Posted Date: 08/13/2019
How might you describe the ideal graduate from Andover Public Schools?
That was the central question district stakeholders pondered during a series of conversations during the 2018-19 school year.
During a series of 29 meetings, parents, students, staff members, business leaders, community leaders and others talked about their hopes for Andover schools and our students.
About 540 people participated in these meetings. District Site Council members helped to narrow the more than 1,000 graduate descriptions we received to 11.
More than 1,250 people completed an online survey to help narrow those 11 semifinal descriptions to the key areas included in the final Portrait of a Graduate: Academic preparation, collaboration and communication, innovative thinking, integrity and character, and resilience.
“We know a comprehensive education must include not only academic knowledge, but also the skills to put that knowledge to effective use,” says Brett White, superintendent. “Whether you call them ‘soft skills,’ ‘people skills,’ ‘student success skills’ or something different, these tools can be difference makers in setting our students up for success after high school.”
The feedback from Andover stakeholders echoed goals created by the Kansas State Department of Education through its Kansans Can School Redesign Project. Those goals were set following a similar series of meetings in the state in 2015.
“What I like about the Portrait of a Graduate is that it acknowledges the world we live in today,” says Brian Cox, an Andover parent who serves on the District Site Council. “The traditional 3 Rs are still an important part of the academic preparation we want our graduates to have.
“However, we must look beyond that to ensure we are developing people who can succeed, not just in the world today but in the future. By developing this portrait, we’re providing a frame of reference for students, educators and the community to see the aspirations we hold.”
Michelle Neugent, also an Andover parent and District Site Council member, echoed that she has encountered newly hired colleagues who were prepared academically but needed more skills to adapt to the workplace.
“We felt that, by prioritizing the focus more on the whole person, the Andover graduate would gain additional life skills and be better prepared for the world they are headed to,” Neugent says.
Andover is among the first districts in the state to complete a Portrait of a Graduate, which is outlined by Battelle for Kids, a national nonprofit working to rethink education for the 21st century.
New mission and tagline
As part of adopting the Portrait of a Graduate, the Andover Board of Education also adopted a revised mission statement and tagline to align with themes that arose during the yearlong information-gathering process.
The new mission statement: “Andover Public Schools prepares learners for a changing world by creating meaningful educational opportunities that equip and empower students to lead successful and fulfilling lives.”
The new tagline: “Explore. Engage. Empower.”
“We feel this new tagline encapsulates the educational process for our students,” White says. “Our students should have the freedom to explore educational opportunities and potential career interests. They should engage in meaningful educational experiences that connect them to one another and to the world around them.
“And they should feel empowered to take the next steps in pursuing their educational interests, both here at Andover Public Schools and after graduation.”