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Create a Profile of a Graduate

Build consensus on essential skills and define your school's "North Star"

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Essential Skills

Be Guided By Your North Star

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Essential Skills

What skills and character traits are essential for 21st century students?

Be Guided By Your North Star

EdLeader21's Ken Kay and Valerie Greenhill share how a profile of a graduate establishes the North Star for schools and districts from which innovation follows.

Audio Transcript

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What is a Profile of a Graduate?

Valerie: A Profile of a Graduate is the vision that you have in your school system for what your students should know and be able to do by the time they graduate. We recommend developing a Profile of a Graduate with an eye for 21st century competencies like the four Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Districts and schools all over the country are adopting their own unique Profiles of a Graduate to define what they want their graduates to know and be able to do.

Why is it important?

Ken: Well, what we find is there are districts all over the country doing change and transformation without knowing where they're headed. For example, you can do personalized learning and competency-based learning and have it tied to 1950s goals. What we think, is what's required in education today is to actually create the 21st century goals for your system and identify the 21st century competencies that your students need.

It's not a new initiative. It's a direction. It's your North Star for your work. We know districts that are doing one-to-one computing initiatives. They're doing portfolios. They're doing capstones. They have CTE programs. All of those actually need to be rooted in competencies. They need to identify, what are the competencies we want our students to have as a result of this program. So if you adopt it, what you'll find, is you'll naturally have alignment because all of the initiatives in the system are headed towards this North Star of 21st century education.

How does it work?

Valerie: Most communities with adopted Profiles of a Graduate engage their parents, students, teachers, business leaders, and after school community in a collaborative process to refine and prioritize the competencies that they care about as a community. And it results in a unique and locally adopted vision for student outcomes. So one of the important things to know about how it works, is it's a community building initiative first and foremost. It's about community and it's very, very local. And it's usually led by the leaders of the local system, but involving people from all parts of the community.

The process can take anywhere from three to six months. We have an online set of resources at, where you can download implementation guides and use an interactive tool builder to get a feel for how the creative process can work. And there's also a gallery that you can use to get familiar with the ways in which this Profile of a Graduate plays out in different communities across the country.

Ken: We hope that everybody will actually take seriously their potential for involvement in this movement. We need a thousand districts over the next two or three years to adopt a Profile of a Graduate, so it won't just be your district that's headed in the right direction, but all of us collectively are working towards 21st century education. So please take up our challenge, adopt a Profile of a Graduate, and use it as the starting point for your transformation initiatives.

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Explore the PoG Builder Tool to build a profile of a 21st century graduate.

Access the PoG Action Plan to engage your community.

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