Graduation. Then What?
The RISD Board of Trustees passed a motion, 5-0 (with District 1 trustee Megan Timme absent and the District 5 seat vacant), to partner with "Engage 2 Learn" in the development of an "RISD Graduate Profile." My first reaction was, "What? Don't we already know that?"
Trustee Eric Eager described the project as providing us with the answer to the question, "How do we measure what we want for our kids to be when they walk across that stage?" Again I thought, "Why don't we already know that?"
Trustee Eron Linn voiced his support. "I think this is really a great idea. I think it's long overdue." It turns out, it's so long overdue that we've forgotten that we already have something similar. Superintendent Branum explained. "I went back. I did some research this weekend and the last profile of a 21st century learner that I could find in the district was back in 2012-2013. That was not a profile of the graduate. It's the profile of the learner. And since then, we have not updated that as a school system."
So, sure, it's time to update it, to make it apply to a "graduate," not just a "learner." Eron Linn sounds optimistic about the effort. "We've been hearing a lot lately, last year, about what our community would like to see. And we hear in bits and come together and sit down and achieve a consensus and decide this is the direction of what we want out of a graduate from our our district." I'm much less optimistic about any "consensus" emerging, much less by Fall, when the RISD Strategic Plan is due for a review. There are fundamental differences in what stakeholders in our community want graduates to be. Because of that, the divisions inside RISD have become so bitter. I fear this exercise will become a new battleground to refight the battles over SPED, SEL, DEI, BLM, LGBTQ, COVID, STAAR, SAT, etc. Maybe Eron Linn just doesn't see that happening. Or maybe he does and wouldn't mind another opportunity to litigate those issues all over again, with perhaps different outcomes this time.
Here's the way I fear this will play out. List *every* contentious issue the RISD has faced in the last several years. Make sure each is addressed in the "Profile of a Graduate." Or else expect someone to ask why we're even addressing the issue in our schools in the first place. If we don't expect our graduates to exhibit behaviors related to it, why teach it?
Besides, how much say do local school districts really have in this matter? Chris Poteet put it this way: "The elephant in the room is that the state has a view on what our learners need to look like at end. They have metrics and scores that we need to aim for as well. So how do we synchronize that into what, say, a college is looking for, what an industry is looking for?" The State of Texas has defined what it calls "Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills" (TEKS), which are the state standards for what students should know and be able to do. The State of Texas has standardized tests (STAAR) designed to measure whether our graduates have acquired this essential knowledge and skills. Does RISD really want to layer on top of all this its own particular knowledge and skills, and do it without impacting scores on what the state measures? Good luck with that.
It all sounds simple in theory and damned hard in practice. And maybe redundant besides. Don't we already know the answer? Do we really have to write it down in a document to file away and forget it for another decade?