Portrait of a Graduate Approved

Portrait of a Graduate Approved

Portrait of a Graduate was approved unanimously by the School Board at Thursday’s meeting.

Portrait of a Graduate was approved unanimously by the School Board at Thursday’s meeting. Photo by Reena Singh.

The Portrait of a Graduate has been drawn.

This “portrait” - a part of the plans for the proposed strategic plan - was passed unanimously at Thursday’s Fairfax County School Board meeting after the board discussed it for more than an hour.

“I feel like we’re finally getting on the right side of history and education policy,” said Hunter Mill District board member Pat Hynes.

Two amendments put forth by Braddock District board member Megan McLaughlin and Sully District board member Kathy Smith passed, as well, to wordsmith an effort that FCPS is innovating.

The word “ethical” is added to the third heading “Global Citizen” and “balanced” was taken out of the last heading to focus on “Goal Directed and Resilient Individual.”

“There are substantial long term implications for the decision we’re about to make,” said Springfield District board member Elizabeth Schultz. “While it might seem like, ‘What’s the big deal,’ with one word - ethics - it is a big deal.”

She said that the models that students choose, whether celebrities, athletes, politicians and world leaders, sometimes lack ethics.

“If we don’t emphasize it, who will?” she asked. “What models do they have for it?”

SEVEN BOARD MEMBERS voted for the amendment.

Many believed that the world “balanced” had too many meanings - and was not the right word - for the last heading. Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza noted that the word has changed several times based on the feedback the committee that developed the proposed Portrait created. At one point, “responsible” was replaced by “balanced.”

“It may not be the perfect word,” said Mason District board member Sandra Evans. “We struggled with this.”

She said that among all qualities parents wanted for their children, however, they said health and wellness are critical.

“Without this, we don’t get a clear sense that this is a priority,” she said.

While debating the second amendment, some School Board members proposed to wait until a future date to vote on the resolution. However, no motion was made.

A sub-amendment to the second amendment to substitute “balance” with caring was not approved, with Evans voting for it. The second amendment as written was approved by seven board members.

During the public comment period, most of the audience members focused on sleep deprivation among students, a subject board members will discuss when they decide whether to change start times in October. Coalition for the Silent founder and chair Tina Hone said that both Portrait of a Graduate and current school start times highly disfavor minority students - especially those who are already economically disadvantaged.

“The issue has never been that FCPS doesn't have a Portrait of a Graduate,” she said at a School Board meeting earlier this month. “The issue is that FCPS only knows how to get some of its students there. By repainting this old portrait, you have avoided the real question. What is the portrait of a school system that can get every child in it - regardless of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status -- to the Promised Land, fairly, equitably and at equally high levels of achievement.”

HONE, a former School Board member herself, noted that three-quarters of white and Asian students graduate with advanced diplomas while fewer than half of black and Hispanic students are able to make the same achievement. She said these disparities are found every year in every school.

“Stop painting portraits of graduates,” she said. “Fix this.”

Hynes stated that the Portrait of a Graduate will make sure expectations will be high for all graduates, not just some of them.

“There is no silver bullet for closing the achievement gap,” she said.

Also noted was the importance of implementation by administration and teachers to insure the words come alive in each student by the time they cross the stage with a diploma in hand.

“It’s pretty near perfect, guys,” said School Board Chairman Tamara Derenak Kaufax. “It’s good.”