The Cambrian

Coast Unified putting together road map for graduation

Wouldn’t it be helpful if there were a road map of how to help a child get to where he or she needs to be at high school graduation?

That’s what the Coast Unified School District is refining now — a “graduate profile” of the traits that teachers, parents and community members should watch for, encourage and foster in the town’s students.

The draft document likely will be presented to trustees at their June 25 meeting, according to District Superintendent Vicky Schumacher. People who wish to read and comment on the in-progress profile can find it on a clipboard at the front desk of the district office.

According to Schumacher, the profile is needed because students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members should partner early in a child’s school years to know ahead of time what the mile markers are along the way, and whether that student is going to arrive at the desired destination: graduation.

Planning for graduation starts in preschool, Schumacher asserts. 

Retired county schools superintendent Julian Crocker of Cambria agrees, as does Jonathan Sison, Coast Union High School principal.

The profile is … 

The straightforward, one-page draft, graduate profile list of bullet points seems simple, but it has taken months of discussion and comparing notes to make sure the list includes all the important qualities and elements.

For months, Schumacher took all kinds of input about the concept. She make the rounds to various school and community groups to hear what they felt should be included. Her stops ranged from Rotary Club and University Women of Cambria meetings to official sessions at school committees, such as the Local Control Accountability Plan Committee, which encompasses community members, administrators, teachers, parents and students.

The draft profile categories include academics, career readiness, technology, communication and critical thinking, civic engagement, physical and emotional wellness and the visual and performing arts.

Each category in the draft document has subsets. For instance, the subsets for communication and critical thinking include “to communicate effectively through listening, speaking and writing,” “to express critical, creative and conceptual thinking” and “to pursue bi-literacy and bilingualism.”

The technology category calls for the ability to “demonstrate digital citizenship and digital literacy,” “be a responsible user of technology tools and digital information,” “gather, search, research and evaluate electronic information” and “collaborate, connect, produce and share original digital content.”

A well-rounded student ready for a successful life as a college student, career professional and responsible adult will have experienced and — each in his or her own way — mastered those benchmarks.

From the administrator’s point of view, Crocker said that as a communications tool, such a document is “helpful to explain to parents and students what the end result should be … what the attributes, skills and competencies” teens should have when they graduate. 

He said he’s particularly pleased that the profile is a “one pager, rather than a “syllabus of pages and pages that nobody will ever read,” and that it includes qualities beyond “the usual tested stuff. 

Parents certainly want their children to succeed in the usual academic way, but they understand that most people’s success depends on having other qualities. Do you show up for work on time? Do you get along with people?”

The profile, he said, could be “extremely valuable, to see all that in writing.”

As high school principal, Sison expects to see cumulative effects from the graduate profile and how it helped to guide students going down many life paths. 

He said the document “pretty much summarizes in a succinct way … the mission of the entire district … our goals for all our students, what we expect them to do and be by the time they graduate.” 

“We set these high expectations, and the kids will rise to it. (The profile is) not meant to be an in-your-face document,” Sison said, “but throughout the children’s years in the system, they will have the opportunities to internalize these values, these beliefs and goals. ‘Am I becoming more responsible? Am I possessing the skills and attitudes to be productive?’

“It’s all about self know-ledge, self esteem and self efficacy,” Sison said, and having students able to “excel academically because they are physically and emotionally successful.”

He added, “Persistence is one of those virtues, too, as is resilience, when kids are able to bounce back from setbacks.” 

The document will help guide teachers to know “what are we doing to foster those 21st century skills that have nothing to do with technology but everything to do with a student’s well being.”

Is the kindergarten-to-senior focus too wide, too ambitious? Sison doesn’t think so. For instance, he said, for career readiness, “digital technology begins as early as kindergarten and first grade. My second-grader’s already striving to improve.”

Students also learn early about civic engagement, he said, including as members of the elementary school Peace Leaders, middle school Leadership Club and High School Interact Club.

Tech classes “in the middle school include the visual and performing arts. (Teacher) Suzette Morrow weaves the arts into all the other content areas with the aim of developing lifelong curiosity about the arts,” Sison said.

Sison said the profile will allow “kids and teachers and community members to periodically check in,” asking, for instance, whether the graduates have become interested in the arts, are developing into good communicators or whatever else is on that page.

The profile doesn’t mean “you have to be good at it,” he said. “But it does mean you have to be curious about it, and be mindful of the potential” it can offer to every student.