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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Guthrie CSD’s Graduate Profile (Part 1)

By Nelson Coulter

The business of school is LEARNING!  Guthrie CSD opened for business on August 27, 2012.  After a summer filled with painting, waxing, fixing, professional development, camps, leagues, and vacations, students and staff of the Guthrie School re-assembled to take care of business for the 2012-13 school year.

In the two weeks prior to the start of school the Guthrie CSD faculty and staff engaged in deliberate and intentional adult learning toward that very end of staying focused on our primary mission – LEARNING.

This is the first of a five part series of articles that will provide some clarity about the Guthrie Graduate Profile that has emerged from community- and school-based conversations that have been ongoing in Guthrie for the last year.  Below are the five pillars (dimensions) of the Guthrie Graduate Profile:

v Learners/Problem Solvers/Critical Thinkers
v Effective Communicators
v Persons of Strong Character
v Productive and Valuable Team Members
v Compassionate and Responsible Citizens

For Part 1 of this series we will focus on the Graduate Profile dimension of:
Learners/Problem Solvers/Critical Thinkers

In this dimension we have articulated specific knowledge and skills to which we aspire for Guthrie students.  Those elements prescribe that Guthrie students:
       (will be) creative and entrepreneurial in crafting innovative solutions
       (will have the skills to) investigate, analyze, organize information and discern truth
       (will be) open-minded, curious, and risk-taking
       (will be) academically capable
       (will be) effective, self-directed, and adaptable

The Learners/Problem Solvers/Critical Thinkers dimension is the one most easily connectable to the academic components of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) of the Pre-K through Grade 12 subjects and curricula.  However, as can been seen in the specific elements of this dimension, there are numerous indicators that go well beyond what is prescribed by Texas for the academic learning of students.  Words and phrases such as “entrepreneurial,” “Innovative,” “discern truth,” “risk-taking,” and “adaptable” suggest that the learning tasks created for Guthrie students will go well beyond the sit-and-git , “canned,” or work-sheet-driven curricula that has become such a staple in the public schools of Texas. 

Clearly, the work of the professional educators in Guthrie now takes on a new and very engaging status.  The learning of the professionals should (must) be the precursor of the learning of our students.  Crafting engaging, meaningful, and relevant learning tasks that not only address the academic standards but also align with the dimensions of the Graduate Profile is work neither for minimalists nor the faint of heart.  In fact, engaging in professional work of this nature requires us to play at the very top of our intelligence and professional skills.  However, what interesting and energizing work it is!  And, what work could be more important?

At Guthrie CSD we have determined to make the Graduate Profile a reality (not a document, not a dream, not a slogan) for students by engaging very deliberately and intentionally in a day-to-day process of LEARNING toward that end.   There may have been a time when students in small and isolated communities like Guthrie would have been at a learning disadvantage to other students on the planet.  Because of 21st century tools and connectivity that disadvantage has now evaporated.  There is now no reason for our students NOT to receive a WORLD CLASS education. 

Our intention at Guthrie CSD is to graduate our students fully armed and prepared to compete in the world marketplace of work and school and life in a way that will make them the “crème of the crop” in any setting in which they choose to live and work.

In effect, at Guthrie we have chosen MORE for our students (not less).  Why wouldn’t we?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Polishing the Profile: Guthrie Eyes the Future

By Nelson Coulter

As schools all over the nation begin to spin up for the return of students, Guthrie Common School District (GCSD) faculty and staff are also involved in preparing for the return of our Jaguars and Lady Jags.  However, the days of adult learning that lead up to the first day of school are taking on a distinctly different feel this year.  Most of the professional learning of the lead-up days before the start of school are being spent in some deeply reflective and consequential conversations about how GCSD can best prepare our students for futures of work and school and life in the 21st Century.

While the state of Texas is currently embroiled in the politically laced “testing wars” over the value and validity of the current accountability system, stakeholders in the Guthrie community have chosen to focus our efforts and energy on crafting an educational experience for our students that represents MORE.  More what? you may ask.  Working from the Guthrie Graduate Profile that has been in development for the last several months, the faculty and staff of GCSD have been engaged in ongoing dialogues about how we create learning experiences that will ensure that our students have the following skills and attributes by the time they receive a GCSD diploma.  Below is the current version of that Guthrie Graduate Profile:

Ø  Learners/Problem Solvers/Critical Thinkers
Ø  Effective Communicators
Ø  Persons of Strong Character
Ø  Productive and Valuable Team Members
Ø  Compassionate and Responsible Citizens

Thus, the professional development days for the educators of GCSD have been engaging, messy, stimulating, challenging, and energizing.  Causing meaningful learning to happen in a way that engages student and adults in the process is not an easy thing.  Nor is it common.   Crafting learning tasks that address the five dimensions of the Graduate Profile above will take significant thought and effort on the part of the GCSD faculty and staff.  We believe it is effort well and appropriately spent.

As the politicians duke it out in lofty conversations about what they think our children should be receiving from school, at Guthrie we have decided to take the bull by the horns and assert our own aspirations for our children.  We have chosen to aim for something higher, richer, and more meaningful, which begs another question.  Why would anyone choose LESS