visions. There is convincing evidence that a widening gap exists between what employers are looking for and what they are getting from our schools. If viewed solely from a business perspective, the workforce-ready products most schools are producing are not winning many customer satisfaction awards.


What the Data Say About Student Readiness for Academics, Work & Life,, 2024

A school, of course, has to satisfy many customers, including taxpayers. It’s a tough business to be in, and it’s almost impossible for an outsider to comprehend the realities on the ground. So, as the advocates and adversaries of POG trade accusations and theories about the origin and intent of POG, we run the risk of relegating kids, families, and even employers to the sidelines of a conversation where they should be front and center. Now more than ever before, stakeholders in a school district should strive to see things from the inside out. They should share data, insights, and real-life stories. They should collaborate and ideate.

Battelle for Kids (BFK), a national, not-for-profit organization with the mission of “supporting educational leaders to realize the power and promise of future-ready learning” for America’s children has been a driving force behind POG for more than a decade. For BFK this is not a top-down initiative that deprives school district stakeholders of their freedom to take action locally and make a difference. In fact, they strongly advocate for community engagement where school district stakeholders share insights, consider national and local data points, and share their stories:

“Storytelling should be a key component of this work. Stories can create belief in a change and help shift skeptics into advocates, creating a groundswell of support. Most importantly, stories can motivate people into action.”

All stakeholder perspectives should be respectfully considered, and every story given its due. Working collaboratively, people have the ability to separate facts from hyperbole. The collective wisdom of any community will always be greater than that of a few individuals.


The challenge, of course, is having a viable system for engaging your stakeholders in meaningful dialogue and collaborative problem solving. Some district leaders and teachers see evidence of parents and families having become withdrawn, fatigued by the pace of their lives, and reluctant to participate in conversations about the purpose and design of schools, new learning models, and the current realities that are constraining an educational system in crisis.


On the other hand, some parents feel uncomfortable engaging in an ongoing dialogue with “school officials” who are sometimes perceived to use professional jargon and discomfiting observations that imply parents are not doing enough. This is compounded by the reality that many parents are in the throes of societal, economic, and technological forces that are impacting their own careers and the overall wellness of their families.


The one thing virtually every stakeholder can agree on is this: the future of our children is at stake.


This is where the Portrait of a Graduate vision can be the common ground that stakeholders stand upon. It is the place where the stories and insights of faculty, parents, students, administrators, business, social service organizations, and even residents with no kids in the school system, can engage and ideate on the best ways to create future-ready kids.


Grandview offers school districts a scalable system for engaging stakeholders. It’s based on a customer-experience approach used in industry whereby the current realities, beliefs, aspirations, and lived-experiences of stakeholders are quantified and qualified in a democratic, inclusive, and transparent manner. By sharing the data points, stories, and results of collaborative activities, every stakeholder can see evidence that supports or challenges, but definitely informs, the ultimate decisions and strategies of school boards and administrators.


We all have a responsibility to help make today’s students’ future ready.


David Brake is the founder and CEO of The Grandview Group, a consulting firm that helps organizations engage their stakeholders and elevate impact. We would love to talk with you about how your organization is engaging stakeholders and elevating impact.

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