What does the portrait of a “Dell Rapids Public School Graduate” look like? What life and career skills promote the best chance for success after graduation? Does our current combination of academic rigor and 21st Century skill development stimulate the level of deep learning opportunities critical for success in a constantly changing workforce? Although answers are not easily available, these questions will be at the center of our latest activity to sustain a process of continuous school improvement with a focus on ensuring students are educated in a system that remains future focused and committed to the development of each learner.
I’ve heard it said before that “today’s students are learning skills for yesterday’s problems”. Former Governor, Dennis Daugaard brought an increased awareness to this perception by launching the Western Governor’s Workforce Development Initiative. In his 2018 Chairman’s Special Report, he identified a significant “skills gap” and outlined trends in labor markets that suggested automation and artificial intelligence will affect the future workforce by forcing at least a third of our US workforce to learn new skills or change occupations by the year 2030. Consequently, school districts need to find ways to foster a culture of adaptability and provide intentional opportunities for developing critical thinking, creativity, and interpersonal communication skills.
The Dell Rapids School District has a renewed focus in ensuring our learning opportunities prepare graduates for an unknown future. Our schools are full of data that can be used to monitor and assess foundational literacies; but what additional data is needed to analyze student proficiency in areas of general competencies and character qualities? Competencies such as being a critical thinker, communicator, and collaborator are not specifically assessed in our education system, but when a student is able to utilize those competencies during the learning of core academics, we know a deeper, more sustainable knowledge base will be attained.
As we embark on our journey to define the portrait of a DRHS graduate, we will also consider modifying the learning environments our students occupy. Redesigning classrooms and maker space areas will be explored along with our utilization of educational technology. When coupled with strong instructional practices, educational technology can provide and reinforce specific opportunities paramount to workforce readiness characteristics.
The district will finalize our portrait in the upcoming months. We’ve solicited assistance from individuals in the community who can provide a realistic perspective on the skills and competencies our graduates need to be successful in the 21st Century workforce. Finally, after the work has been done, DRHS students will compete to design a visual representation of the portrait. Like our current mission statement, “Empowering Each Other to Excel” this portrait will serve as a North Star that ties together district priorities and ensures a collective vision moving forward.