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How Aligning Student of the Month Criteria to Your Portrait of a Graduate Increases Transparency

Stories from the Field
November 14, 2019

By: Jillian Kuhlmann

When educators and district leaders at in Oakes, North Dakota, developed their portrait of a graduate, they knew they wanted it to be a guiding document, something that would actually inform teaching and learning in their schools.

When educators and district leaders at Oakes Public Schools in Oakes, North Dakota, developed their portrait of a graduate, they knew they wanted it to be a guiding document, something that would actually inform teaching and learning in their schools.

The skills the Oakes design team, which included community members as well as teachers and parents, identified and solicited feedback on were that their graduates would be:

  • Masters of content
  • Effective creative thinkers
  • Effective communicators
  • Effective collaborators
  • Effective critical thinkers

The next step was to begin to find ways to make their portrait live and breathe.

鈥淥ur fear was that we would put it out there and teachers would find it daunting, thinking their students had to be able to do all of these things without knowing how to assess or help them achieve these skills,鈥 said Kalyn Haafke, a seventh, eighth and ninth grade English Language Arts teacher and a member of the district鈥檚 design team as part of their work in North Dakota鈥檚 push to personalize learning. 鈥淲e wanted to ease the transition into using the portrait.鈥

One of the ways that Haafke and one of her fellow educators, Spanish teacher and Technology Integration Specialist Leslie Dethlefsen, wanted to make the portrait more accessible was to integrate the skills into their criteria for Student of the Month.

鈥淏efore we had the portrait of a graduate, we were just picking kids who were behaving in class. Now, we鈥檙e using four of the categories we identified in our portrait of a graduate: effective creative thinkers, effective communicators, effective collaborators and effective critical thinkers,鈥 said Haafke. 鈥淚t makes it more purposeful. When teachers send nominations to me, it鈥檚 easier for them to be able to nominate with an example that matches a student up with one of these criteria. They鈥檙e giving an example of how a student show they鈥檙e building positive relationships or demonstrating a growth mindset in their classroom on a daily basis.鈥

The criteria for Student of the Month are displayed throughout the school along with the portrait of a graduate, so students and teachers alike can see the correlation. Haafke and Dethlefsen also make a point to notify those students who were nominated, but not chosen, about the behaviors that earned them a nomination.

鈥淲e like to recognize them and let them know, your teachers see you as being an effective communicator and a respectful person,鈥 said Haafke. 鈥淭hey might not have won, but they were nominated. We want to give them that feedback of the skills that we鈥檙e noticing and boost their confidence.鈥

Because of her work on the design team and in the process of creating the portrait of a graduate, Haafke is already considering how to incorporate these skills into her lesson plans, providing opportunities for her students to demonstrate the behaviors Oakes educators hope to see every student graduate having mastered. Supporting her peers in doing the same is work she sees herself doing within the next few years.

鈥淭he student of the month criteria was just our way of introducing the skills in the portrait of the graduate,鈥 said Haafke. 鈥淩ight now we鈥檙e working on some rubrics for how we can assess these skills in the classroom, how we can help build these skills with our students and show them where they鈥檙e at.鈥

North Dakota learning communities are working together to ensure their graduates are choice-ready.

THE AUTHOR

Jillian Kuhlmann
Senior Manager of Communications

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