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Midvale Journal

Midvale Middle rolls out ‘Portrait of a Graduate’ to replace existing IB Middle Years Programme

Sep 04, 2022 09:52AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This fall, Midvale Middle School will be the first of the Canyons School District schools to incorporate the Utah State Board of Education’s program “Portrait of a Graduate.”

The state’s “Portrait of a Graduate” “identifies the ideal characteristics of a Utah graduate after going through the K-12 system,” according to the state board of education website. The state program is created in three parts: mastery, or ability to demonstrate depth of knowledge and skill proficiency; autonomy, the self-confidence and motivation to think and act independently; and purpose, to guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction and create meaning.

“Portrait of a Graduate” stretches from academic mastery to wellness, from digital literacy to civic, financial and economic literacy. It also includes communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and innovation, respect and more. Those are further broken down to skills to be learned at elementary, middle school and high school levels. The program will be incorporated in K-12 schools.

Midvale Middle Principal Mindy Robison said her aim is having the students learn and develop skills that will help them in the future and be recognized.

“I want to make sure we have something in place that really allows students’ strengths to be seen, and for us as a school to really make sure that we were focusing on all the things to really help kids be successful in life,” she said. “We really like ‘Portrait of a Graduate’ and strongly believe it goes a step further (than the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme) by making sure that there are some competencies to this. It's also state approved, and we really liked that. We feel like it's giving some attention to some of the areas that we haven't put a focus on before.”

It wasn’t just a simple switch from MYP to “Portrait of a Graduate.”

This past spring, Midvale Middle program coordinator Shelley Allen led students, parents, teachers, and others in focus groups to discuss what the program will look like at the school.

“I’m just excited about moving forward,” said Allen, who has overseen the MYP program throughout its tenure at the school. “The competencies are really solid. I love the service component. I love that you're still developing character traits and it’s going to help kids succeed beyond high school. That's the goal. We wanted to be able to succeed and I think this is going to help them do so.”

One thing Allen and Robison did was take parts of MYP that the school has done since it began in 2012 and incorporate them into “Portrait of a Graduate.” A big component of that is community service, including the eighth-grade year cumulating “Make a Difference” project where through the years, students have identified service they can perform that will make a big impact in their community, such as making blankets for children in hospitals, organizing and sewing to make bibs for students with special needs, and developing a learning program at a children’s museum.

Robison said, within “Portrait of a Graduate,” there is a service competency.

“The state doesn’t say how that should be implemented. So that's why we can take our ‘Make a Difference’ project that we already have, that we really love, that fits the service competency really well, and continue to implement that. We can prioritize that because the school has such a great history of teaching service and having kids perform so highly with service,” she said.

Allen agrees: “I honestly feel like we're taking all the stuff that I love the most and we're implementing it with ‘Portrait of a Graduate.’ It’s going to be great.”  

Robison said that with the flexibility of “Portrait of a Graduate,” administrators can customize it for the school. This year, Midvale Middle administrators, with input from students, parents, faculty and others decided on two initial competencies they will focus on in lessons during their Friday homeroom periods.

“They want the students to work on respect and effort, and then additionally service. Our lessons will be for all the grades and incorporating that into the whole culture of the school,” she said. “We really want to work with the community to let them know like sometimes in education, we don't always highlight some kids who have these great strengths. We want to show how we value the students’ strengths, the diversity of our community, and many things at school. It's not just academic. Of course, academics matter and their growth, but we’re also focusing on skills like how do you treat people; are you really ready when you graduate to get a job, go to college, or do whatever you choose; and are we really helping you. We want to highlight things that kids are doing well and celebrate those, but also help kids see that there's a lot of intrinsic motivation from succeeding in a lot of these different areas.”

Under each of the program’s areas, there are additional focuses such as problem-solving, logical thinking, open-minded communication that students will learn.

“I liked that we're doing something that really represents the state of Utah and has important components that we have advocated for here for years,” Robison said. “The added competencies are a more in-depth look of our students and how many things that they can be successful in areas. When we see a student who is maybe struggling academically, we can remind them they didn't give up and they persisted when it really matters. We can help students with academics, but maybe, they demonstrated three or four of these qualities and that’s impressive. It allows us to build relationships with students who sometimes don't feel like they're the best student and it just gives vocabulary to connect with kids and say, ‘OK, you don't have this concept yet, but I noticed that you're really working hard to solve this problem. You are persistent; you're resilient.’ Those things matter and we know that when kids graduate with those skills—and with the content—they’ll be skills they’ll have on how you keep a job, how you make it through college, how you do so many things. Those skills really matter, and they'll still empower them to be able to get the standards as well.”

Robison said “Portrait of a Graduate” aligns with Canyons School District’s new strategic plan.

The development of the strategic plan has taken place during several years, involving parents through administrators, and incorporates high-quality learning, access and opportunity, human-centered supports and operating systems, said Cindy Hanson, Canyons middle school director.

“Part of the strategic initiatives within those areas, encompasses the ‘Portrait of a Graduate,’” she said. “We're really going to be working through this year, our academic team with our cabinet, superintendent and with the (Canyons) Board (of Education) to identify what the competencies are that are focusing on to align to our strategic vision.”

That will prepare them for a “broader rollout” of “Portrait of a Graduate” in all Canyons schools next fall, she said.

Midvale Middle “had the go ahead” to “maintain some of the MYP things that were established, and then still be able to create those tier-one supports” for students, Hanson said.

The timing of introducing “Portrait of a Graduate” at Midvale Middle also coincided with the review of the MYP program. By not continuing in MYP, the accreditation paperwork was eliminated and the focus could be given to the state program.

“Midvale has done some amazing work on ‘Portrait of a Graduate,’” Hanson said. “This gives ideal characteristics that we're all looking for in schools and it helps us to really build that knowledge base and that rigor that we want. It gives clear information targets, goals that allow us to move forward with students, especially getting them these more advanced skills, these 21st century skills and competencies that we're looking for.”

Board of Education member Mont Millerberg agrees: “It gives some pretty good guidelines as to what not only we as a school district can expect, also what parents should be able to expect from school and it gives the students a pretty good roadmap as to how they can measure what they're doing. We can go through and determine how effective and successful we are when we look at the progress kids are making.”

Robison said that while nearby Hillcrest High also offers the International Baccalaureate program, there are no plans to discontinue it since the high school level is based on classes and is different in its structure from the Middle Years Programme.